Thursday, August 16, 2012

France leaves India for good

Nehru during a visit to Pondicherry in 1955
Fifty years ago, on August 16, 1962, Pondicherry witnessed the end of the French 'colonization' in India.
It was a rather mild 'colonization', but due to other burning issues (like the Algerian conflict), the French parliament (Assemblée Nationale) did not ratify the Treaty of Cession before the end of July 1962.
Many believed that the Government of Pondicherry (now, the 'decolonized' name of the former French settlement is 'Puducherry') had forgotten about the event. 
But they seemed  to have woken up now. According to PTI: "The 50th anniversary (golden jubilee) of de jure transfer (liberation) of Puducherry will be celebrated in the union territory for a year from tomorrow, according to Chief Minister N Rangasamy. A decision in this regard was taken at a recent meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, an official release said. Lt Governor Iqbal Singh will felicitate freedom fighters at a function tomorrow synchronsing with the golden jubilee of the de jure transfer of power from France to the Indian Union."
On Aug 16 1962, the French establishments in India (Puducherry, Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam) become legally (de jure) part of the Union of Union through a Treaty of Cession signed by the French and Indian governments (Chandernagore in West Bengal had earlier (in 1951) joined the Union of India). 
I will not comment on the so-called 'liberation' of Pondicherry.
More interesting is an interview given by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian Prime Minister to a French journalist working for Le Figaro in March 1959.
When asked if he was happy about the de facto Agreement signed between India and France on the French Establishments in India in 1954, Nehru emphatecally answered 'Yes'. 
Let us not forget that the interview was conducted three years before the final ratification by the French Parliament (see below).
When the interviewer pointed to a fear amongst the Indian intelligentsia that severing India’s ties with France could cause a rapid disappearance of French culture in India; Nehru replied “These fears belongs to the past. The Franco-Indian Agreement [the de facto transfer of November 1954] only means that a very old and difficult problem has been successfully solved. 
The Prime Minister elaborated: “More importantly, [the Treaty] helps giving birth to a new closeness between our two countries. India has indeed given the assurances that it would contribute, with all its might, to keep Pondicherry a center of French culture and French language.”
“Our interest, explained Nehru, is that, along with several centers of Anglo-Saxon culture, other Western cultures should also remain in India; this will help our fellow Indians to grow in an international milieu without having to go into exile at the other end of the world”
Nehru added: “The revolution of 1789, the French tradition of freedom and equality have been and still are an example for the Indian elite. For me, the traditional freedom of expression of the French, their artistic outpouring, their subtlety, their acute intelligence struck me very much and greatly influenced me.”
On July 29, 1962, the French National Assembly discussed the Transfer of the French Establishment in India. I am posting below extracts of the discussion of the bill (projet de loi).

For those interested, I have posted some historical documents on Pondicherry (sorry, Puducherry), India and France my website. 
Click here to read...

November 1, 1954
Assemblée nationale

Sitting: Mr. Jean MONTALAT, Vice President.

President: Today’s programme has listed a discussion on the bill authorizing the ratification of the Treaty of Transfer of the French Establishments of Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahe and Yanam, signed at New Delhi on the 28th May 1956 (No. 1660, 1880).

Mr. BOSHCER, Rapporteur of the Commission of Foreign Affairs may make a presentation. (clappings)

Mr. Michel BOSHCER, Rapporteur: Mr. Minister and my dear colleagues. We have been called upon to examine the bill of ratification of the Treaty signed by the French government with the Indian Union on the 28th of May 1956. This Treaty regularises a de-facto situation by the anterieur agreement of transfer (called de-facto) signed on 11th October 1954 and confirms the transfer by France to India of the four Establishments of Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahe and Yanam. My written report, which I think is quite comprehensive, has been distributed to you a few days back. It had been made available to you to acquire a background knowledge on the subject; this will help me in dwelling on details of various aspects of the question before us... Though politically the classical colonial structure had been modified in 1946 to take cognisance of the evolution of ways, a territorial Assembly and a  Government Council had been put in place of the earlier Conseil General, in reality very little had changed since 1871 when France had given parliamentary representation to her colonies. In 1946, the political structure of these five territories which consisted of about 500 square kilometers, was quite removed from the healthy concept of democracy. We had elected parliamentary representative from these Establishments before the War who had never set foot in the Parliament to stay it all, a great indifference had long been the characteristic of French policy with regard to these territories...I would like to add, that would reassure some of my colleagues, that as per the unanimous view of the Commissioners when they visited these Establishments, a referendum will give - 10% of votes in favour of France... Therefore I voluntarily give up the examination of this Treaty on the level of constitutional law, in explaining the reserve that I have made - I would confine myself more to examining if the ratification would in any way be prejudicial to the interest of the populations of these Establishments, and to the interest of France, because that is really the heart of the problem... One must place this affair in its proper international context ... it is not the question-one should not even think of it-of abandoning the French population to a foreign bondage, nor of leaving the populations which are fundamentally attached to French territorially. It relates to putting in their proper place 350,000 inhabitants of these colonies who are neighbours to 450 million Indians, and their 500 square kilometers is adjoining the 3,900,000 square kilometers of India. In relates to permitting the reunification of a homogenic bloc which is desired- and I stress-by 60 to 80% of the population... Let us not forget that in the Algerian conflict which has just ended India has always--God knows how praiseworthy is this when we know of the pressures she had to resist, refused to recognise the G.P.R.A. [Provisional Government of the Algerian Republic (in French, Gouvernement Provisoire de la République algérienne].Indian has always considered herself to a certain neutrality, which we definitely approve of, because that was her ideal, the aspirations of independence of the Algerian people, but she never wanted to hurt her relations with France... This is the view entertained by the Commission of Foreign Affairs, which, after an extensive exchange of views has approved the bill and suggests its adoption to you today. (Clappings from the benches on the extreme left, left, center and right).

