Evatt to Makin

Cablegram 1021 WASHINGTON, 13 November 1945, 12.53 a.m.


In view of the suggestion regarding United Kingdom policy in relation to the Indonesians dispute [1], I brought up the subject with Attlee. He stated that the only purpose of activity on the part of the British Armed Forces was to secure the removal of approximately 100,000 civilians, predominately Dutch, to places of safety. He was obviously out of touch with the latest developments in the Dutch East Indies and in my opinion is leaving the matter almost entirely to the Foreign Office. Therefore, I think that it would be proper for you to ask Watt to take up the matter with the Foreign Office while, at the same time, I shall ascertain whether the United States is likely to intervene at all. In my opinion at present the United States Government will be very loath to intervene. If it indicates support for the activities of the United Kingdom Government, it will incur the displeasure of the powerful groups here who are strongly opposed to the mere restoration of the status quo in South East Asia and the South West Pacific. Senator Connally, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told me over the weekend that the Dutch were not entitled to restoration of their possessions except on the strict condition of a new deal for their inhabitants. On the other hand, if the United States intervenes with a view to obtaining a settlement of the dispute, e.g. by putting pressure on the Dutch to place the territories under the trusteeship system of the United Nations, there will be a very strong cry that once again the United States is meddling in the internal affairs of a foreign power and thereby indirectly committing itself to the possible extension of military activity. There has been great concern recently at the possibility of American forces becoming involved in hostilities between the Central Government and the Communists in China. You must not overlook the fact that the over riding public sentiment in this country is for the earliest possible return of American troops from abroad, conveniently illustrated by the slogan of the present Victory Loan which is ‘Subscribe to the Victory Loan and get your boys home quickly’.

The Indian Agent General [2] has expressed great anxiety over the situation. He is afraid that Indian troops may be used in a manner calculated to suppress the demand for some form of Self Government even although that was not the purpose of their use.

My own feeling in the matter is that if the Australian Government favours bringing pressure to bear on the Dutch to place the matter in a condition satisfactory for international adjustment by countries with relevant interests such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States, the only way to do so is by a well prepared and well reasoned public statement indicating that this is the policy of the Australian Government and that the Government has an obligation to make sure not only that the security of neighbouring countries should be protected against external aggression but also that the basic institutions in such countries should be such as will best promote the security in the region to which they belong which can hardly be expected in the present circumstances.

I gather from your telegrams that this expresses the point of view of the Government. If it does, what reason is there for saying it privately and for refraining from saying it publicly? Care will have to be taken to indicate that we share the detestation of Japan and Japanese activities throughout Indonesia but that at the same time we have a real and tangible interest in the area and indeed that the only portions of the Dutch territories which were liberated prior to the armistice were those liberated by the Australian troops in Dutch Borneo and Dutch New Guinea.


1 See Documents 377 and 382.

2 Sir Girja Shankar Bajpai.


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