When I went to say good-bye yesterday to M. Baudet, the Head of the Pacific Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he expressed certain views which I think I should report to you.
As you know, Baudet has a rank of Minister and is the principal adviser to M. Bidault on Pacific and Far Eastern questions. Baudet began by speaking of the considerable interest which your recent statements on South East Asian affairs have aroused in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and said that he hoped you would be aware of this.
He went on to complain that public opinion in France generally and other Departments of the Administration, such as the Ministry of France Overseas, is insufficiently aware of the importance of developments in the Pacific area and that the French Parliament is particularly unrealistic in its approach to them. He said that a solution to the Indo-Chinese problem, for example, is never sought on its own merits but always from the point of view either of the Right or the Extreme Left, the two groups who are most vocal on the question. If a Liberal approach is attempted, the Right can raise the cry that France's historic Mission is being betrayed and, on the other hand, if firmness is shown towards the Viet Nam Extremists, the Communist Party feels bound to come to their rescue for purely party reasons.
Baudet said that in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which as yet has little say in the Indo-Chinese question, they have come to the view that France alone will be incapable of effecting a solution.
There have been hints that this view is shared by the Minister of France Overseas, M. Moutet, but Baudet was very specific. In his opinion, France has not the power to continue military efforts indefinitely and the only circumstances in which a settlement can be achieved are those which will enable the Viet Nam leaders to save 'face'. He therefore believed that international action would be necessary and he added that, in his own opinion, the time was approaching when some form of general settlement in South East Asia, in which every interested Power took part, would be perhaps the best plan.
As it had often seemed to us in the Department and here in the Legation that this belt of weak territories-Indo-China, Siam and Burma, Malaya and Indonesia-standing between Australia and the great Asiatic countries, could only form an effective buffer region for Australia strategically if it were in some way organised on co-operative lines and perhaps offering bases to the United Nations in the area, I encouraged him to develop this idea further. He said that, while he had not yet had a chance of speaking to Bidault on the subject, he proposed to do so and, in his own view, perhaps even some form of confederation was not entirely impracticable and might, indeed be quite desirable. He thought, however, that the idea would have to be taken up once the necessary soundings had been made among the local peoples by some statesman of world stature, such as yourself. As this seemed to be calculated and meant to be passed on to you, I now do so for what you may think of it.
Baudet has always struck me as a rather taciturn individual and I have been almost irritated by his reserve and unwillingness to commit himself, even in a general discussion, on topics such as the above. His anxiety to talk on this occasion was therefore all the more interesting.