December 1941, Japan's Southern Drive had begun and Major Fujiwara
was asked to enlist the Indian minority's help in the war against
the British positions in Southeast Asia. Pritam Singh had with
him Baba Amar Singh, an Indian freedom fighter who having spent
twenty two years in Britain's dreaded the prison at Port Blair,
Andamans and Nicobar Islands, migrated to Thailand.
After the Second World War began in September
1939, Pritam Singh and his associates had on their own started
a propaganda campaign for Indian independence among the Indian
troops deployed on the Thai-Malaya borders.
In December 1939, Fujiwara was introduced
by Col. Tamura, the military attaché in the Japanese
embassy in Bangkok, to Pritam Singh. It was at this stage
Swami Satyananda Puri of the Thai-Bharat Lodge, a cultural
forum, was brought into the negotiations Pritam Singh had
initiated with Japan.
Before Fujiwara's negotiations with Pritam
Singh and Satyananda, in 1940 Subhas Chandra Bose had sent
a Delhi based Congress and Forward Bloc leader Shankar Lal
to Tokyo to probe the minds of Japanese decision-makers -
to find if Japan would help India's freedom struggle.
Shankar Lal left India in great secrecy, using
a fake passport. Soon after his return to India, Shankar Lal
was put in prison. Subhas Bose had left India by then.
Shankar Lal did not leave any account
of his talks in Japan. There is no authentic account of the
estimate he had made of Japan's intentions towards India.
The British spy network in Japan, however, reported that Shankar
Lal had met Japan's foreign minister and also Soviet diplomats
in Tokyo in 1940.
At a night-long meeting on November 28-29, 1941 between Iwaichi
Fujiwara and Giani Pritam Singh, a rough-draft of an agreement
was drawn up for cooperation between the office headed by
Fujiwara and the organisation of Pritam Singh. These negotiations
continued for a full week between Col. Tamura and Fujiwara
on one side and Satyananda Puri, Pritam Singh and his associates
on the other.
The Indians were not prepared to help the Japanese unless
a written agreement assuring the acceptance by Japan of India's
independence, sovereignty and complete autonomy in economic,
social and religious matters was finalised and sent to Japan's
Imperial General Headquarters.
Even at this stage when Subhas Bose was in Europe, the leaders
of the Indian Independence league and Satyananda Puri insisted
on a clause in the agreement on Japan's help for Subhas Bose's
travel to far East to assume the leadership of the Indians'
freedom struggle. Fujiwara agreed to press the Japanese government
to make arrangements for Bose's journey to East Asia.
Subhas Bose on his part had already established friendly
relations with Japan's ambassador in Berlin, Oshima Hiroshi.
To Oshima, Bose confided his disappointment with the European
Axis Powers' attitude towards India. Ambassador Hiroshi in
the autumn of 1941 knew of Bose's strong desire to travel
to Southeast Asia, which had a very large settled Indian community.
SE Asia was geographically close to India.
After Pearl Harbour in December, the Southern Army of Japan
overwhelmed British Malaya and Singapore where vast numbers
of British and Indian troops surrendered to the Japanese.
In March 1942, Rangoon fell to the Japanese expeditionary
force, bringing the Japanese forces close to the land borders
of Northeast India.
Pritam Singh and his associates, including a British Indian
military contingent, which had been won over by Pritam Singh's
persuasions, cooperated with the Japanese military as the
latter dashed through Malaya to force the surrender of the
supposedly impregnable British base of Singapore on February