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]