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145 Fraser to Chifley

Cablegram 35 WELLINGTON, 7 March 1949, 5.18 p.m.


External Affairs telegram 22 of 18th February. [1]

I can fully appreciate the need and desirability for Asian
countries to consult among themselves on matters of common
interest. I am, however, not aware of any common standard for
regional associations; and although we have now received through
the Indian High Commissioner in London, his Government's
memorandum on the steps by which it is proposed to implement the
third resolution adopted by the New Delhi Conference, I am still
by no means clear as to what are to be the practical functions and
scope of the proposed Asian grouping.

2. The ostensible functions may well be regional co-operation and
assistance to the United Nations in the settlement of disputes
arising within the region. To the exercise of these functions I
feel there can be no very strong objection if the association is
generally desired by all major countries represented in the area,
but the scope of the proposal should be made clear and definite.

3. It is nevertheless felt that the New Delhi Conference itself
can scarcely be said to have had this character, since one of the
disputants, the Netherlands, though comprised with the region, was
not even invited to attend. It seems probable, therefore, that the
association will be conceived rather as a pressure group, aimed
largely at bringing about the speedy termination of European rule
in Asia. While we are in full sympathy with the reasonable
aspirations of colonial peoples to achieve independence as soon as
they are capable of undertaking responsibilities involved, the
manner and tempo of a development of this nature may be of great
importance. For instance, we should not wish to see the sudden
termination of existing authority in Malaya.

4. Whatever may be the ultimate characteristics of the proposed
Asian association, however, I am not convinced either as to the
desirability or the necessity of New Zealand being formally
associated with it. Indeed, it is my personal view that we should
definitely not take part. In reality, New Zealand though adjacent
to Australia who, in turn is adjacent to South-East Asia and a
South Pacific country, having its natural links within the South
Pacific grouping. Quite apart from not wishing to form a part of
an Asian bloc within the United Nations, we in New Zealand are
disturbed at the growing tendency, not only among Asians, but
among Europeans and Americans, to regard New Zealand as belonging
to South-East Asia. I do not feel we should encourage a train of
thought which might lead to general acceptance of a belief that we
are expected to carry a disproportionate share in the burdens of
Asia, or indeed, that we constitute a natural field of Asian
expansion. That Asian Leaders should seek to emphasise the Asian
connections of New Zealand may, it seems to me, be regarded as a
projection of their hopes and even ultimate intentions for New
Zealand. The inevitable pressures of increasing population and the
equally inevitable growth of national consciousness throughout
Asia are considerations which must necessarily influence New
Zealand's policy. The fact that Asiatic countries are beginning to
have an active policy towards ourselves renders it essential for
us to have some positive policy also. It seems inevitable that
eventually our immigration policy will be attacked and this we
should be in a better position to withstand if we refused to be
classified as part of Asia which we are not, either geographically
or in any other sense, and the same is true as we see it, of

5. At the same time, we cannot divorce ourselves from an interest
in Asian developments, the importance of which we fully recognise.

I appreciate that, for instance, it might be to our interest, as
occasion may require, to participate in South East Asian meetings
and, on such occasions, as observers rather than as full members.

We in New Zealand certainly wish to be as neighbourly as possible.

If, without in any way jeopardizing our economic or political
independence, we can contribute through technical assistance, or
by fostering commercial relations, we shall certainly wish to do

6. Speaking with the candour which our common interests require,
in my view the Australian situation is similar to our own as it is
a South Pacific and not a South East Asian power. Being nearer to
Asia and also more powerful than New Zealand it can play a bigger
part in the neighbourly role we see as the right one. We may thus
exert some, though not very considerable influence on the policies
of the Asiatic countries. But as I see it, they, especially India,
are fully determined to take the lead in any important matters
themselves. By too intimate association we may find ourselves more
in the position of followers than we should wish.

1 Referring to the India. proposal for a regional association,
Chifley agreed 'in principle to a regional association including
India, Pakistan and South East Asia. countries with Colonial
territories represented by the metropolitan powers concerned'.

[AA:A1838/278, 851/18/3]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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