Canberra, 14 March 1952
Technical Aid for South-East Asia
You asked me a few days ago to let you have our views on the. allocation of technical aid funds between Indo-China, Indonesia, Burma. You may have already had to make decisions but the following are some broad political considerations for what they are worth.
Form the strategic point of view Indo-China is clearly of the highest importance to Australia and, if it were possible through the allocation of technical assistance funds to Indo-China to assist the military effort there, it would probably be advisable to give Indo-China priority over all other countries in the area. However, in view of the small amount of funds available it seems unlikely that any Australian contribution could have any significant influence on the course of military operations.
From the political point of view Australia is in the process of establishing missions in both Indo-China and Burma and it would be most usefiil if, shortly after the establishment of the Legations, some play could be made of our technical assistance. At the same time, however, our relations with Indonesia are important, and if Indonesia is likely to participate and it is possible to use technical assistance funds there an allocation for Indonesia would also be helpful. It seems unlikely that the allocation of the whole amount available to one country would have a decisive effect on the economic situation in any of the countries in question. Everything therefore seems to point to the desirability of dividing the allocation between the three countries, each grant being considered in the nature of a political gesture.
I may also mention that it is the view in this Section that internal political considerations, and our knowledge of the administration capacities of the three countries would indicate that Indonesia is more likely to be able to 'absorb' technical assistance than Burma and Burma in turn more capable than Indo-China. This is based on considerations of language and past assistance as well as on reports on the existing administration in the three countries.
[NAA: A1838, 3004/11 part 2]