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103 Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers

PMM (48) 12th Meeting (extract) LONDON, 20 October 1948, 3 p.m.


MR. LOUW said that he had already dealt with certain aspects of
defence in the discussion on foreign affairs on the previous day.

The Government of the Union of South Africa were fully conscious
of the dangers of Communism and of Soviet penetration both in
Europe and elsewhere; and he could not share Dr. Evatt's hope that
Soviet policy, based as it was on the teachings of Marx and Lenin,
would change. His Government recognised the need for co-operation
among all likeminded nations to resist the Soviet threat, and the
only question was what should be the form and extent of this co-
operation. The statement by Mr. Attlee at the 11th Meeting [1] and
P.M.M. (48) 1 [2] seemed to offer a basis acceptable to South
Africa, and Lord Tedder had also laid stress on regional schemes
worked out so as to fit into a general plan. His Government
favoured the idea of collaboration on a regional basis as set out
in paragraph 8 of the Appendix to P.M.M. (48) 1, but they could
not agree to the wider proposals which seemed to be envisaged by
Australia and New Zealand. Nor could the South African Government
engage in a general defence scheme involving commitments in
different parts of the world. They would not, however, define
regional defence too narrowly or limit it to purely local
arrangements. South Africa's interests were primarily those of
Southern Africa but extended to the whole African continent as
regards both external attack and internal dangers. The defence of
Africa related also to sea routes and other lines of
communication, which were important also to Australia and New
Zealand. His Government recognised the importance of the Middle
East countries, which constituted the keystone of the structure of
defence of Africa and, while he could not commit the Union to
participate in military measures for the defence of the Middle
East, he recognised that the question of South African
participation might be a matter for further discussion.

The Government of South Africa would wish, as a first step, to
undertake discussions with the United Kingdom Government, who had
a direct interest in Africa, and with the Government of the
neighbouring country of Southern Rhodesia. These discussions could
be based on the principles set out in paragraphs 14 and is of
P.M.M. (48) 1, it being understood that no country would be
committed to any particular solution until it had been accepted by
its Government.

The United Kingdom, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia were not
the only countries interested in the defence of Africa, and he
believed that the discussions between the Commonwealth countries
concerned should lead on to wider discussions in which the
Governments of France, Belgium and Portugal should participate. He
did not know whether the United Kingdom Government had considered
the possibility of having discussions with those other countries,
but he emphasised that the Government of South Africa should be
brought into any such discussions at the outset as an equal

He agreed that defence policy must rest on a sound economic basis;

and pointed out that South Africa was an important source of
supply of food-stuffs and raw materials, and was in course of
becoming the greatest producer of uranium in the world. In the
United Nations discussions on the control of atomic energy South
Africa had reserved her position with regard to uranium
production, but she was anxious to exploit her uranium in co-
operation with like-minded countries.

SIR, GODFREY HUGGINS [3] said that he accepted P.M.M. (48) 1 in
its entirety. Commonwealth countries must realise that it was no
longer possible for the United Kingdom to protect them as in the
past and must be prepared to make adequate contributions in man-
power and other resources, even though this should entail
considerable sacrifices. Unless a united stand was made, the
Commonwealth countries would disappear one by one. Though there
had as yet been no opportunity to make contact with the new South
African Government, Southern Rhodesia would naturally have to
discuss defence problems with South Africa, and she was already in
close touch with the United Kingdom on these matters. His
Government regarded Southern Rhodesia as a vital link in the chain
and were anxious to play their full part.

PANDIT NEHRU said that it was fortunate that the present political
crisis had come at a time when the big Powers were not prepared
for war; and, since the Soviet Union was not likely to be ready to
fight for eight to ten years and the United States and the United
Kingdom did not in any event want war, there was a period of grace
which could be used to mould the future in such a way as to avert
war. He agreed that Commonwealth countries must not be unprepared
and should not surrender to evil; but, with the prospect of atomic
and biological warfare, another war would be a disaster for all
well-intentioned peoples irrespective of who might be the ultimate
victor. All countries must therefore set about creating conditions
which would make war impossible. The defensive preparations of
Commonwealth countries must not be aggressive and should be
supplemented by a positive policy designed to do away with the
idea of war altogether. There must be a proper balance in the
distribution of the available resources between defence
preparations and economic development, and it was most important
that India should develop her industrial potential. He agreed that
it should be made plain to would-be aggressors that war would be
unprofitable, and he emphasised that India would permit no
incursion into her territory or into the regions around it. To
secure this she was prepared to co-operate with other members of
the Commonwealth and to share in the burdens which such co-
operation would impose. India had resources of monazite, thorium
and uranium which it was important to her to develop for peaceful
purposes, and he believed that a policy of economic development
would both strengthen India's ability to wage war, should this be
necessary, and, by providing a higher standard of living, counter
the Communist menace. The surest defence against the spread of
Communism in India was, in his view, not coercion, but the removal
of the conditions of poverty in which Communism found its
advantage; and the Government of India were guided by this

MR. LIAQAT ALI KHAN said that, as was recognised in P.M.M. (48) 1,
it was impossible to separate questions of defence from political
and economic questions. He suggested that there were three points
on which it was necessary for Commonwealth countries to agree.

First, were all agreed that no Commonwealth country should desire
or seek war? Secondly, did all regard Communism as a menace to
freedom? Thirdly, if any member of the Commonwealth were attacked,
whether in open warfare or otherwise, would all other Commonwealth
countries come to its aid, it being understood that such aid must
not be confined to the Commonwealth members of British stock? He
was prepared to answer all three questions in the affirmative. All
Commonwealth countries wanted peace because they were anxious to
improve the lot of their peoples, and if they ever became involved
in war it would be in self-defence. In his view, every country
should be at liberty to do as it liked within its own territory,
provided that it did not interfere with the affairs of others. His
objection to the Soviet Union was that it did not accept this

If there were agreement on the questions he had enumerated he
would accept the procedure proposed in paragraph is of P.M.M. (48)
1. He thought it most important that the regional arrangements
contemplated should be dovetailed into arrangements for the
defence of the Commonwealth as a whole. As a member of the
Commonwealth, Pakistan was ready and willing to play her full part
in the maintenance of peace and in defensive preparations for that
purpose. But, just as Pakistan did not seek to secure only
advantages from the Commonwealth connection and to give nothing in
return, so also she thought that others should share the
responsibilities as well as the privileges of membership. The mere
exchange of views and information on defence matters was not
enough; it must lead on to some definite conclusions, followed by
agreed action.

Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan emphasised that Pakistan was already playing
her full part in Commonwealth defence; the partition of India had
left her with responsibility for the defence of the North-West
Frontier', which was a matter of interest to the whole
Commonwealth, and she was also responsible for the frontier with
Burma, where there was a definite Communist threat. The Pakistan
Navy would also play its part in the defence of the oil resources
of the Persian Gulf These important contributions to Commonwealth
defence would, he hoped, be recognised by other Commonwealth

In conclusion, Mr. Liaqat Ali Khan emphasised that, while there
must be regional defence schemes, including a scheme for the
defence of the vital Middle East countries, such schemes must fit
into wider plans for the defence of the Commonwealth as a whole.

Moreover, the plans should cover not merely defence in the narrow
sense, but the development of the economic resources of the
Commonwealth and other countries concerned. It would thus be
possible to meet any external emergency should it arise, and also
to combat the internal menace of Communism by the only really
effective weapon, namely, raising the standard of living of the

1 Document 102.

2 Document 100.

3 Prime Minister of southern Rhodesia.

[AA: A6712, 4 COPY 2]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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