12 Burton to Bedi

Letter CANBERRA, 4 January 1949

I wish, on behalf of the Government, and in the absence of the Prime Minister [1], to thank you for your message of 3rd January, conveying an invitation by your Government to attend a conference in New Delhi to discuss the problem of Indonesia.

The Australian Government would, on principle, accept this invitation: it is always our desire to discuss the problems of this area with India and other neighbouring countries. If your Government finally decides to hold the conference after hearing from other governments invited, and states a definite date, the Australian Government would endeavour to be represented. The status of the representative would depend on the date of the conference and other such relevant factors.

In the meantime, we offer the following comments which might be taken into account in making a final decision about holding the conference and its date of assembling.

The Security Council meets at the end of this week, and presumably will meet several times before a conference can be arranged. It is not possible to anticipate its actions or decisions, if any, in respect of Indonesia. The proposal put forward by your Government may, in itself, press upon members of the Council the unanimous feeling in this region of disappointment at the Council's inability so far in taking effective action, and it may be that, when it reassembles, the Council will take more useful and just decisions. In this case, presumably, your Government will reconsider the need of calling a regional conference.

If a conference were called, some positive objectives should be sought. It would seem that many of the countries of this area, including your own, have already taken whatever action is open to them regarding air and sea movements of Dutch transport. For our part, as you know, we have refused all requests to export munitions of war. There is probably little effective action which the countries of this region acting alone can take. Action by the United States and other countries is required.

This underlines the need for obtaining the just and necessary decisions in the Security Council, of which the United States of America and the United Kingdom are permanent members. Moreover, apart from this consideration of expediency, the Australian Government could take no action which by-passed the United Nations, or was not in accord with its purposes and principles.

I believe this is the position of India too, and therefore we assume that, before the calling of a conference, your Government will have considered what positive steps might be taken by a conference or by the governments represented at it which would be in accordance with our obligations to the United Nations.

There is one other aspect we should like to mention. Regional action is in accord with Chapter eight of the Charter. However, it would seem that the countries invited to the proposed conference include some which could not be regarded as being in the Asian region, and exclude others which are usually so included. The group of countries represented at E.C.A.F.E. [2] -or these countries except the permanent members of the Security Council- might be more appropriate for regional advice to the Security Council. Otherwise considerations not relevant to the regional problem, and the problem of Indonesia itself, are likely to prevent effective work and action.

In short, the Australian Government would be pleased to send a representative to whatever conference the Indian Government might consider should be called. The status of that representative will have to be determined, having in mind the situation as it then appears. We assume that, in the meantime, the Indian Government will watch developments in order to decide whether a conference is necessary and what form it should take. If possible we should like to be kept informed of the views of the Indian Government so that we can co-operate in every way possible in securing a speedy, just and stable solution to the problem of Indonesia.

1 Chifley was on holiday in Tasmania.

2 The countries represented in ECAFE at the time were Australia, Burma, China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Siam, the United Kingdom, the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The Netherlands Indies and the Indonesian Republic were admitted as associate members in December 1948.

[AA : A1838, 383/1/25]