ONE of the first public acts of the newly appointed Agent-General of the Government of India at Washington was to sign, on India's behalf, the joint declaration in which the United Nations set forth their determination to fight together for the purposes and principles embodied in the famous Atlantic Charter. India has thus become a partner of the United States in a common cause. Moreover, by virtue of her strategic position in the East, and her great resources in man power and materials, she must be considered a major partner. It thus becomes of interest to Americans to know something of what we in India think of this struggle; what we have already done in helping our common cause; and what we are capable of contributing to the achievement of the final and decisive victory.

The attitude of India towards this Second World War was made clear beyond any doubt from the first day of the hostilities; and at every subsequent stage leaders of Indian public opinion, representing different communities and political parties, have unequivocally condemned the pernicious doctrines, aims and methods of the totalitarian Powers. Those familiar with our history and traditions will not be surprised at this. The whole spiritual and cultural tradition of India has rested on belief in, and practice of, peace, tolerance and goodwill. Among all the great countries of the world India almost alone has a clean record in the long annals of conquest and aggression. She has herself been a victim of external invasions through the ages. But she has never in history launched a single campaign of conquest against her neighbors.

India's attitude toward the war, already unmistakable, became even more fixed after the entry of Japan into the conflict. At one time Japan was greatly esteemed and admired by India as the first Oriental nation to assert and maintain a position of equality among the Great Powers of the world. It was the fashion to point to the Japanese as the model for Indians to follow in shaping their destiny. Indian Nationalists dreamed and talked of a Pan-Asiatic Federation in which China, Japan and India would play a great part as the leaders of the Orient. This friendly feeling towards Japan received a rude shock when she launched her brutal and unprovoked aggression against the peace-loving people of China. And subsequent events, culminating in the colossal treachery at Pearl Harbor, have completely disillusioned the Indian people about Japan's real objectives. Every Indian now feels that the "East Ocean Dwarfs" (to use the Chinese expression for the Japanese) are a real menace to the freedom of the Oriental peoples and that everything humanly possible must be done to ensure that they will never more be in a position to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the East.

The recent visit of General Chiang Kai-shek to India gave a powerful indication of the country's strategic importance in this conflict. With Japanese forces pushing their way towards the Indian Ocean and Hitler's armies concentrating on the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, it appears that the plan of the two Axis partners may be to join their forces in or near India. Considered from this point of view, the question of India's fighting strength becomes highly significant. It is not merely necessary to strengthen the fighting forces in India; it is also essential to reinforce India's capacity to supply war materials to her own army and also to the Chinese, the Dutch and the Australians on the one side and to Russia, Iran, 'Iraq and Egypt on the other.

Under modern conditions the military strength of a country depends on four main factors: (a) man power; (b) supply of food; (c) resources in raw materials; and (d) industrial capacity. The present and potential strength of India in all these matters is immense, as the following pages will show.


India has an area of over a million and a half square miles and a population, according to the census of 1941, of 389 millions. At the beginning of the war in September 1939, she had a larger number of highly trained regular troops than the whole of the rest of the British Commonwealth put together. The strength of the peacetime army of India was approximately 160,000, excluding the British troops. This nucleus afforded a splendid basis for quick expansion to meet the necessities of the war. Today the strength of the Indian Army is over one million men, and it is expected that very shortly the army will be expanded to one and a half million. This great army has been raised without conscription and purely on a voluntary basis. The scope for still further increases in strength is governed only by the availability of the necessary equipment. Provided a constant supply of modern equipment can be maintained, India alone of all the countries of the British Commonwealth has almost unlimited capacities for the expansion of her fighting forces.

The strength of the Indian Army is to be judged not merely by its numbers, but by its quality. Its great fighting traditions have been maintained by the magnificent achievements of Indian troops in the various theatres of the present conflict. The world has already been made familiar with the part they played in the destruction of the Italian Empire in Africa and with their exploits in various parts of the Middle East. Of the Indian Army's contribution, General Sir Archibald Wavell observed last November: "The reputation of the Indian Troops has long been firmly established and today it stands very high indeed in the world. Their record so far is entitled to the highest praise, and I am confident that in the even greater rôle they may soon have to play they will acquit themselves splendidly."

