95 Price to Chifley

Letter CANBERRA, 16 January 1949


I have been asked to let you have the enclosed message from Mr.

Attlee, setting out the views of the United Kingdom Government on our future policy towards the Indonesian problem.




The passage of the recent Security Council resolution [1], and the recent announcements of Dutch policy in regard to Indonesia mark an important stage in the development of the Indonesian issue.

2. It seems to us therefore that we should endeavour to clear our minds as to policy and procedure.

3. The objectives in our view, can be defined as:-

(a) The achievement of a just and lasting settlement in Indonesia on the basis of the recognition of the nationalist aspirations (which has for three years been our aim) and (b) Upholding and strengthening the authority of the United Nations in regard to this as to other disputes.

4. There are several dangers- (i) That the Dutch may ignore Security Council resolution and general world opinion, and seek to effect a settlement on terms which will be interpreted by the Security Council and by the world in general as evasion of the spirit of their own declarations and of the resolution. Such a policy on the part of the Dutch might result in demands for sanctions, and perhaps in the Dutch refusing facilities to the United Nations Commission, or even in their withdrawal from the United Nations.

(ii) That the Indonesians may not only fail to come to agreement between themselves, but may tend to shelter behind the United Nations Commission and fail to appreciate the need for the most careful advance planning if constitutional changes are to be effected smoothly and without lasting repercussions on the stability of Indonesia; and (iii) That prolongation of the dispute, and the bitter public controversy which it excites, may weaken the prestige of the United Nations, thus playing into the hands of the Soviet.

5. This is the situation as we see it, and I shall be glad to know whether you are in general agreement as to the objectives and as to the dangers. If this statement of the situation is accepted, it is to be considered what action can be taken to implement this policy and to meet these dangers.

6. Despite strong criticism which we have had to meet from the Netherlands Government (reinforced to some extent by other members of the Western Union), I think that we can fairly claim that our representations in Holland still carry weight, and in so far as the dangers outlined above can be obviated by action which the Dutch Government can take, I think it is our duty to use such influence as we have with the Dutch to that end. One difficulty in bringing pressure to bear on the Dutch is of course that they have a Coalition Government with considerable internal stresses, and that it is by no means easy for the Dutch Cabinet to agree on a common policy. Nevertheless we can but try to impress our views on them.

7. In the first instance, therefore, we are instructing the United Kingdom Ambassador [2] at The Hague to impress on the Dutch the need for speed in announcing their plans, and for the fulfilment of their programme and of the Security Council resolution. We are drawing special attention to the position of political prisoners and to the adverse impression that will be created unless it is known that the imprisoned Republican leaders are fully and freely associated with the negotiations. We are impressing also on the Dutch that whatever plans they announce now for the immediate future, i.e. the interim period, they must plainly be designed as part of a larger programme which will fulfil their own declarations of policy and the spirit of the Security Council resolution, and will lead to effective self-government in Indonesia within the time limit stated.

8. We are taking the same line with other members of the Consultative Council for Western Union, and are also asking the United Kingdom Ambassador at Washington [3] to tell the State Department of our analysis of the situation.

9. In so far as the dangers referred to above can be avoided only by action to be taken by Indonesians, I feel that until they are assured that the programme announced by the Dutch and the Security Council resolution will be implemented they will not take kindly to advice, at any rate from us. On the other hand, general instability in the Far East (for example China and Burma) and the very great potential importance of Indonesia in Asiatic and world affairs make it imperative that when the transfer of power is effected, Indonesia should not emerge as a centre of instability which would play into the hands of Communists.

10. Unless Indonesians begin to shoulder their responsibilities, there is a danger of a weak and inexperienced administration being set up in nominal control in Indonesia which would be unable to discipline its armed forces or to exercise effective control over its vast territory, with the result that a long period of disorder and weakness would ensue.

11. In these circumstances we should, I submit, use every channel to impress on the Indonesians the difficulties that lie ahead and that in the long run their salvation is in their own hands, however much sympathy and help they may get from friends outside.

12. We very much hope therefore that you will feel able to support the policy which I have outlined above, and in particular will use your influence with the Indonesians to impress on them a sense of responsibility and of urgency.

1 See notes 3 and 4 to Document 31.

2 Sir Philip Nichols.

3 Sir Oliver Franks.

[AA : A1838, ts383/6/1, i]