President: Mr. DRONNE is opposing the question under discussion by virtue of paragraph 3 of Article 91 of the roles.

Mr. Raymond DRONNE: Ladies and Gentleman, the Commission of Foreign Affairs has, through its Rapporteur suggested the authorization of the ratification of the Treaty of Transfer... On the other hand, some colleagues who are hostile to its ratification want 10 finish it off by a pure and simple rejection of the bill. As in between to these two solutions, I propose an intermediate solution which consists of postponing the examination, the voting on the law and thus postponing the ratification itself. The idea of postponement is to permit the French Government to enter into fresh negotiations with the Indian Government. These fresh negotiations are necessary; the Rapporteur is aware of this himself. The Treaty of 28th May 1956 is highly defective: one can say that it is a treaty "hustled into":-here is need to make it more specific and complete on a very large number of points. The de-facto transfer, which has already been made, and the de-jure transfer, which we are being asked to authorities are against the French law as well as against the International Law.
The populations concerned have never been validly consulted. One cannot consider as valid consultation the shameful drama organised on 19th October 1954 in the small locality of Kijeour situated on the outskirts of Pondicherry, where under the pressure of the Indian authorities, and after having made sure of preventing the presence of the more well known members and those members who are most attached to France, the terror stricken locals decided in favour of reunion with India. These elected representatives had absolutely no authority for deciding this problem. Besides they did not give their choice freely but did so under duress. On 27th August, 1954 the National Assembly adopted a motion referring specifically to the negotiations "engaged in respecting the constitutional principles". And the Constitution of 1946 which was then in force laid down in paragraph 2 of the Article 27: "No transfer, no exchange, no addition of territory is valid without the consent of the concerned populations." Thus in so far as the French Constitution is concerned, that of 1946 as well as that of 1958, the transfer of our Establishments to India has been done illegally. It is not only unconstitutional with regard to the internal French laws, it is also contrary to the elementary roles of International Law. The government of New Delhi, which poses to be the champion of law and morals in the International bodies, does not bother about them when her own interests are involved. This is a contradiction which: one must underline... The completeness and correctness of the bad treaty of 1956 are all the more questionable because the Indian Union has not always respected the Agreement of 1954 and the Treaty of 1956. For example, she has not hesitated to introduce Indian legislation in the area of electoral law, which is totally contrary to the Agreement of 1956.
The Indian Officials who have descended on these Establishments like a swarm of locusts on a field of honey, belong generally to North India, They speak neither French nor Tamil, the local language. They speak Hindi which is neither spoken nor understood by the local inhabitants. The Indian officials express themselves in English, whose use is at the expense of French. Thus the French cultural influence has fallen back because of these circumstances since 1954... ... In conclusion, the thesis of the Commission, which I support knowing both its lacunae and the dangers of the Treaty. However the conclusions differ: the Commission recommends immediate ratification and thereafter opening of negotiations; I propose to reverse these factors, first the negotiations and then the ratification, when the negotiations would result in desirable and concrete results. One of the grounds put forth for an immediate ratification has been the sensitivity of the Indians. We have been told that the Government of India would consider a new report as a dilatory tactic. We are minimizing the interests involved. We have been told of the "unreasonable fears arising out of a sentimental attachment to France". And lastly the recent precedent of Goa has been brandished along with the menace of use of force by the Indian Union. These are special arguments. The sensitiveness of the French-this is only more live and perhaps less justified. The apprehensions, especially those of the Pondicherians and the Karikalians are justified and therefore it is fair to take note of them. And lastly the threat of use of force on the part of the Indian Union is not serious. The Indian Union is in possession of these colonies; in fact she has annexed them; the violation [The exact word used by Mr. Dronne is “viol" which also means transgression or rape] is complete since the last eight years; there is no question of the Indian Union organising a military expedition against a territory which she is in fact occupying, even though legally she does not have full sovereignty... We have nothing to be worried about from the Government of the Indian Union in taking such a stand because the cause that we are defending is just and equitable. It also corresponds with the stand taken by the Government of New Delhi so frequently in the International forums. (Clappings from various benches on the right and in the center-right)...

