54 Burton to Evatt

Cablegram E8 CANBERRA, 9 January 1949, 10.15 p.m.

MOST IMMEDIATE CONFIDENTIAL

The fact that conference did not conform with regional concept was main reason why Prime Minister decided not to send a Minister. On other hand our position in area and initiative on Indonesia required us to be present even though he realised conference would probably be futile. Your telegrams [1] helped to stress this.

Hence compromise was arranged and announcement made immediately at Prime Minister's request because of press speculation. It aimed at meeting local political objection to sending Minister and at same time avoiding serious misunderstanding in Asia if we rejected invitation or treated it lightly. As it is there is no hostile reaction here and or in India though they dropped the hint that now conference was postponed they hoped it would be possible for you to attend.

Your objective on regional consultation should not be hindered. On contrary it is opportunity to point out need for properly constituted regional body. You might do that in Perth or elsewhere. Clearly regional arrangement can be sponsored only by Australia if racial characteristics are to be avoided.

We have already asked Nehru postpone conference if Council gives him opportunity. Request for postponement without reasonable Council action would be badly misinterpreted particularly in new press suggestions of United Kingdom pressure and unfortunate ministerial statement that we were consulting United Kingdom over acceptance. In any case it would seem undesirable as it would be regarded as victory for Western European powers who have behaved so badly in this and indication that the group including Australia have admitted failure in influencing Council.

I have not consulted Prime Minister in Tasmania again as he was characteristically definite on last occasion and would not consider change in plans unless India could be persuaded to postpone as result Council's action. He considers difficult compromise has now been accepted here and overseas. He is careful not to give opportunity for criticism of Government on these matters and hence wants to stick to accepted decision. He is very well aware I am more than ready and willing not to make journey at this time for a number of good reasons and he is also aware I do not like prospect of a mission which apart from broader Asian politics has no real purpose of value.

You must know that your point of view is not lost on me.

Suggestion of persistence against your wishes is hardly in accord with circumstances and reference to free hand comes hard in view of observer status, not to say entire agreement on line to be followed.

Reference meeting you Fremantle, I agree and planned this when date was altered. From many points of view this is desirable especially Indian desire you attend and local press statements that decision was taken in consultation.

Above answers point you made. India advised if conference held I must be back by 26th January consequently under present arrangement of meeting you I think most difficulties can be overcome. I am flying over Tuesday, leaving direct for Sydney Thursday night, arriving Sydney Friday ready departure same day if necessary. I will have in Perth some notes as I think you might take opportunity in Melbourne or Sydney of commenting on proposed Asian Conference, getting regionalism on rails. In case you refer to matter in Perth speech Nehru consulted United Kingdom Government, who have raised no objection to us and United States has told us informally we should be present.

In spite of above, regards and looking forward to seeing you and family.

1 Documents 9, 10 and 18.

[AA : A9420, 7]