Volume #25 - 389.|
INTERNATIONAL COMMISSIONS FOR SUPERVISION AND CONTROL
Memorandum from Secretary of State for External Affairs|
Cabinet Document No. 79-58|
April 22nd, 1958|
DISSOLUTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION FOR SUPERVISION AND CONTROL IN LAOS|
The three International Supervisory Commissions which were established by the Geneva Conference of 1954 were given the tasks of observing and supervising the implementation of the Cease-Fire Agreements for Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and supervising the action which was to be taken by the responsible parties to bring about political settlements.
2. Although this memorandum is concerned with Laos, it may be useful to outline briefly the situations in the other two Indochina Commissions. All three Commissions, on which India as chairman, Canada and Poland were represented, have been in operation continuously since August 1954.
3. Vietnam remains divided and it seems clear that the International Commission for that country still has a useful role to perform in contributing to the stability of the country and in acting as a deterrent against open aggression by Communist North Vietnam.
4. The Cambodia Commission completed its tasks early in 1956, by which time the Communist rebel forces had been integrated into the national community, in accordance with the terms of the Cease-Fire Agreement for Cambodia, and national elections had been held. The Canadian Delegation in 1956 tabled a resolution recommending the dissolution of the Cambodia Commission.1 This initiative was abandoned however, because of opposition from India, Poland, France and the Prime Minister of Cambodia. The latter admitted that he wished the Commission to remain to provide Cambodia with protection against possible violations of its border by South Vietnam and Thailand. The Canadian Delegation refused to agree to this role, since it was not assigned to the Commission by the Geneva Agreements. The Commission in Cambodia has in fact been inactive for two years, but Canada, largely because of the circumstances mentioned above, has not insisted on its dissolution. However, if we can bring about the dissolution of the Laos Commission, it may become possible to end our commitments in Cambodia also.
5. In Laos an agreement was signed in November, 1957, between the Communist-influenced Pathet Lao insurgents and the Royal Laotian Government. This agreement provided for the integration of the Pathet Lao zone and military and civilian personnel into the national community and Pathet Lao representation in the Cabinet by two ministers. The requirements laid down by the Geneva Agreements were thus met. On May 4 supplementary elections will be held to give the political party formed by the Pathet Lao an opportunity to obtain representation in the National Assembly. These elections will clearly conclude the political settlement envisaged by the Geneva Agreement and will represent the complete fulfilment by the Laotian Government of its obligations under the agreement.
6. The Laotian Prime Minister, during his visit to Ottawa in January,2 informed the Prime Minister and me that the Government of Laos was anxious that the Commission should leave Laos after the May elections, and he was assured that Canada supported this stand. The Government of Laos has formally requested the Commission to leave immediately after the elections, on the grounds that its tasks will be completed at that time. Canadian policy has been to argue at every opportunity that the Commission should not continue indefinitely after its tasks are completed. The Indians, however, oppose our position, on the grounds that one Indochina Commission should not be dissolved until all are, and because of their understanding that this was tacitly agreed to at Geneva in 1954 by the major Communist and Western nations. They suggest as well that dissolution of the Laos Commission might tend to undermine the stabilizing influence of the Vietnam Commission. The Communist bloc also seems to favour continuation of the Laos Commission, probably to protect Communist subversives from action by the Laotian Government and also as an inhibiting influence against increased United States military assistance.
7. We do not consider the Indian arguments for maintaining the Commission to be valid. The Geneva Agreement defines neither the time nor the manner of dissolution of the Commission, and, therefore, as a matter of reason and common sense, it must be presumed that the Commission should cease to exist as soon as its task is finished. We are supported wholeheartedly in this view by the two Western governments who were most concerned with the Geneva settlement, France and the United Kingdom. (The United Kingdom Foreign Secretary was one of the Co-chairmen of the 1954 Geneva Conference; the USSR Foreign Minister was the other.) France, indeed, has indicated that it will not provide financial support to the Laos Commission after May 4.
8. There may be certain disadvantages in establishing a precedent whereby one member of an international agency of this sort may bring it to an end by unilateral withdrawal. However, the Laos Commission clearly has fulfilled its responsibilities and the essence of the Canadian argument has been that international commissions should not be brought into disrepute by being maintained indefinitely after it has become obvious that they have completed the tasks allotted to them. We have also contended that the Laos Commission should not impose itself against the wishes of the sovereign and independent Laotian Government, which has fulfilled its obligations under the Geneva Agreement and which is understandably sensitive about its newly acquired independence. There is the additional important consideration that, unless we take firm action to promote dissolution when all the circumstances justify this, our commitments in Indochina may become of indefinite duration. While the Indians and the Poles may have political purposes for keeping the Commissions in being after they have completed their tasks, it is not considered that these purposes coincide with Canadian interests.
9. In the light of the Indian and Polish positions, it seems clear that, in order to further dissolution of the Commission, the Canadian Delegation may have to withdraw from Laos on its own and against the wishes of the other two Commission members. We would hope that the suggestions of such resolute Canadian action might cause the Indians to modify their position. On the other hand, it is possible that this action might meet the strong opposition of the Indians, with a consequent disagreement in a matter in which the two Governments have been cooperating closely. This is an important consideration, especially since we shall be continuing to work with the Indians on the Vietnam Commission. I believe, however, that the principles involved as well as the political and practical disadvantages of continuing on indefinitely in Laos, justify the risk that some friction might develop between Canada and India over this particular issue.
10. I recommend, therefore, that the approval of Cabinet be given in principle to unilateral withdrawal by Canada from the International Commission in Laos after the supplementary elections of May 4, if the Indians and the Poles do not agree to dissolution. I also recommend that the final decision as to timing and the actual procedure to be followed be left to the discretion of the Secretary of State for External Affairs, who will, in making the decision, take into account any new factors which may affect the situation.3
1.Voir/See Volume 23, Document 699.
2Voir la 5e partie./See Part 5.
3Approuvé par le Cabinet le 29 avril 1958 avec la recommandation supplémentaire que l'Inde soit avisée d'avance de l'action projetée du Canada. Approved by Cabinet on April 29, 1958 with the added recommendation that India be notified in advance of Canada's intended action.