51 Beasley to Chifley

Cablegram 7 LONDON, 8 January 1949, 1.15 p.m.


1. When the High Commissioners' meeting resumed this morning Bevin was present as well as Noel-Baker. Menon, Goonetilleke and I repeated briefly what we had said yesterday [1] and enlarged on the concern we felt at the effect of the United Kingdom attitude on British interests in South East Asia.

2. Egeland for South Africa said he had no instructions but that while the Dutch had been stupid he personally felt that the Dutch Prime Minister was completely sincere and that 'many wild charges' against Dutch were unjustifiable and deplorable. He said Dutch honestly believed they were preventing spreading of Communism which I had said was one of the results of their policy. He said that the Indonesian Republic represented only a 'small pocket in Indonesia'. Robertson of Canada said he agreed with much that Egeland had said but that he did not know what instructions the Canadian Representative on the Security Council would have for the forthcoming meeting. Rahimtoola (Pakistan) associated himself strongly with what India and Ceylon had said.

3. Bevin said he did not regard the matter as Regional. Britain's interests in the world are indivisible and the United Kingdom Government did not consider matters piecemeal i.e. it did not determine policy in relation for some other geographical interest.

The tests are two- (A) What is right;

(B) What can be done.

4. Bevin recalled that at the meeting of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers [2] he had suggested that there should be some regular means of consultation between Commonwealth Countries directly interested in South East Asia. He took full responsibility for all that representatives of United Kingdom at Security Council had said and criticised Hodgson for using wild language [3] which did not help, but beyond saying that he thought Falla's action [4] in abstaining on resolutions of which he had no notice and giving the Dutch a further 4 hours for reporting the action they proposed to take in relation to Security Council resolutions was justified, he did not specifically attempt to define Falla's statements. Menon yesterday had criticised Dening's reference [5] in Security Council to Soekarno's collaboration with the Japanese 'as prejudicing fair consideration of the issues'.

Bevin said that Dening had stated facts and Soekarno had been responsible for the assassination of British Officers and troops after the Japanese surrender which explained hard feelings he, Bevin, might have about Soekarno.

5. After recapitulating how Dutch had broken their undertakings Bevin said that the fact that Dutch enjoyed sovereignty in International law in the East Indies seemed to be overlooked by some members of Commonwealth. He then at great length defended British policy in Security Council in a number of matters including especially Palestine so as to show that the United Kingdom was not undermining the Council's authority. He went on to say that he had opposed sanctions from the start because it had always been plain that the Security Council shrank from the idea of sanctions-it did in the case of Kashmir, Hyderabad and Palestine. He had no doubt that Commonwealth countries if sanctions were decided on would attempt to carry them out but said that there would be no serious attempt by any other Nations. (High Commissioners interjected that their Governments had not proposed sanctions.) 6. I am bound to report that Bevin tried to avoid some of the real issues by treating the criticisms made by British Commonwealth Governments as attacks on him personally and defended his honesty and sincerity quoting in the end a telegram from Nehru of yesterday paying tribute to 'the sincere efforts of Attlee and Bevin' in the matter of Indonesia. We insisted that his honesty and sincerity were never in question and both Menon and I repeated that the public impression was that United Kingdom's policy on Indonesia was not as firm as the statements that have been made to the Dutch. Was felt therefore that he had been misrepresented. He replied that Dening's statement in Security Council was perfectly plain adding 'I was excitable as a young man but I am becoming more cautious in old age'.

7. Bevin promised that all we had said would be reported to the Cabinet with which he would be discussing the whole question early in the week.

8. I should also mention that the Ceylon High Commissioner towards the end pressed that the Governments which would be represented by their Prime Ministers at Delhi should be told as soon as possible, what United Kingdom policy now was. This provoked some fruitless exchanges on the purposes of the Delhi Conference which were clearly embarrassing to Menon and Bevin because Nehru had kept United Kingdom fully informed of his plans in relation to the conference and there is no substantial conflict between India and the United Kingdom on the matter.

9. I raised specifically the report [6] of Wells of the New York Times and Bevin promised to look into it immediately.

10. You will receive from United Kingdom High Commissioner, Canberra, the text referred to in paragraph 8 my 6, 7th January 1949.

1 See Document 48 (Cablegram 6).

2 This meeting of British Commonwealth Prime Ministers was held in London from 11-22 October 1948.

3 See Document 449 in Volume XIII.

4 See Document 481 in Volume XIII.

5 Dening made these remarks on 24 December 1948. See United Nations, Security Council Official Records, Third Year, No. 134, 392nd meeting, p. 4.

6 See Document 49.

[AA : A1838, 403/3/1/1, xx]