In assessing the value of the Indian Army as a fighting force we must remember that it is not primitive and ill-equipped but fully trained and equipped to take the field against the highly mechanized armies of the enemy. A number of new training centers have been established in India, and the recruits have responded wonderfully to training in all the various categories. Today the field army of India consists not merely of infantry divisions on both the higher and lower scales of mechanization, but also of armored formations and communication troops, including a large amount of mechanical transport. In a speech delivered in the House of Lords on February 3, 1942, the Duke of Devonshire, Under-Secretary of State for India, observed: "The technical equipment of the Indian Army is much in excess of anything that was dreamt of before the outbreak of war, and the Indian Army is supplying vastly larger proportions of technical personnel required to keep a modern army in the field than has been the case in the past. In the last war only two percent of the technical personnel required was supplied from India; today she has supplied over 20 percent, and it requires rather more than four times as much training and equipment to keep a modern soldier in the field than in the last war." A single illustration which shows how the Indian Army has expanded along modern lines is that its mechanized transport has increased about 1,300 percent over the prewar figure.

One may safely assert that if the required supplies of certain categories of weapons, vehicles and stores unobtainable in India are forthcoming, the men to use them efficiently and effectively can be raised and trained.


A vast population is a handicap rather than an asset if it cannot be fed without turning to overseas countries to obtain essential supplies. Fortunately India is in a strong position on this score. Not merely is India self-sufficient for feeding the civilian population in wartime, but it has surplus food capacity to maintain its armies abroad.

The staple articles of food in India are rice, wheat and millet. There are 72 million acres under rice cultivation in India, producing over 30 million tons of rice per year. There are 35 million acres under wheat cultivation and the annual output is over 10 million tons of wheat. In addition, over 50 million acres are under cultivation of various millets. India is also one of the greatest sugar producing countries in the world. There are three and a half million acres of land under sugar cane cultivation, with an annual output of white sugar of one and a half million tons. Tobacco, which today is to be considered a necessity rather than a luxury, is also grown in abundance; the annual output is one and a half billion pounds.

Other essential articles of food are also produced in sufficient quantities for us to be able to say that in the matter of her food supply India has no need to turn to any outside source.


As for raw materials, India not merely has an abundance of various types but has many of those particular types required by modern industry. Coal and iron, the two basic materials of all industries, are found in great abundance. The present annual output of coal is approximately 30 million tons. Moreover, geological surveys have disclosed that there is an almost unlimited supply of high quality coal in various parts of the country; one field in the Central Province of India alone is estimated to contain a supply of 17 billion tons. In iron, the annual output is now about three million tons. Here again the potential wealth of the country is enormous. A single district in the Province of Behar, for example, is estimated to contain over three billion tons of iron ore. The quality of the Indian iron ore is found to be of a very high grade, containing 60 percent pure iron. Manganese ore and mica are two other minerals which are found in abundance. One-third of the world's output of manganese ore is from the Indian fields, which produce at present over a million tons of ore per year. India is the world's largest producer of sheet mica. Three-quarters of the world's supply of sheet and block mica comes from the Indian mines. Besides these essential materials, there is also a plentiful supply of bauxite, ilmenite and chromite. On the other hand, India is poor in zinc, lead, tin and copper.

Other basic raw materials which are produced in large quantities in the country are cotton, jute, wool, hides and skins, and vegetable oils. India, the original home of the cotton plant, is today the second largest producer of cotton in the world with an output of seven million bales per year. In spite of attempts to find substitute materials, jute still remains the cheapest packing cloth in the world. And in jute India occupies a unique monopoly which has not yet been successfully challenged by any other country. Her annual production of raw jute is nine million bales. India is also a large-scale producer of wool, especially of carpet wool. Out of the total world production of 430 million pounds of carpet wool per year, India accounts for over 100 million pounds. One-third of the world's cattle population is in India and vast quantities of hides and skins are produced every year -- 20 million cattle hides, 6 million buffalo hides, 28 million goat skins, and 20 million sheep and lamb skins. India is also the world's largest supplier of oil seeds. About three million tons of ground nut seeds are grown per year, and there is a yearly output of 340,000 tons of ground nut oil. Other important oil seeds produced are linseed, castor seed, rape seed and sesamum. About one million tons of oil extracted from these seeds are exported to outside countries, over and above the large quantities reserved for home consumption.


Fortunately, although India usually is classified among the great agricultural countries, her industrial capacity also is very large, both actually and potentially. According to the International Labor Office in 1919, India even then ranked among the eight great industrial nations of the world. In the ensuing 20 years industrialization has gone ahead at a rapid pace. Following the investigation conducted by a fiscal commission in 1920, the Government of India adopted a policy of fostering industries under a discriminating protective tariff. This policy has resulted not merely in the expansion of industries already in existence but in the building up of a variety of new industries.

The cotton textile industry is of course India's largest national industry. A large number of modern textile mills work over 10 million spindles and 200,000 looms and produce on the average four billion yards of cloth yearly. In addition, the handloom industry, which still thrives, produces over two billion yards of cloth per year. If all the textile mills were placed on a double shift, the mill production of cloth could be increased by another two billion yards. Thus the country's potential production of cloth is about eight billion yards a year.

