59 Department of External Affairs to High Commission in New Delhi

Cablegram 13 CANBERRA, 10 January 1949, 4.15 p.m.


Indian High Commissioner [1] today asked us if we agreed with procedure of opening session, at which any delegate who wished to speak might speak, explaining purpose of conference and subsequent closed session. Our response was that any procedure adopted by them would be suitable to us, but we took the opportunity of suggesting a precise programme, firstly that Nehru might open the conference in a general speech of welcome in which he would explain the purposes of the conference along the lines of his invitation which emphasised assistance to the United Nations. We expressed the opinion that it should be made clear to all delegates that no other speeches were expected at that opening session as a speech by any one of them might lead to a statement of the purpose of the conference which might have to be contradicted or clarified by others and all would demand to speak.

We suggested that the procedure at the closed conference might be, firstly, one statement of view by each delegate, including any positive suggestions for the settlement of the dispute, followed immediately by the second stage of drafting a composite statement or declaration which would go forward as a unanimous viewpoint to the Security Council and be made known at a public session. This is broadly the procedure of a British Commonwealth conference which has similar objectives, that is, to ascertain the views of all concerned. It completely avoids any voting. Clearly, voting at such a conference should be avoided as no government can be committed to a domestic or foreign policy on a majority vote even though the government might be represented on a ministerial level.

If voting is insisted upon there will be delays while instructions are received and the fundamental purpose of a quick conference leading to a unanimous statement of view would be defeated.

We emphasised that the western countries and members of the Security Council will be watching the conference and may welcome any sign of disagreement or delay with the objective of discrediting effective Asian regional consultation in the future.

It will cut the ground from under all criticism if the conference can meet for no more than two or three days and conclude with a unanimous statement of view of all the countries concerned, and in any case this is the greatest achievement the conference can seek as it is designed to appeal to world opinion and the peoples of the western countries.

Without commitment to the approach which might be followed, the High Commissioner was informed we would probably take the line of emphasising the mistakes which had been made, not only by the Dutch, but by others in handling this matter, but at the same time the need to make positive suggestions so as to offset the effect of these mistakes, for instance the letting down of the United Nations. In other words, the conference could not succeed in its objective if delegates adopted a vindictive approach and thought in terms of punishment or reprisal rather than in terms of achieving positive results for Indonesia and the peace and prosperity of the area.

The opportunity was taken also to warn the High Commissioner to treat with reserve press speculation.

1 D.S. Bedi.

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