AUSTRALIA AN ASIAN COUNTRY?
The policy of the Australian Government on Indonesia arises out of the fact that Australia is a country with western ties and traditions but located in Asia.
Basic to Australia's foreign policy is adherence to the United Nations. This is not for idealistic reasons, but because it is only in a world in which the purposes and principles of the United Nations are observed that Australia can live in peace and preserve its cultural and political independence.
The preoccupation of the United Kingdom and even the United States of America in European problems underlines even more the isolated position of Australia, the need to make the United Nations work as a body to preserve the territorial integrity of small countries, to preserve the right of all peoples to determine their own domestic policies and the composition of their own population as is provided for in the United Nations Charter. The war-time experience of 'Beat Hitler First' came as a shock to those who were content to regard Australia as a western country which could count on the support of other western countries in an emergency.
In another world crisis, the same Europe-first philosophy might apply, and Australian policy, therefore, must take account of this. Indonesia is an example of how the western countries place European interests first. This is at once a warning to Australia and at the same time reason for a long-term Asian policy which treats United Kingdom preoccupations sympathetically and does not demand from the United Kingdom undertakings which would prejudice United Kingdom interests in Europe.
On what is this policy based? Firstly, it is support of the United Nations for the reasons given. Secondly, it is regional co- operation, including the closest co-operation with the United Kingdom and the United States of America as countries of this region. India, Ceylon and New Zealand, the other Dominions in the area, are to be relied upon as having the same basic objectives.
Thirdly, there is the basic assumption that, while the peoples of Asia differ more than the peoples of any other region in the world in race and religion, they all have common interests in the preservation of their own national independence, and, moreover, they all face the common problem of having to raise quickly their living standards and develop their political institutions.
Australia is not regarded with any more antagonism or suspicion by the countries of this area than that with which they regard each other: equally, Australia can co-operate with these countries to the extent they are prepared to co-operate with each other.
Australia believes its own security and prosperity is bound up with the security and prosperity of all Asian countries, and that this depends on mutual co-operation and respect throughout the area.
Australia, however, has a special position. The countries of Asia desperately require technical and administrative assistance and advice. They do not feel like turning to the one-time colonial power-French, Dutch, British-nor do they wish too close a connection with United States private enterprise. Australia they regard as being a country which has the inheritance of the West without being a colonial or financial power, and they therefore look to Australia for friendly co-operation, advice and assistance.
Australian policy emerges out of this background. The Government has arranged for scholarships to be given to Asian students;
relief supplies are being sent to the area; an offer was made by the Government in July 1947 to assist in the rehabilitation of Indonesia when a settlement was reached and presumably it still stands; businessmen and industrialists are being encouraged to examine Asian requirements so that the special products they need will be manufactured; Australia invited the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East to meet in Australia and has at each conference endeavoured to push ahead with this form of regional co-operation; Australia has suggested close co-operation and consultation with India, and Nehru's leadership and statesmanship is looked upon with respect; Consulates have been established in main centres in Asia.
Any other line is defeatist and selfish. Is Australia to set itself against Asia and rely upon Western powers to assist it when an unco-operative policy has antagonised Asia? The map answers the question. There is no alternative to encouraging mutual assistance in the region, encouraging the development of genuine national aspirations, and by removing economic distress and thwarted national feelings combat infiltration of foreign, unwelcome, disruptive elements in Asia. Accompanying this, and compatible with it, is close British Commonwealth co-operation and special relations with the United States insofar as the United States is prepared to enter into special relations with Australia.
Indonesian policy emerges clearly from this: active opposition to Dutch action must follow from support of the purposes and principles of the United Nations which includes the stated objective of developing self-government; it must follow from the objective of combating foreign, disruptive infiltrations which are aided by low living standards and thwarted national feelings; it must follow from the realization that eighty million Indonesians with highly trained and competent and cultured leaders must in the not far distant future determine their own destiny; it must follow from any appreciation of Australia as an Asian power.
The policy is, however, pursued with a grave sense of responsibility and distress because a Western power has thought fit to act in a way abhorrent to Western thought, instead of following the successful example of Britain in a similar situation in India and elsewhere. There is no sense of antagonism, however, and it is hoped that, even yet, Netherlands leadership will appreciate the realities of the Asian situation, and now follow the example of Britain and seek the co-operation of the people of Indonesia and of Asia in bringing about a peaceful settlement, based on political independence for Indonesia, which does not exclude close co-operation with the people of Holland, as, in fact, is the case with India and Britain.
[AA : A1838, 401/3/1/1, vi]