13 Kevin to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 8 NEW DELHI, 4 January 1949, 6.40 p.m.



This morning K.P.S. Menon showed me a telegram from Bedi outlining a discussion of considerable interest which he had with you on January 1st. [1] This was before invitations for the proposed Asian Conference had been finally sent out.

2. Menon has asked me to say in reply to your observations to Bedi that an Asian Conference was decided upon only after the Security Council, to use his own words, had shown itself to be a broken reed. In support of this he recalls earlier reaction to Thakin Nu's proposal (see my telegram 509 [2]).

3. Menon also repeated that the Conference was not intended to supersede the Security Council but to act in aid of it. He requested me to convey to you his sincere hope that Australia will participate, thus broadening the basis of the gathering which he thinks should not in any sense represent an Asian bloc, but rather a group of countries in the same region having a similarity of ideals.

4. Menon informs us that no acceptances have yet been received but we understand that interim acknowledgements have come in from various Governments saying that they are considering the invitation.

5. The holding of a conference at this stage probably owes much to Nehru's genuine impatience with what is regarded as the poor showing of the various countries on the Security Council.

Nevertheless, it might have been expected in dealing with other Asian countries, where talk of solidarity can so often prove a myth, that the Government of India would have made a more thorough sounding of likely responses to her invitation at least before making an announcement. As matters have turned out there is just a faint risk of India facing an anti-climax which would follow any inadequate attendance or any ineffective treatment of the issue when the various countries come together. We do not say either of these things will happen.

6. The Australian decision will be awaited in India with much interest. Full participation is bound to be welcomed. Should we decide upon only limited participation the manner in which the decision is given will be not without importance. By the way, illustration of an 'unofficial spokesman in Sydney' has already been quoted here by Reuters as relating to the Indian proposal of Asian Relations Conference which, in conception and status is entirely different to that now proposed, while both the B.B.C. and local press today and last night rather unhappily claim, evidently on the basis of an agency report, that Australia before making any decision would be consulting United Kingdom and United States both of which countries are being criticised on account of their attitude.

1 No record of this discussion has been found.

2 Document 463 in Volume XIII.

[AA : A1838, TS383/6/1, i]