48 Beasley to Chifley

Cablegram 6 LONDON, 7 January 1949



High Commissioners' meeting this morning attended by Noel-Baker and Mayhew, dealt exclusively with Indonesia and was extremely lively but friendly. We are meeting again tomorrow morning to discuss Indonesia and, if necessary, on Monday morning. If you have any special instructions for me and send them most immediate tomorrow, I will have them before tomorrow's meeting. I have not repeated this telegram to New York or to Evatt and assume you will take any necessary action in that direction.

2. As a result of talk he and I had yesterday, the Indian High Commissioner [1], with my support, asked that Indonesia be the first subject considered and Mayhew outlined recent action by the United Kingdom claiming that its attitude on Indonesia had been misrepresented and misunderstood. He claimed:-

(I) That Bevin had constantly urged the Dutch both by direct approach and at meetings of the consultative council of powers at Brussels, to avoid force and to settle their differences with Indonesians peaceably.

(II) That the United Kingdom had supported the United States resolution [2] in the Security Council and the Australian amendments. [3]

(III) That the statement of the Dutch Prime Minister on departure from Holland [4] offered some hope that the Dutch were responding to United Kingdom pressure, particularly that of 1st January summarised in para 1 of Heydon's telegram 48. [5]

(IV) That it would be unwise for the Security Council to pass resolutions in particular for imposition of sanctions which could not be carried out and thus reduce Council's already 'weakened authority'.

3. Menon made a very strong statement. His main points were as follows:-

(I) It was not a question so much of whether or not the United Kingdom had supported resolutions in the Security Council, or had exerted pressure on the Dutch as the degree and intensity of their action.

(II) The vigilance of India, Australia, Pakistan and Ceylon re Indonesian question in recent months had been played down by the United Kingdom authorities as 'alarmist'. United Kingdom's wrong assumptions had produced an attitude of insufficient firmness and while it had said 'sharp things to the Dutch in private' it had consistently said smooth things of them in. [6] Only one policy 'that of perfidy'. The Dutch plainly wanted to 'see their empire re-established in the Indies'. Everyone realises that this quite impossible now and the United Kingdom which had taken a bold step of abdication from its imperial position in India and other countries, was in better position than any other power to say so.

(V) The United Kingdom with its moral prestige and with its position in Western Union could have made a downright condemnation but had failed to do so.

(VI) The Indian Government was not satisfied that arms which United Kingdom supplied to the Dutch in Europe did not in fact replace those which were sent to the Indies.

(VII) The Dutch had flouted the Security Council resolutions and the United Kingdom ought to say no.

(VIII) The United Kingdom attitude which treated the Dutch and Indonesians as being on the 'same political and moral level' was fundamentally wrong as were statements by both Dening and Falla in the Security Council. [7] The idea of the Dutch setting up genuine Government to which powers will be transferred was quite false for it was based on the same misconception. The result was that the United Kingdom did not impress the Dutch and did not impress members of the British Commonwealth.

4. Menon repeated several times that in all he said it must be clearly understood that the Indian Government was not presuming to dictate the policy of the United Kingdom Government which was an 'entirely sovereign state' and 'completely entitled to make up its own mind regardless of the views of the other members of the British Commonwealth.' 5. I spoke firmly along the lines of telegram 3 of 5th January [8] using some of the points made in Hodgson's telegram 302 December 31st [9] regarding proceedings in Security Council. Among other points I mentioned these:-

(I) The matter was so important that some High Commissioners felt they ought to see Attlee if necessary as soon as possible.

(II) Mayhew had referred to the weakening authority of the Security Council. United Kingdom, both by its relatively junior representation at Paris and by the statements it made, could itself be charged with weakening the authority. The United Nations is our one great hope and its influence must be strengthened at every opportunity.

(III) United Kingdom had a position of considerable influence as great power. In this matter it apparently chose not to use fully that influence in the Security Council with the result that the Dutch almost certainly did not treat pressure by Bevin and others seriously. In the Security Council, the retreat of the United Kingdom and the United States from their reasonably firm attitude at the start was perhaps the most important factor encouraging the Dutch to ignore the resolutions.

(IV) The Dutch action has driven the bitter republicans who had defeated the Communists in Java into the hands of the Communists' party. Other High Commissioners might agree but I felt that action to give nationalism and communism a common front would only strengthen the communist attack in South East Asia.

(V) The Dutch were not independent of their neighbours. Surely the United Kingdom in many ways had the power to influence Dutch action. If the United Kingdom lost this opportunity of using its position as leader of Western Union it would open up the whole question of the attitude of some Commonwealth countries towards Western Union.

6. Goonetilleke (Ceylon) said that the representation of the United Kingdom by a young civil servant [10] at the Security Council when it was discussing the fate of 70 million people could only be interpreted as indifference. The attitude of the press in the United Kingdom must be significant. It contained no outright criticism of the Dutch and frequently cast doubts on the attitude of India, Australia, Pakistan and Ceylon to the Indonesian question. In the absence of an 'open full statement' by the United Kingdom Government this was interpreted by the people certainly of Ceylon and India as reflecting the Government's views. Jordan, for New Zealand said his Government may be sending an observer to the conference at New Delhi and that he saw some hope in Queen Juliana's speech. [11] Egeland who said he had no instructions shares this view.

7. Robertson for Canada said that his Government had separated [12] the United States, United Kingdom and Australian position in the Security Council except on the question of withdrawal of forces. He felt that in a difficult and dangerous situation strong language should be reserved for private conversations and without specifying speakers criticised some of the 'wild language' used in Paris. Menon commented on this that he was concerned with the content of speeches and not with language and taunted Robertson with an analysis of Canada's votes and abstentions in Paris on the basis of an 'ideological line up'. He said that any criticism he made of the United Kingdom's attitude applied with even more force to Canada.

8. In conclusion Menon asked that all Commonwealth Governments be given the full text of the instruction to the United Kingdom Ambassador at The Hague on 1st January. (See para 2 (IV) ).

1 V.K. Menon.

2 See note 3 to Document 31.

3 See Documents 449 and 462 in Volume XIII.

4 Before arriving in Indonesia on 6 January, Drees announced the intention of the Netherlands Government to consult representative all parts of Indonesia with the aim of establishing an all- Indonesia federal interim government which was to make final preparation the establishment of an independent United States of Indonesia to which the Netherlands would later transfer power.

5 Document 29.

6 A word is missing on the cited copy, presumably 'public'.

7 See Documents 462, 481, 490, and 494 in Volume XIII.

8 Presumably Cablegram 9, dispatched on 5 January, which conveyed the text of Document 19 to the High Commission in London.

9 Document 506 in Volume XIII.

10 P.S. Falla.

11 On 6 January Queen Juliana expressed her 'sincere wish that within a few weeks an Indonesian federal government be created, to take upon itself the responsibilities and to carry out the duties inherent in democratic government'. See United Nations, Security Council Official Records, Fourth Year, No. 1, 397th meeting, p.


12 This should presumably read 'supported'.

[AA : A1838, 402/8/1/1/1, ii]