Skip to main content

Historical documents

139 Burton to Gollan

Letter CANBERRA, 12 October 1948

There are several matters which can best be dealt with in this
personal note so that you may consider them at leisure before
return to Australia. [1]

The Australian Government is taking particular interest in events
and trends in the South-East Asia area at the moment and in doing
so we must take the position of India very strongly into account.

Developments at the Asian Relations Conference [2] last year and
several other signs have made plain India's desire to play a
leading part in the whole of that area. Thus there must always be
an undercurrent of rivalry between India and China. We want very
careful and documented reporting on this aspect of Indian policy.

Speeches by Indian leaders, notably Nehru, over the past two years
have accepted Australia's common interest in the Indian Ocean
zone, although it is very doubtful how far the Government of India
would be enthusiastic about our taking the initiative. We are
anxious, however, to obtain any leads which from your vantage
point in New Delhi you can give us as to how we can best build on
the Australia-India-Indian Ocean zone theme and develop an active
policy in regard to South East Asia.

Thirdly, a related matter on which we are sending out an official
memorandum to posts in the area is the importance of our knowing
about the interest and activities of other countries in the South
East Asia area. In working out our political and commercial
policies in South East Asia area it is important to know as much
as we can about what other countries are doing, notably America,
China and India. This involves our receiving regular information
regarding visits by foreign officials, technicians and
businessmen, contracts for developmental projects, etc. in any
country in the area. You will be in a position to pick up much
information in New Delhi, especially no doubt about India and
Pakistan but also about other south eastern countries.

Fourthly, the relations of India and Pakistan with the British
Commonwealth and between themselves are of paramount importance.

It is axiomatic that both Pakistan and India should remain inside
the British Commonwealth or that there should be a complete change
in British Commonwealth relations assuring the closest possible
treaty relationship between Indian and Pakistan on the one hand,
and at least the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand on the
other. Our feeling is that the attitude of Pakistan towards the
British Commonwealth may be a determining factor and that India
will be reluctant to sever her links with the British Commonwealth
so long as Pakistan remains a member. This was made fairly evident
at the time of the Mountbatten proposals in June 1947.

Particularly on the last two issues we attach great importance to
your advice based on your wide knowledge and experience of India.

Please do not feel that we are expecting elaborate reports from
you in every instance. On many occasions a short telegram,
memorandum or despatch summarising the results of your
observations and conclusion will be of much more value than
information contained in a long fortnightly or monthly report. But
I am sure that you will know best how to ascertain and convey the
information we want.

1 Gollan visited in December 1948-January 1949 before taking up
duty as Australian High Commissioner in India.

2 Inter-Asian Relations Conference held in New Delhi from 23 March
to 2 April 1947. See Volume 12, Documents 514 and 516.

[AA:A1838/2, 169/10/6, i]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
Back to top