President: If there is no speaker against the motion. I would give the turn to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Maurice Couve DE MURVllLE, Minister of Foreign Affairs:  Ladies and Gentlemen,... Since the last eight years a "fait accompli" and a "fait juridique" since the last six years, have been created, which, in reality have brought us in France to a tota1ly new situation on which France has in fact no control and the situation can be considered as irreversible... We are often told, and this was particularly articulated in the years 1956 and 1958 after the conc1usion of the Agreements of New Delhi-that the Constitution does not specifically lay down the method in which the interested populations should give their consent; it does not mention whether it should be by a direct suffrage or by indirect suffrage. We would not put in doubt, in so far as we are concerned, that the spirit of the Constitution even if this is not expressly the letter is that the consent of the interested population should be obtained by direct suffrage, that is to say in other terms, by a referendum. That is what has been constantly applied in the French Constitutional Practice since the end of the War, whether those were the small territories of ''Tende'' and to "La Sarre" and more recently in a case much more important which is presently in the minds of all the members of this Assembly.
The formal ratification of the Treaty of 1956 is going to deal with a fact which in reality was accomplished 8 years back and on which, as per the general opinion, there is no question of going back now. In doing so we would be acting in the interests of the concerned population as well as of the French interests themselves.” In fact the Treaty gives serious guarantees of the interests of the populations as well as to the French interests in three domains: administrative, of welfare of persons and of the French culture.

Mr. Raymond DRONNE: Once the ratification is done, there would Important Parliamentary Debates on India in French Parliament no longer be any interest to negotiate.

Minister of Foreign Affairs: Me. DRONNE, one should be logical. Since you feel that the Treaty is imperfect, there is always the interest to negotiate.

Mr. Raymond DRONNE: It is imperfect according to us but not according to the Indian Government.

Minister of Foreign Affairs: We have thus this assurance and I am happy to repeat it before the Assembly. I have taken notes of all that has been said by the rapporteur concerning the problems which need to be taken up with the Indian government after the ratification. I have noted specially, besides what I have enumerated myself, without omitting any, the question of equivalence of the degrees which appears to me to be important and at the same time difficult. It is the type of question which it is not possible to sort out and find a solution in a government to government negotiation. Most of the questions coming up, whether those were mentioned by me, by Mr. Boscher or by Mr. Dronne, are specific and it would be difficult to inc1ude them in a general treaty. Ladies and Gentleman this is all that I wanted on to say the question before us. It is taking note of these elements and of the factual position-I repeat-that I ask the Assembly not to refuse the ratification that we have asked the Assembly to authorise. On the other hand we would request the Assembly to authorise us to ratify the Treaty of 1956. This would permit us to take up negotiations with the Government of India, negotiations which would command attention and would at the same time result in, and I stress, to recognise this "fait accompli", which is irreversible, of the transfer of these Establishments of India to the Government of India. This recognition will, I sincerely believe serve the French interests; firstly in India in general, in permitting to establish a more fruitful collaboration especially in the cultural field; and then at Pondicherry itself, in permitting to consolidate that which is of permanent value and relevance and which we want to preserve. Whatever be the sorrow that we face in terms of three centuries of common history, we have the feeling that, these three centuries should leave friendly remembrances and the desire to persue, on a different basis, the pursuit of a task jointly taken up since so long (Clappings from the benches on the left and the center and from some benches on the right.)

President: It is now the turn of the rapporteur to take the floor.

