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Historical documents

235 Memorandum from Gilchrist to Watt

Jakarta, 21 August 1952


Indonesia and the Colombo Plan

The British Embassy have the strong impression that the Indonesian Government has recently reached an informal decision that Indonesia should participate in all or part of the Colombo Plan, and that the announcement of a formal decision by the Indonesian Government to this effect is now a matter of timing.1 It is deduced that the timing of such an announcement would be co-ordinated with some other announcement which would attempt to 'balance' the apparent movement away from the 'independence' policy towards closer association with Commonwealth countries. For example, it is thought that a decision to participate might be announced simultaneously with the announcement of the appointment of Indonesian Ambassadors to Peking and Moscow. We have not recently sounded out Indonesian Ministries on this point, since we have not wished to appear anxious about the question of Indonesian participation. As usual we have taken the line that the merits of the Colombo Plan and the participation in it of other South-East Asian countries with more or less 'independent' lines of foreign policy, speak for themselves, and that if Indonesia does not want to participate there are other countries participating which are quite prepared to absorb a correspondingly greater share of technical and economic assistance available. We feel that the Colombo Exhibition and the favourable comments of our Indian, Pakistani and Ceylonese colleagues here regarding the Colombo Plan must carry more weight with the Indonesians than any persuasion attempted by this Embassy.

2. The Pakistani Charge d 'Affaires last week said that he had it from a most reliable source that Indonesia was about to participate in the Colombo Plan and the Indian Embassy has the same general impression. We have no direct evidence to support the British Embassy's conjecture regarding timing of the announcement to coincide with a 'balancing' announcement, but on the face of it, such a choice of timing would fit in with the observed characteristics of the present Indonesian Government. We have seen no adverse criticism of the Colombo Plan recently in any Indonesian newspaper, and the climate of opinion towards participation does seem currently favourable. We have not noticed any recent parliamentary discussion of the question.

3. These impressions are sent to you so that you may be forewarned in good time, both for the purpose of issuing appropriate comment in Australia and also making appropriate administrative and economic adjustments, in the event of an early announcement by the Indonesian Government.

[NAA: All 604, 704/2/2]

1 The Indonesian Government did not officially agree to join the Colombo Plan until 31 December 1952. See footnote 2, Document 241.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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