20 Eggleston to Evatt

Memorandum CAMBERWELL, 5 January 1949


As Adviser to the Department, I feel that I should give my views on the invitation of the Prime Minister of India to attend the Conference at Delhi. The invitation to Australia and New Zealand raises some very difficult problems for us. It is probably intended to put us on the spot and see whether we shall support wholeheartedly the Asiatic point of view as to Western holdings in the East. The point of view of Asiatic peoples at the Conference is likely to be extreme and even passionate. We have possessions in the East and so has Gt. Britain, and I think it is highly unlikely that we will be able to agree with the Asiatic viewpoint on all questions. Any idea that we shall be able to lead, control or restrain the Conference should be dismissed. The Conference may possibly support military action in Indonesia and this would probably throw the whole of the Pacific into chaos. Diplomatic experience shows the unwisdom of attending Conferences where the issues are not strictly defined and where participants, like Australia and New Zealand, have no assurance that their point of view will be given proper recognition.

It is probable, of course, that refusal to attend would be stigmatised as an alignment by Australia with the Western Powers and this might lead to unfriendly comment. This would be unfortunate because our policy of making friends with Asiatic States has been successful and should be further developed.

Nevertheless, if we do attend and have to vote in the minority, the criticism of ourselves will be accentuated. The dangers of acceptance, therefore, seem to me to outweigh the dangers of refusal.

If we decide to refuse, there is a perfectly good ground of principle for so doing. We have always stood for United Nations action and have taken the lead in invoking it from the earliest stages of the Indonesian dispute and with considerable success to date. The Security Council is dealing with the dispute and has made certain decisions, and it will have to take further decisions. We may feel that we disagree with the decisions so far taken and we may believe them to be inadequate. This, however, is inevitable where bodies of this kind have to act. If we submit a matter to its decision, we must accept an adverse verdict unless we are able to command a majority to change it. Are we prepared to join the Asiatic nations in defying the decision, whatever it may be, of the Security Council? The decision of this body may not be effective in stopping the Dutch but this is, unfortunately, incidental to all United Nations action at the present time. There are no peace treaties and the machinery on which it has to rely for enforcement has not been set up.

We have shown ourselves firm in our support of the Indonesian cause in all constitutional methods. My own opinion is that the Dutch action is totally unjustifiable. I do not believe that the Indonesians could run the N.E.I. successfully but I do believe that they and the Dutch must co-operate. The worst aspect of the Dutch action is that this is made difficult, even impossible.

It has been suggested in the press that the meeting is justified by Articles 52 [1] and 53 [2] of the Charter which deal with regional arrangements, but this view must be approached with caution. Regional arrangements under this chapter of the Charter were intended as substitutes for central action in certain areas, but the drafting of these Articles of the Charter is peculiarly scrappy, imperfect and inadequate. It was certainly not intended to justify a regional arrangement ad hoc and apply it to a dispute which is being dealt with by the Council. Regional arrangements require to be organised beforehand. Careful consideration must be given to the area to be covered and the nations to be included.

Are we prepared to join in a regional arrangement of this kind in which we would submit ourselves to the decisions of the majority where they are likely to be antagonistic to us? It seems to me to be dangerous for us to come to a regional arrangement which is intended to take any responsibility from the Security Council.

These problems are world problems and not regional problems.

1 Article 52 of the UN Charter allows for regional arrangements or agencies, provided that such arrangements or agencies are consistent with the purposes and principles of the Charter, and encourages them to try to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes before referring them to the Security Council.

2 Article 53 of the UN Charter empowers the Security Council to utilize 'regional arrangements or agencies for enforcement action under its authority' but forbids enforcement action to be taken under regional arrangements without Security Council authorization.

[AA : A1838, 383/1/25]