221 Burton to Kevin

Memorandum CANBERRA, 5 May 1949

As you may have gathered from the press meetings were held in London recently between various Prime Ministers to discuss the question of Burma. Australia was not represented. The Prime Minister had already discussed the matter with United Kingdom Ministers making his position quite clear and saw no good purpose could be served in attending any further meetings.

Apparently a decision has been made to give military support to the Burmese Government and, in due course, to consider financial assistance. New Zealand was associated with this.

For our part, we cannot see any merit in making over arms or finance to the present Burmese Government, being quite convinced that any arms that are sent will be sold, possibly to the Communists, and any finances will find their way similarly into the pockets of members of the Burmese Government. If the proposals had been accompanied by a suggestion that a financial mission should be sent from one or a number of our countries to take charge, we would have felt more inclined to consider them. As it is, however, the situation seems to be very like that when the United States was sending aid to China.

Most of our reports, which are admittedly inadequate, would seem to suggest that the Karens are far more developed politically, administratively and commercially. We have not, at any stage, heard any arguments why the present Burmese Government should be backed against the Karens at the risk of creating a situation which will be taken advantage of by Communist groups.

It was clear that Bajpai was disappointed that we had not taken any active part and probably interprets our attitude, in relation to Burma, as implying lack of interest in India's relations with South East Asian countries. This is not so, but on the basis of our present information our judgement is that it would be a mistake to send armed assistance to Burma at this juncture.

You may care to use this as background informally in conversations with Bajpai or his officers.

[AA: A5009/2, A7/3/6, ii]