All the cotton cloth required for the uniforms used by the Indian Army now comes from Indian mills. These mills have supplied not merely the whole requirements of the Indian Army, but have made available large quantities of cloth for the uniforms of Imperial troops in other countries. During one week in September 1941, the Eastern Group Supply Council placed orders with Indian mills for 18 million yards of textiles for the uniforms of Imperial troops in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Singapore. Besides the cotton textiles, Indian mills and handloom factories have supplied very large quantities of woolen blankets for the use of the Indian Army and other Imperial troops.

Even before the war, India had a well-organized steel industry producing 750,000 tons a year. That production has now been stepped up to over a million tons, and in the near future Indian production will be over one and a quarter million tons. The Tata Iron & Steel Works at Jamshedpur -- the product of coöperation between an Indian capitalist and American engineers -- is one of the most modern steel plants in the world. The Indian production of pig iron now amounts to over two million tons, of which about a quarter is exported to the United Kingdom.

Though the total Indian production of finished steel may appear small in comparison to the American volume, it nevertheless has already played a very important part in meeting the demands for munitions not merely for the Indian Army but for the Imperial troops in the Middle and Far East. All the steel available in India has been brought under a system of rigid control by the Government; 90 percent has been made available for the manufacture of munitions and other war materials, and 10 percent only is allotted to civilian use. Even so, India's domestic production of steel has to be supplemented by some imports from the United Kingdom and the United States. About 600,000 tons of imported steel is required to meet the demands of the purely war industry at present organized in India.

As soon as the war broke out the Government of India took immediate steps to mobilize the country's entire industrial resources. The Ministry of Supply in the United Kingdom sent out a mission, under Sir Alexander Rogers, which made a detailed survey of the existing and potential industrial capacity of India and recommended 21 major projects. Of these, 19 were actually sanctioned and many were completed within a short time. The existing ordnance factories were expanded in order to increase the production of weapons and ammunition, and the well-equipped railway workshops throughout the country were turned over to war production. It was also found that India possesses a considerable capacity for making general stores and clothing, and steps were taken to utilize this capacity to the fullest possible extent.

Another long step towards effectively mobilizing the resources of the country was the summoning of what is known as the Eastern Group Supply Conference. This Conference, consisting of representatives from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Burma, Ceylon, East Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Malaya and Hong Kong, was called in October 1940 by the Government of India in order to coördinate the existing and potential productive capacity of the participating countries to the fullest possible extent. The supply needs of each participant were to be met within the group, with the deficiencies of one being made good from the available resources of the others. Early in 1941 a standing committee of the Conference was established, known as the Eastern Group Supply Council. It has demonstrated how effective regional coöperation can become in wartime.


A few illustrations will show the success of India's efforts since the beginning of the war to increase the supply of essential materials. Thus the production of small arms and ammunition has been stepped up from six million units per month to 16½ million units per month. The clothing factories in the country now turn out more than eight million tailored garments a month for the use of the army. During the first 18 months of the war the Government's purchases of textiles for army use amounted to $175,000,000, and in the same period it bought four million pairs of army boots. The value of the annual supply of leather goods for the army from Indian factories now reaches about $60,000,000. In the prewar period, India supplied only 25 percent of the medical stores required for the army; today she supplies 60 percent. In general, it is calculated that over 50,000 different kinds of articles are required to equip a modern army. India now supplies over 37,000 of these items.

In considering these illustrations of the manner in which India has been expanding her resources to meet the needs of the war, one should not forget that during the last two years she in addition has exported increasingly large quantities of manufactured goods for the equipment of Imperial troops in various theaters of war. Indeed, the total value of exported manufactured and semi-manufactured articles has risen from 475 million Rupees in 1938-39 to 815 million Rupees in 1940-41. India is now looked upon as a great arsenal of supply for the countries participating in the Eastern Group Conference.

But although India's factories produce considerable quantities of textiles, leather goods and medical and miscellaneous engineering stores, she has to depend on the United States and England for certain basic supplies like machine tools and high grade steel. Nor does India as yet manufacture internal combustion engines or wireless equipment. Despite the fact that the engines themselves are not manufactured in the country on a large scale, various parts of these machines are nevertheless turned out. Take the case of trucks. The entire body is built in India from Indian materials, and the finished product is assembled in local factories. This not merely reduces the strain on the productive capacity of American factories, but results in considerable saving in shipping space. With the lend-lease help now being generously given by the United States, the capacity of India for supplying essential war materials will of course be still further augmented.

