Volume #21 - 292.|
RELATIONS AVEC LE COMMONWEALTH
RELATIONS AVEC DES PAYS PARTICULIERS
VISITE DE KRISHNA MENON AU CANADA, JUIN 1955
Note du secrétaire d'État aux Affaires extérieures|
pour le premier ministre
le 10 juin 1955|
Krishna Menon has now left Ottawa for New York and Washington after a very crowded and, I think, a useful visit, during which I saw him three or four times and must have spent four or five hours in conference with him. It was at times an exhausting business as he has a tendency to wander away from the subject under discussion, into the philosophic stratosphere where he can become mystical about contemporary problems. He is not exactly what you would call a practical or completely objective negotiator, but he is, I think, sincere and means well, and is trying to be helpful.
He is more relaxed and more sure of himself than he was a year or so ago, but he will never, I think, be a successful mediator between China, or indeed any Asian country, and the United States. His sympathies are too instinctively Asian and socialist to allow him to be as impartial as his present activities require. No doubt he thinks that I have the same disqualification in reverse for the kind of work which he is now doing. One thing, however, is quite certain and that is he is very friendly indeed to Canada and to Canadians. I think we are well advised to make the most of this feeling, especially while he is so close to Nehru and, therefore, so influential in forming the foreign policy of the greatest Asian democracy.
In addition to the talks I had with him I had lunch, dinner and lunch successively, which is a somewhat trying experience in view of the fact that Krishna eats practically nothing that other people eat, and drinks even less. Our visitor also saw the Governor General, had a press conference, a radio and television interview, and helpful discussions with the senior officials of the Department. Mr. Martin, for whom Krishna has a very warm regard, helped very much in entertaining our visitor, as did the Indian High Commissioner. Mr. Martin and I saw him off this afternoon.
Immediately on his departure I telephoned Mr. Heeney in Washington and asked him to telephone the State Department to let Mr. Dulles know that if he would like me to, I could give him at once an informal oral report of the visit. Mr. Dulles then called back immediately and I had five minutes or so with him on the telephone. I told him that Mr. Menon had very little to tell us that we did not already know, but that in my view the Secretary of State and the President would find it rewarding to have a good talk with him in Washington. I told Mr. Dulles that we would send them a report on our conversations. He seemed grateful.
The substance of our conversations can be divided as follows:
(1) His mission to Peking and Chinese-American relations;62
(2) Indochina, and the work of the International Commissions.
So far as the first is concerned, it is clear that Chou En-Lai in particular, and other members of the Chinese Communist Government whom he met, made a strong and favourable impression on Menon; an impression which has not yet been removed. I asked him more than once for an analysis of Chinese Communist policy and attitudes. He is apparently convinced, and becomes very emphatic on the subject, that they have no aggressive intentions and have neither the will nor the power to dominate the rest of Asia as the agents of either revolutionary communism or Chinese imperialism. Menon's views on Asian affairs generally spring from this basic assumption. If he is wrong here, he is wrong in nearly everything else. On the other hand, if he is right in this fundamental matter, then he has cause for the discouragement and alarm about American policy in the Far East, which he undoubtedly feels. He was carefully restrained in his references to the United States and United States policy and emphatically disclaimed any but a friendly feeling for Americans. However, he does obviously believe (though it is not possible to get him to say so without equivocation) that American policy in the Far East is more aggressive than Chinese policy in the sense that it is taking action in Asia, a long way from the United States, which can only be interpreted by people like Menon as evidence not merely of a desire to keep the Communist menace as far away as possible from North America, but of a determination to destroy the Communist régime in Peking. For that purpose Menon feels that the Americans are not only relying on their own strength, but are trying to line up what he would consider to be the reactionary elements in Asian countries to support them.
Menon admits, however, that the situation has improved and that there are pacific elements at work both in Peking and in Washington, notably President Eisenhower, who may bring about an easing of tension and eventually a negotiation of differences. It is to this end that he claims to be working, and he is certainly sincere in his claim.
When you question him as I did as to what he thinks might be done in concrete terms to bring about further improvement, he becomes vague and has not very much that is specific to suggest. In a negative sense he is, I think, wise in his approach because he realizes that to force the pace now would be useless and that nothing much can be achieved at the present time and in the present atmosphere in the direction of formal negotiation through an international conference at any level and however composed. What he is hoping for is a continued improvement in the atmosphere by such measures as the release of American airmen and, on the United States side, a less belligerent attitude toward trade with China, and less support, at least less public avowal of support for Chiang Kai-shek. He mentioned in particular the desirability of a statement from Washington to the effect that not only can Chinese students in the United States go home if they so desire, but that if any persons or agencies outside the United States wish to facilitate their return the United States would put no obstacle in the way. Menon apparently has been told in Peking that while technically permission to return has been given, in fact it is not possible for many hundreds of Chinese students who wish to go to get out of the country. (This might be worth following up in Washington to see if some such declaration could be made. Menon was sure that it would be helpful).
