India’s First Diplomat
V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and the Making of Liberal Internationalism

6: A Rather Dangerous Ambassador


Sastri and Bajpai arrived in London in mid-February 1922 to a hostile, anti-India public and political mood.1 Montagu and Reading were up against a wall of opposition for their supposedly soft treatment of Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement. The boycott of the Prince of Wales’ visit by Indian nationalists inflated this resentment into a full-blown rage. Reading was accused of dithering for far too long over arresting Gandhi, while Montagu faced a motion of censure in the parliament, where he was openly slammed for a ‘criminal betrayal of every white man and white woman in India’.2 The criticism directed at the two Jews came laced with undercurrents of anti-Semitic vitriol. Meanwhile, as will be seen in the next chapter, Churchill had made one of his regular about-turns on the Kenya policy and announced that the Kenyan Highlands would remain reserved for whites, effectively ruining the work done over the several months of Montagu’s negotiations with him. This prompted Charles Andrews, Gandhi’s friend and a champion of the rights of overseas Indians, to call for Reading’s and Montagu’s resignations. Montagu, who always appeared eager to step under the guillotine, had also been vocal against Lloyd George’s Turkey policy, much to the Prime Minister’s annoyance. Sastri found Montagu ‘annoyed, weary and querulous’.3

Amid all this, Sastri had a moment of personal glory; he was sworn into the Privy Council on 5 March, the third Indian to be given the honour, after Syeed Amir Ali and Lord Sinha.4 Sastri and Bajpai left for India soon afterwards, and while they were en route two events of history-shaping importance took place.

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