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65 Minute From Harry to Watt

Minute, Canberra, 16 March 1951


Pacific Pact
In his personal message[1] to Mr. Menzies and Mr. Holland on 14th March, Mr. Gordon Walker said, inter alia:

'We assume that you and the New Zealand Government will arrange to let other Commonwealth Governments know what is proposed. You will, no doubt, bear in mind the risk that knowledge of the possibility of a Pact may get known before there is a formal announcement'.

I do not feel that we are in any sense bound to inform the other members of the Commonwealth, and the United Kingdom may have in mind that certain countries, e.g. India, might raise difficulties which would reinforce the United Kingdom case. However, it would be of advantage if we could enlist the support of other Commonwealth Governments and if we could so frame our advice to the Asian members that they would appreciate the objectives of the proposed Pact from our point of view. I have in mind that while in New Zealand you might discuss the possibility of a joint message conveying the bare bones of the proposal to India, Pakistan, Ceylon and South Africa, and that we might also send supplementary instructions to our High Commissioners as to the special points which they should emphasise with the Governments concerned. Attached is the draft of a circular telegram. The following are the broad lines I would suggest for instructions to Gollan,[2] Arnott,[3] Burton[4] and Quinn.[5]


There is little in the Pact to interest India except the fact that if the Philippines is included, the arrangement would link the Philippines, by a further formal Treaty obligation, with the United States 'system'. Nehru might regard such a proposal with disfavour on the ground that it would hamper the consolidation of a neutral Asian group. Gollan might therefore be instructed to stress:

(a) that our objective is to 'bolt the back door' so that Australian and New Zealand forces would, in time of war, be freer to assume commitments outside the Pacific, e.g. in Malaya and the Middle East;

(b) that the proposal is for the Pact confined to the Pacific, [that it would not conflict with a wider regional arrangement later,][6] but that it is our understanding that the Government of India is not interested in the establishment of such an organisation at the present time;

(c) that the proposed Treaty would make it easier for Australia and New Zealand (and the Philippines, if included) to accept a Treaty with Japan without rigid restrictions on Japanese sovereignty. It is our understanding that India considers the Japanese Treaty should contain no restrictions.


Instructions to Arnott might be similar to those suggested for Gollan, except that he could emphasise more the aspect of Middle East defence. Arnott should also be instructed to avoid suggesting that we are actively seeking Pakistan's support, since such a request might lead to Pakistan seeking a quid pro quo.

South Africa.

Of all the British Commonwealth countries South Africa has the most immediate interest in the defence of the Middle East, and this aspect might be stressed strongly by Quinn. There would seem no objection in the case of South Africa to a direct request for diplomatic support. Presumably, South Africa would not be concerned whether the Pact was tripartite or quadripartite, although the association with the Philippines might not be greatly favoured by South Africa, in view of the active part played by the Philippines in support of India, and Romulo's anti-colonial speeches in the United Nations.


Instructions to Burton might, in general, follow the same lines as those to Gollan. He might be asked, in particular, to test out and give his views on the Asian reaction to a Pact (a) confined to Australia, New Zealand and the United States, (b) including the Philippines.

There is also the question of what further message, if any, should be sent to Canada.[7] The Minister has already given detailed information to Pearson and has solicited Canada's support. Cutler has had a copy of the Minister's message to Pearson, but may not have passed it to the New Zealand Government. When I saw Gabites on 9th March, at your direction, I told him simply that we had been in touch with Canada, but that we had not yet had any reaction. I would suggest that the 'circular' telegram, coming as from the two Prime Ministers, would be sufficient to indicate to Canada the progress which has been made and the fact that the two Governments are still actively seeking a Treaty as a major matter of policy.

I would be glad of your direction whether I should proceed today, or at least while you are in New Zealand, to develop instructions to the various High Commissioners along the above lines.[8]

1 Document 61.

2 H. Roy Gollan, High Commissioner in India.

3 L. J. Arnott, Official Secretary, High Commission in Pakistan.

4 J. W. Burton, High Commissioner in Ceylon.

5 J. P. Quinn, Acting High Commissioner in South Africa.

6 Words in square brackets were added by hand.

7 See Document 52.

8 A cablegram from Menzies to the Prime Ministers of India, Pakistan, Ceylon, South Africa, Canada and the United Kingdom was drafted on 16 February but there is no evidence that it was sent.

[NAA : A6768, EATS 77 Annex A]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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