The expansion of industry naturally requires not merely an increase in the supply of raw materials, plant and equipment but an increase also in the number of technicians and trained workmen. Here we find that the Indian people's tradition of hereditary craftsmanship stands them in good stead. The average Indian, it has been discovered, can be trained expeditiously for handling modern workshop machinery. Over 300 centers for training technicians were started in India and over 48,000 technicians have already been trained in them. In addition, batches of young Indians were sent to workshops in England for training under a scheme inaugurated by the British Minister of Labor, Mr. Ernest Bevin.

Even such a brief outline will have shown how earnestly India has undertaken the task of mobilizing her vast resources in men and material. Today the entire economy of the country has been geared to the demands of wartime. The low standard of living of the Indian people in time of peace offers but a narrow margin for the curtailment of the civilian needs under war conditions. Notwithstanding this limiting factor, certain steps are being taken. A rigid control has been placed on all imports. The production and distribution of essential war materials are under the control of the Central Government. Restrictions have been placed on railway travel. As already noted, only 10 percent of available steel is allotted to purely civilian use. The tax burden has been greatly increased, and today 87 percent of the revenues of the Central Government are spent on the defense services. To get a true appreciation of the financial contribution involved, account must also be taken of the voluntary subscriptions to the various war funds, the expenditure incurred by Provincial Governments, and the magnificent help given by the Indian Rulers from the resources of their respective States. When the full story of India's contribution to this war is unfolded in proper time, it will be found that in all respects she has played a part worthy of her great traditions.


Though she is concentrating on the needs of the war, India, like the other great belligerents, is fully alive to the magnitude of the economic and political problems which the world will face when the fighting is over. When that time comes, it will be found that India's industrial capacity has enormously increased. In a rationally organized world economy, however, this ought not to present any serious problem to the other industrialized nations. In fact, it will be necessary to raise the living standards of countries like India and China if the surplus productive capacity of a great industrialized nation like the United States is to be absorbed. With a higher standard of living, and consequently an increased purchasing power, the vast millions of India and China would be the potential consumers of the surplus production of American and other foreign factories. It is in the collective prosperity of all the nations that those which are highly industrialized countries must seek economic security.

The political problems of the postwar world are bound to be fully as difficult as the economic ones. Judged by the results, the League of Nations failed in its primary task of establishing and maintaining collective security. It will be the task of statesmen to analyze the causes that led to this failure. It may be found that the highly centralized character of the League was partly responsible. Many students agree that the origin of the present war was in the Japanese aggression against Manchuria. When it occurred, many members of the League did not fully appreciate that an act of violence in a region so remote from Geneva might endanger the peace of the whole world. Now it is seen that this successful aggression by Japan was the first breach in the citadel of collective security. Some decentralization of the machinery of collective security will probably be necessary in the future. Perhaps it can be placed on a regional basis, with the task of preserving peace in each area entrusted to a strong group of nations in that area. If the East is to be organized as one zone for this purpose, India and China must be made politically strong and entrusted with the responsibility of preserving the peace of the region.

India's own political future will be one of the problems which will require the earnest and sympathetic attention of the great democracies. In a famous dispatch written about a century ago, Lord Macaulay made the following observation about the people of India: "Having become instructed in European knowledge they may in some future age demand European institutions. Whether such a day will come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert or to retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English history."

The proud day came much sooner than Macaulay anticipated. Within half a century of his prophecy, the political consciousness of India was awakened. Today, every Indian looks forward to the establishment in his own country of those free political institutions which the great democracies of the world are shedding their blood to preserve. England has given the pledge that at the end of this war India will be given the same political status as the great self-governing Dominions like Canada, and that she will have a constitution framed by Indians themselves. Notwithstanding the controversies that have arisen over this problem in the past, India looks to the future with hope and confidence.

Some statesmen have sought to interpret the Atlantic Charter in a way that would minimize its apparently clear promises. India has taken it to be universally applicable, without distinction of race or color. As one of the two signatories to this new Charter of human liberties, the United States has assumed moral responsibility for translating its principles and ideals into concrete action. It may be that even in the solution of the domestic problems peculiar to India, the existence and difficulty of which no Indian would deny, the United States may be able to hold out a helping hand. In its own history the United States has set a magnificent example of successfully merging diverse interests and nationalities in a common citizenship. With this inspiring example before them, let us hope that the people of India and the people of the United States, joined today as comrades in arms, will in the future be fellow workers in the task of reconstruction.

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  • SIR SHANMUKHAM CHETTY, head of the Indian Purchasing Mission in New York; former President of the Indian Legislative Assembly; representative of Indian employers at several International Labor Office conferences
  • More By Shanmukham Chetty