He is also anxious that there should be no fighting in or over the Formosa Straits while diplomatic contact is being established. He does not feel, however, that there will be any possibility of persuading the Peking Government to accept a solution based on the "two Chinas" theory, nor does he think that they will accept indefinitely without using force Chiang Kai-shek's occupancy of the off-shore islands. He very much hopes, therefore, that the Americans can secure the evacuation of these islands. This would have a good effect in Peking, but only if that evacuation is not accompanied by the scorched earth policy as was the case in the evacuation of the Tachen Islands.
So far as the easing of tension is concerned, Menon had few concrete suggestions to make but felt it was important that diplomatic contact should be established. He thought that the best way to do this would be to have the Americans meet Chinese Communist representatives in Delhi (under the sponsorship of India), in London (under the sponsorship of the U.K.), and in Moscow (under the sponsorship of the Soviet Government). He thinks that before real negotiations can begin contacts of this kind should be established.
He also hopes that some Americans - and especially Canadians - will be permitted to visit Communist China and see for themselves what is going on there.
Once or twice he brought up the desirability of letting relatives of imprisoned Americans go to China and visit the prisoners. I told him that I could not see much point in this if, as we must hope, the prisoners are soon to be released. However, he said that the Chinese Government attached considerable importance to it. They had their own public opinion to worry about, and it would be far easier for them to release the prisoners (apparently in accordance with some old Chinese custom) if the families had first visited them. I merely murmured to Menon that the United States also had public opinion which was more vigorous and free than that of China, and which put a limit on what the United States could do.
Finally, and he attaches great importance to this, the time must come soon when the Peking Government is recognized and given membership in the United Nations.63
We talked at some length about the situation in Indochina, and more particularly the position of our two governments on the International Commissions.
In Vietnam the main problem is to get negotiations started between the southern and northern governments in order to bring about free general elections. I repeated to Menon the Canadian position - along lines that are now well known - regarding the responsibilities of the International Commission with regard to supervision of elections. He seemed to accept our position, though he felt that we were being a little too legalistic, but he was very suspicious of the efforts of the United States with the Diem government to prevent elections. I tried to remove some of his fears in this regard and also pointed out that both the United Kingdom and France were doing their best to bring about the preliminary but essential contact between the two governments. I told Menon that so far as I was concerned I was not nearly as optimistic as he was about satisfactory results from any such discussions, or that free elections in any accepted meaning of the word could be held in the near future. I emphasized that this was the only kind of election for which we would take any responsibility whatever. Menon thought I was too pessimistic.
He also thought I was too pessimistic about the situation in Laos where he was inclined to criticize the position of the Canadian member of the Commission as being unduly legalistic.64 His information led him to believe that the Pathet Lao would accept integration into the national community, but that they would not accept any position which restricted them in the north, pending such integration, to the occupancy of a few camps. He did not think that the Pathet Lao was dominated by the Chinese or the Vietminh.
So far as Cambodia was concerned, Menon felt that all that was required was an election where all members of the community would have a chance to vote. He was critical of the present government because it was attempting, through electoral reform, to disfranchise (he felt that this was also true of Laos) progressive elements which were opposed to it.
Menon was also critical of the United States-Cambodian military aid agreement.65 He could not accept our view that this agreement did not conflict with the Geneva armistice agreement. Their legal people felt that it did. In any event, it was unwise and provocative and had aroused real resentment in the Indian Government. It was not long ago that Mr. Nehru had been asked to take greater responsibility for Cambodia, both diplomatically and militarily. He had had great difficulty in persuading his colleagues in the Cabinet that they should accept any such responsibility, especially for military training, but he had been successful. He was then informed by the Cambodian Government that the Government would not require either Indian or American aid in the field of military training because it would be more convenient and satisfactory to continue to use French assistance. Mr. Nehru accepted this decision in good grace, but was surprised and annoyed to learn later that, without any further consultation, the French had also withdrawn from the field and the United States-Cambodian agreement had been signed. This seems to rankle.