Draft Cabinet Paper

Canberra, [1965]1



Portuguese Timor

Australian Initiatives

  1. At this stage there does not seem to be any scope for further initiatives by Australia either with a view to influencing the Portuguese or to inhibiting Indonesian action. Portuguese colonial policy is not likely to change so long as Dr. Salazar continues in power, its rigidity in Timor (in which Portugal has little interest) being based on the determination to avoid creating precedents which might affect Portugal's position in Africa. If there were clear indications of an impending Indonesian attack, we would have to make some attempt at dissuasion in Djakarta and the Ambassador there has standing instructions to speak in sharp terms in such an event. We must recognise, however, that this is unlikely to give the Indonesians pause, unless we are prepared to leave them with the fear that they may be exposing themselves to attack from two sides.If Cabinet considers that military assistance should not be extended to Portugal it would clearly be questionable whether that would be worth doing.
  2. If Cabinet decides that comments should be given to the British as requested (paragraph 1) the point could be made that, while the nature of our reaction to Indonesian moves in Portuguese Timor would depend on a number of factors, our present military assessment is that the strategic significance of Portuguese Timor is such that further Indonesian encroachment there would not appreciably heighten the dangers to Australia's security. Against this background, British views on possible Portuguese air reinforcement routes might be sought, including the likely British attitude to a Portuguese request for the use of British airfield facilities in the Indian Ocean area for emergency reinforcement purposes.

[NAA: A1838, 3006/4/3, iv]