226 Cablegram to Canberra

Jakarta, 12 September 1975


Portuguese Timor

I am sorry I have not responded to the initiative outlined in your O.CH2655481 until now. This has partly been due to other pressures and, as you know, it crossed with our attempt to redefine Indonesia's present approach to Timor (JA17582).

  1. One problem for us is, of course, who we would talk to about a proposal like this in present circumstances. Mochtar would possibly say that the proposed initiative could, in certain circumstances, be quite helpful. If he did so, however, he would probably be operating on the public diplomatic level which I have described in paragraph nine of our JA1758. On the other hand we have discussed the idea you have in mind with Moerdani and Tjan who reacted firmly against it. Despite the casual nature of our discussion Tjan asked whether this indicated Australia was changing its policy.
  2. On balance, I think the Indonesians could interpret it as a step back from the implications they have drawn from the Prime Minister's talks with President Soeharto, from what he said in his statement in the House on Timor on the 26 August3 and also in his answer to Mr Anthony on the 28 August. Indonesia could I think view such action by us, at this stage, as a change in our earlier direction which would be unhelpful to them. I know that one can argue that such an initiative is intended to be helpful but I do not think they will see it in this light. I am therefore reluctant to take it further, at this stage, unless you wish me to do so.
  3. I also have three other comments on your CH265548.
  4. First, Santos' discussions here are important for the public diplomatic level of Indonesian policy (paragraph 9 of JA1758) but assuming our analysis of the situation in that cable is correct, they are not 'crucial' for Indonesia's Timor policy. The Indonesians still suspect that Portugal wishes to hand over East Timor to Fretilin and they see Santos' talks here delaying and disguising this but not altering the end result.
  5. Secondly, Indonesia would probably not agree that it would be left without adequate recognition of [her] special interest in Portuguese Timor. Her ASEAN partners have already given this recognition privately, if not publicly and would presumably be prepared to be helpful publicly when the time comes. Australia is in a similar position and, in fact, the Acting Minister has already made publicly points (a) (b) and (c) in your paragraph five. In these circumstances I doubt the need to seek further regional recognition of Indonesia's special interest in Portuguese Timor at this stage and I do not think Indonesia or at least the group which has the main role in formulating Indonesia's basic policy-as distinct from the policy for public presentation-would want us to do so.
  6. Thirdly, Indonesia wants to avoid, if possible, the Timor issue being internationalised. This may prove impossible but at present Indonesia does not want other countries drawn into some degree of shared responsibility in Portuguese Timor. That would impose restraints on her freedom of action. We have been kept very fully informed about Indonesia's intentions in Portuguese Timor. The proposed initiative could hamstring those intentions by focusing the attention of regional countries-who in any case are trying to keep as uninvolved as they can-on the territory.


[NAA: A10463, 801113111/1, xiv]