Rapporteur: ... It has been argued specially whether it would be convenient to have negotiations before or after the ratification of the Treaty. The problem had been examined in all its aspects by the Commission and the idea of insisting on negotiations before the ratification had been abandoned
by the Commission.
The views of the Commission are, and I share the views of the f\.1inister of Foreign Affairs, that we are facing an irreversible situation. It is a practically impossible situation. It is practically impossible to renegotiate from the start, a new Treaty in pi ace of the existing Treaty. In so far as the arguments put forth by Mr. Dronne are concerned, I have already replied to them in my Report. It is certainly not a question of India launching a military expedition to take possession of Pondichery. That would not make sense. On the other hand a simple debate in the Indian Parliament would have the advantage of a military expedition in the present instance. In this hypothesis, the same which Mr. Dronne wants to defend by the question posed by him, we would be deprived of all practical as well legal defence because, once again, neither the Treaty with which we are dealing today, nor the predecessor Treaty of 1954-which none the less offers serious guarantees to the francophone populations would be available. In seeking to preserve all we can the risk to losing alt This is my conclusion, in opposing, on behalf of the Commission, the suggestion of Mr. Dronne. (Clappings from the benches on the left and the central benches protests from the benches on the right).

President: I now give the floor to Mr. ROCLORE for replying to the government.

Mr. Marcel ROCLORE: Being a member of the Delegation sent by the Commission of Foreign Affairs for studying the problem locally, I would like to briefly confirm the views of my colleague and friend the Rapporteur of the Commission, and to express my complete agreement on the very detailed and interesting report which he has presented to us and on which I have nothing to add.
I wanted to speak, for indicating to our colleague Dronne that at the bottom of our hearts we are in agreement on the need to take up negotiations on certain points. Mr. Boscher has already underlined them in a very precise manner. But if Mr. Dronne would like the negotiations to be taken up before the ratification of the Treaty, we are of the contrary view and feel that this is impossible. Minister of Foreign Affairs has just shown us so. In fact it is no longer possible after five years of application of this Treaty. Without divulging a secret I would like to mention that the conversations that we have had with the Head of the Indian Government have made it very c1ear that France would not have the possibility of reopening the negotiations before the ratification. What would come out of these negotiations? The French people, that Mr. Dronne and some of our colleagues want to justifiably defend, would lose the guarantees which have been accorded by this Treaty which is presently before us for ratification. These guarantees perhaps do not correspond to what we would have wished, but these are there and have been precisely enumerated. And if the Parliament refuses the ratification, all that has already been conceded in favour of our compatriots of Pondicherry would be lost. I would like to thank you Sir, Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, for having informed us that you have already contacted the Government of India for knowing if after the ratification, the conversation could be taken up on various issues to which, in the end both Mr. Boscher and Mr Dronne attach the same importance. You have obtained the assurance of the Indian Government Mr. Minister, that these issues could be re-looked into, as well as new advantages could be added to those which they have already agreed to.
Consequently, on the hand we would be making our compatriots loose all, and on the other hand not only would they retain the advantages but we would make them receive supplementary guarantees which we can hope to obtain. Thus there is really no question and it is indispensable to ratify the Treaty as rapidly as possible.

President: I now give the floor to Me. BOURGEOIS.

Mr. Pierre BOURGEOIS: Mr. Dronne has mentioned that the Constitution has been violated because the interested 'populations have been deprived of the possibility of expressing their views though a referendum. But one should not be more royalist than the King himself, and those whom we have consulted there are hostile to referendum because it would become known that they are but a small minority; what we witnessed in Chandernagar would be repeated in Pondicherry, where a referendum would reveal the numeric weakness of the francophone elements of this territory, which would not, according to me, facilitate the defence of those who were earlier under our jurisdiction. Therefore the Socialist Group will vote against the proposal (of Mr. Dronne).
President: Mr. Dronne may like to speak.

Mr. DRONNE: According to me the suggestion is not to reject the Treaty of 1956, but only to amend it and to supplement it on certain issues. It is not a question of preserving all; but between wanting to preserve all and wanting not to preserve; there always exists a middle course which consists of guarding what merits to be so guarded.
And lastly, to the referendum, the best formula, and the one which would not present the inconveniences which have just been referred to, it appears to me, would be to put to referendum, before the concerned populations the Treaty of 1956, duly amended, completed and including the specific guarantees. And in the end J feel that in order to negotiate one must have cards in hand.

Mr. Marcel ROCLORE: We don't have them!

Mr. Raymond DRONNE: And the only card that we have is the ratification. If we drop it just now, if we abandon it, we risk finding ourselves facing a partner, the government of New Delhi-who would be satisfied with the actual state of affairs and would no longer be interested in negotiating. It is because of this reason that I press that proposal. (Clappings from various benches on the right).
President: I would like to consult the Assembly on the question opposed by Mr. DRONNE.

(The Assembly is consulted and gives its opinion against the proposal of Mr. Dronne.)

President: In the general discussion Mr. CAILLMER may now take the floor. (Clappings). 

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