103 Minutes of Meeting of Prime Ministers

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


CONFIDENTIAL ANNEX 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 partner.

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 principle.

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 principle.

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 countries.

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 people.

1 Document 102.

2 Document 100.

3 Prime Minister of southern Rhodesia.

[AA: A6712, 4 COPY 2]