125 Burton to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 54 NEW DELHI, 20 January 1949, 4.45 p.m.


I have had two discussions with Sir Archibald Nye, who recently assumed Office as High Commissioner for the United Kingdom in India, and was formerly Governor of Madras Province. Mr. Gollan was able to join me during the first visit. Sir William Strang, recently appointed permanent Head of the United Kingdom Foreign Office, is also in New Delhi, and he was present during both discussions but took little part in them as he stated that he was not familiar with the Indonesian situation or with South East Asian affairs generally.

2. At first discussion on January 18th, Nye took a somewhat forthright line regarding the conference and the Indonesian situation. He claimed that in a fit of impulsiveness, Nehru had made the announcement that the Conference would take place. He questioned what value the Conference would have and said that the United Kingdom had not been informed either through him or directly. (We later ascertained that the information was conveyed through the Indian High Commissioner at London.) 3. I made clear our feelings that we could place no faith in the assurances given by the Dutch and that they would not have undertaken this expensive police action just to retain power for one or even two years. Nye discounted the military operation and the cost involved for the Dutch and added that certain Dutch actions criticised by the Republicans as atrocities and reprisals were simply part of legitimate mopping up operations. He hinted that Australia and other countries had not faced the facts.

4. At the second discussions on January 19th (arranged at his request) Nye was much milder in tone possibly after consultation with Strang. He emphasised his desire to help and make available to us any reports or other information which they had. He read extracts from several cables the [g]ist of which we had received in Canberra, especially those covering the High Commissioner's Conference in London in early January. [1] I pointed out that apparently the United Kingdom line that no enforcement action should be taken, was hardly consistent with support of U.N.

[Logical development of this] assumption [w]as [2] that no proposals should be introduced to the Council which were not in advance acceptable to the Dutch as their non-acceptance might lead to pressure for enforcement. In fact this was what was happening and the United States seemed to have withdrawn the resolution [3] after the Dutch statement that they would not accept the provisions. U.N. could not function if the United Kingdom and the United States of America adopted this attitude. Nye sought to establish the difference between the action to which Dutch agreement would be necessary e.g., withdrawal and action which could be taken independently of the Dutch following a Security Council decision. He felt that the United Kingdom Government might well support the latter i.e. some form of sanctions.

5. He also showed me a telegram [4] of protest Bevin sent to the British Ambassador at The Hague referring to earlier Dutch assurances that they would not undertake strong measures in return for a United Kingdom guarantee of 'certain actions'. Nye was unable to explain what this phrase meant.

6. I said that our information indicated that the Indian High Commissioner in London had informed the United Kingdom authorities of the holding of the Conference. Nye disclaimed this, but added that the United Kingdom authorities had of course no objection to the Conference being held nor were they annoyed at not being invited. In fact he felt that such an idea would not have occurred to them either here in New Delhi or in London.

7. I suggested that it might be very helpful on the eve of the conference if an official statement were to be made either in New Delhi or in London on behalf of the United Kingdom Government, that they welcomed the calling of such a Conference. Nye said that he would think seriously about it.

8. I then asked him about a statement appearing in the press two or three days ago by the American Ambassador here, supporting the Conference. [5] Nye agreed that the Ambassador could almost certainly have had some authorization from Washington.

1 See Document 48 and 51.

2 Text in square brackets inserted from a copy on file A5009/2, A7/3/13,ii.

3 Document 86.

4 See note 3 to Document 58.

5 See note 1 to Document 110.

[AA : A1838, 854/10/4/5]