I have been going over our files regarding Colombo Plan training in the field of education, and it seems that there are one or two matters on which, benefiting from one another's experience and difficulties, we might usefully reach like conclusions, subject always to the Department's prerogative to decide in the final analysis what is best.
It is commonly held, I think, that—
(a) the identity of the Colombo Plan must be fully maintained,
(b) the making of contacts by Indonesians going to Australia under the Colombo Plan is desirable in itself.
One slight difference of opinion which emerges from the files seems to turn on the procedures under which Indonesians go to Australia and I refer as an example to the Department's memorandum No. 1211 and our reply No. 256.2
The problems facing the Embassy are these:
(a) the uncertainty felt by Indonesians about what they need and want,
(b) their growing recognition that their training needs ought to be more closely defined, for which purpose they are increasingly looking to specialist agencies for expert advice,
(c) the desirability of seeing that if an Indonesian goes abroad he does so under some arrangement which will benefit the country afterwards; in effect, the need to relate his course to his employment on his return,
(d) the need to fit our scholarships into some pattern which ensures at least that the reputation of Colombo Plan scholarships is preserved.
While general offers of training are no doubt gratifying to the Indonesians, they are difficult to implement for the above reasons. In particular, unless we can enable them to bring greater precision into their handling of the offers made to them we may lose something in comparison with other agencies. The latter are in any case better equipped in the point of numbers (we have Vawdrey alone) and in point of having a variety of specialists on the spot. In regard to consultation, there seem to be good reasons why we should sometimes compare notes with these specialists when we have certain types of scholarship to offer. Their own experiences in the same field can be useful as a guide, and in many instances the presence of these people inside particular Indonesian Ministries helps us implement our own plans.
We would not bring forward our views on these procedural matters if our experience did not suggest to us that they may achieve the best results from Australia's point of view. Generally speaking, the Australian record has so far been better than that of any other country. We were the first (and are still the only Colombo Plan country) to supply economic development equipment: we have the best record in training (notwithstanding our feeling that there may be room for improvement in that field); and the first experts from any Colombo Plan country to take up assignments in Indonesia will be our printers who arrive this month. Moreover, our general standing in Indonesian circles as a Colombo Plan agency is, we believe, better than that of any other Colombo Plan donor. As other opportunities open up (although the limitations imposed by Indonesia's economic situation have to be borne in mind) further progress should be possible.
Perhaps you would not mind having a look at this and letting us have a note in reply.
[NAA: A11604, 704/1]