I have seen the letter of 2nd August, 1951,1 addressed to you by the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canberra, concerning the next meeting of the Consultative Committee for South and South-east Asia.
I suggest that the High Commissioner be informed that we agree, in principle, to a meeting of the Committee at Ministerial level. It seems entirely appropriate that such a meeting should be held about the beginning of next year, to discuss the Plan as it has developed so far and, among other things approve the annual report. I understand, furthermore, that a meeting held about January next year would be satisfactory to the United States.
So far as the exact date of the meeting is concerned, there are some difficulties from our viewpoint. Whether we could be represented at Ministerial level at a meeting held early in January, as the United Kingdom suggests, is not yet certain and may depend among other things on the location of the meeting. The exact date should therefore be left open for the time being. A firm decision could be taken later in the year. I suggest that we tell the United Kingdom that we do not wish to commit ourselves, at this stage, to the view that the Consultative Committee meeting should necessarily be associated with the Conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers proposed for early next year, since several Governments, including ourselves, are usually represented by Ministers other than the Finance Minister.
The United Kingdom proposal to link the Consultative Committee meeting with the Conference of Finance Ministers implies that the Committee will meet in London. We should, in my view, inform the United Kingdom that the next meeting of the Committee should be held in Asia, since the Colombo Plan is of primary concern to Asian countries and it seems important to demonstrate it directly as such to as many Asian countries as practicable, including those which have not yet joined. It seems therefore that we should indicate our readiness to be represented at a meeting in New Delhi, Colombo, Karachi or Singapore, if the Governments concerned themselves desire it. I suggest that we propose to the United Kingdom that the meeting take place in Singapore.2
One difficulty, in relation to Singapore, that might be raised is that the drafting of the annual report will call for the presence of technically qualified officials who would be readily available in, say, London but might not be available in Asian capitals. It seems to me, however, that it should be possible to meet this objection by sending any necessary officials to the meeting place selected.
The High Commissioner should be informed that our views are being communicated to the other participating Governments.
[NAA: A462, 587/22]