The ASEAN Summit and Australia
For Birch (Singapore); Parsons (Kuala Lumpur); Nutter (Manila); Johnson (Bangkok); Shann (Tokyo)
Since the Minister's visit to Jakarta during which he raised with the President and Malik the proposal that the Prime Minister might visit Bali at the end of the ASEAN Summit for talks with other ASEAN leaders and President Soeharto, we have had a number of indications from Indonesians, at various levels, that they are cool towards the idea.1
- Malik's former personal adviser, Alex Alatas, who has been very frank with us (and who is a good friend of Australia) told us recently that Indonesia's attitude to a visit to Bali by the Prime Minister at the end of the ASEAN Summit could not be disassociated from our present approach to Timor. Alatas said that although the subject had not been mentioned during the talks-and this was due to 'Javanese courtesy' despite protestations of frankness-our vote in the General Assembly for the resolution condemning Indonesia had not been forgotten. Also, although nobody would have told us officially, the Indonesians have expressed 'disappointment' in their discussions with each other that the Minister did not show more private support or public understanding for Indonesia's position than he had done during and since his visit. Alatas added that Indonesia resented being 'lectured' by other countries.
- According to Alatas some of the President's advisers are arguing now that Indonesia should be less responsive towards Australia's interests while Australia continues to adopt a public position critical of Indonesia on a matter of great importance to it. Indonesia did not favour the possible future initiative in the United Nations which the Minister discussed in an exploratory way when he was here.2 (This subject is covered in our O.JA4520.)3 Whether or not they have a right to expect it, Indonesia hoped for a greater degree of understanding of its position, especially following Mr Fraser's message4 to the President during the period of the Caretaker Government, than it considers it has so far received. We also detect an increasingly unresponsive attitude to the more recent Australian statements on Timor.5 These command more Indonesian attention than usual because no other country seems to have made any recent statements at Ministerial level on the subject.
- There is also the complicating factor of the way in which Indonesia's attitude to Singapore has hardened since Razak's death and Indonesia's awareness ofthe personal links between the Prime Minister and Lee Kuan Yew. While this should not normally be an inhibiting factor, it is in the present situation in which Indonesia is suspicious of Singapore and certainly does not want other countries to see it through Singapore's eyes.
- During Ali's visit to Singapore he had had a very frank discussion with K. C. Lee. Ali said that Indonesia was upset by Singapore's abstention in the General Assembly on Portuguese Timor. (To ensure that he got his point across Ali told K. C. Lee that Indonesia would not forget 'for two hundred years' what Singapore had done.) He had also conveyed Soeharto's views on the Kuala Lumpur 'mini summit'. At the Australia Day reception on 26 January Ali's private secretary, Lim Bian Kie spoke to the Singapore Ambassador, Rahim Ishak, along similar lines.
- President Soeharto's interpreter, Widodo, asked me on 26th January whether Mr Peacock 'had understood the nuances' in the President's reply to Mr Peacock's question about the suggestion for a post-Bali meeting with Mr Fraser. (Soeharto did not answer the Minister directly but said the proposal would need to be discussed at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and that one problem could be commitments of some ASEAN leaders immediately after the Bali Summit.)
- Widodo 'dropped in' 20 minutes before the start of the Australia reception on his way from President's house to say he was not well and could not stay. He then asked the question about 'nuances'. Although we know Widodo well he normally does not discuss matters of substance unless under instructions. I asked Widodo directly if what we had heard from other sources was true, namely that the President had reservations about the proposals, either for a meeting with the Japanese, Australian and New Zealand Prime Ministers or for a meeting with the Australian Prime Minister only. Widodo said the President did in fact have reservations about both proposals.
- We are aware of the Prime Minister's wishes and without putting ourselves in the position of importuning the Indonesians, we have done what we can to counter the various arguments mentioned earlier in this cable. But we must face the fact that in its own indirect way and for its own reasons related in the main to our attitude to Timor and to Singapore's suspected role in the proposed summit meeting, Indonesia is likely to be lukewarm to a post-summit taking place if the question is pursued by Japan, which now seems unlikely, and that it is unenthusiastic about a visit by Mr Fraser by himself immediately after the Summit. Timor is the real problem and it gets back to the basic issue of the choice.
- As we have said before we cannot act in a way which Indonesia sees as contrary to its national interest, however reprehensible we may think Indonesia's actions have been in pursuit of these interests, and at the same time expect our simultaneous expressions of our interest in maintaining close and cooperative relations with Indonesia to placate them.If we want support from Indonesia in pursuing our objectives in the region then they will expect us to be as helpful to them in their present difficulties as we can be. Indonesia may also see a contradiction developing between our policy toward East Timor and our policy towards ASEAN and closer cooperation with the countries of the South East Asian region. Indonesia sees itself as central to both policies and could seek to exploit this.
- In these circumstances the Minister and the Prime Minister will need to give some thought as to how they wish to proceed.If Japan and New Zealand decide not to maintain their interest in a meeting in Bali immediately after the Summit (as appears from agency reports now to be the case) and if we press the Indonesians ourselves and disregard their hints we would probably secure agreement for Mr Fraser to go to Bali immediately after the Summit, provided the other four countries agree. Soeharto may not like the timing and the way he suspects the idea has developed but if no one is prepared to veto it in Pattaya he will probably go along with it.
- If Mr Fraser were to attend in these circumstances the Indonesians might think that we had been insensitive, in contrast to Miki who, according to latest press reports, has discreetly and in an Asian way backed off by now saying he is too busy to go anyway. Mr Fraser could find himself received politely but there could be a degree of resentment behind the mask of courtesy. But this would probably be short lived if the visit itself went well.
- We are making provisional arrangements in case the Prime Minister does come to Bali on the 25 February. One problem is of course that the matter cannot now be finalised until after it has been discussed at the Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Thailand on the 10 February. A decision would probably be ad referendum to Heads of Government and so we might not know the final decision until about 10 days before the Summit is due to start.
[NAA: A1838, 3038/13/1011. iii]