182 Beasley to Evatt

Cablegram 33 LONDON, 2 February 1949, 9 p.m.


Bevin sent for me yesterday afternoon, and after mentioning briefly why he had used a certain form of words in the Palestine debate, about which I understand you have been informed through the United Kingdom High Commissioner [1], went on to talk about Indonesia. I think Noel-Baker must have discussed with him your personal message. [2]

2. Bevin particularly requested me to bring to your notice his views that it was desirable for our representative on the commission to act with due caution on the question of the handover of powers. He fears a repetition of the chaos that has come in Burma and communist exploitation of such a situation. It does not menace Australia's position at the moment, but twenty years ahead he feels we might find ourselves surrounded by a series of Governments which could not be trusted. He has some fears of Indian imperialism and feels that India may try to recapture control of Burma, if only to secure permanent rice supplies. He also instanced the distrust of India by Ceylon. In conclusion, he said that while well aware of all the faults of the Dutch and their mistakes, he did not think that the destruction of the Netherlands Empire as an economic entity, if it came to that, was a good development. Finally he said he hoped the Australian Government would use its influence to undertake final processes by steady stages to ensure as suitable and useful an administration as could be achieved in Indonesia.

3. I said I would pass his views on to you emphasising to him that the thing to do now was to implement the Security Council resolution [3] as effectively as possible to restore order.

4. There is no need for me to point out to you the ways in which Bevin's views on this question miss the essential current issues but I think I ought to comment briefly and at random on certain aspects of the general attitude here to Indonesia six weeks after the Dutch military action began. First the press originally by silence and later by comment reflected a lack of concern or even actual sympathy with the Dutch. That attitude has changed somewhat and there is now some active criticism of the Dutch and alarm that their action has intensified differences between East and West in South East Asia. Incidentally there is some comment that Australia played a realistic role at the Delhi Conference and restrained the extravagant views of some delegations re Asiatic unity and attitude to the Western powers.

5. Second the Conservatives in Parliament here have almost all espoused the Dutch cause openly. It occurs to me that you might be able to do some good work with Eden [4] on this aspect while he is in Australia.

6. Thirdly, the Foreign Office, though it still regards some parts of the Security Council resolution as essentially impracticable, realises now that as a result of Dutch action the resolution provides the only hope of solution even if it regards that hope as somewhat slender. Officials see a greater chance of co-operation among the various Indonesian groups than ever before and think it is important to impress on them all the absolute need for their grasping this opportunity with world opinion in their favour. I assume our people are doing this for all they are worth.

7. Fourthly, the Foreign Office officials see no immediate danger of communistic activities in Indonesia but naturally fear what might happen if chaos follows the transfer of power.

8. The Dutch attempted to use the meeting of the Western Union Consultative Council last week to get support from other powers. I understand there was a substantial discussion and that the five powers [5] agreed to keep in touch at The Hague. While, because of the attitude of the press and of the British Commonwealth, the Dutch were unable to get as much United Kingdom support as they wanted at Lake Success, Bevin's conversation with me shows his general attitude includes a number of feelings which can always be played on by the Dutch.

9. You know that I have never been 'knocker' re Bevin or the Labour Government here. I have always tried to understand their position on any issue sympathetically. But despite all that has happened Bevin still persists in his old attitude about Indonesia.

He does so quite honestly and in our discussion yesterday he spoke calmly and in a friendly way.

10. I hope this is helpful in giving you the atmosphere here though it may not add anything particularly new.

1 E.J. Williams.

2 Document 169.

3 Document 168.

4 R. Anthony Eden.

5 i.e. the five Western Union Countries-Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

[FA : IN. MASTERSHEETS (TS) 1948-49]