711.56346E/3–1351: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Gifford) to the Secretary of State

top secret

4900. Re Deptagam A–1323, February 2.1 UK reply our approach [Page 2022]for British support, reported Embtel 4372, February 10,2 given us yesterday by CRO following consultation with Foreign Office and War Office. UK unwilling take initiative in urging Ceylonese grant US request for communications facilities, and believe gratuitous interference would only meet with rebuff. However, UK would be willing support request if its advice sought by Ceylon, as British officials think probable. They suggest US Ambassador in approach to Ceylonese, inform them UK apprised of US requirements and suggest they consult with British. While UK willing give favorable advice if approached, it feels it needs further details about purpose US requirements to be effective in persuading GOC. (UK so far has only information contained paragraphs a–e and all but last sentence of immediately following paragraph of Department instruction 31, February 2 to Colombo),3

British officials, in giving us reply, pointed to continuation their own difficulties in concluding defense settlement with GOC and said it would be unwise over-estimate influence UK can bring to bear on our behalf. If UK intervened without being asked by Ceylon, British officials are sure GOC would remind UK that Ceylonese neutrality already compromised by defense rights given UK and that it is impossible grant facilities to third power. British feel Ceylonese would claim this would give India opportunity to ask for special position. Ceylonese have underlying suspicion GOI intentions (which seem to cause them more concern than Soviet threat) and danger of Indian reaction was lone point cited (although CRO inclined believe mainly for bargaining purposes) when Ceylonese resisted British demands during London discussions at time recent Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting.

[Page 2023]

Re UK’s own negotiations, CRO confirmed that fundamental problem is over bases, which UK wants GOC purchase and turn over to UK for use without charge. In return, GOC is asking for what UK considers exorbitant amout naval equipment (as well as supplies for land and air forces, which James, civil head Defense Department CRO, says are in more reasonable amounts). GOC wants three frigates (destroyer type), twelve coastal minesweepers, and six seaward defense boats as “ultimate requirement” which UK should agree supply. CRO estimates cost would be about pounds 5 million. UK’s offer to GOC was that it would supply equipment equivalent in cost to purchase price for bases, which UK places at about pounds 800,000. This would include one frigate, antiaircraft radar equipment, small arms for one rifle company, four Harvards and eight Spitfires, and UK would also write off cost of heavy ack-ack equipment already supplied.

There has been no progress in negotiations since time Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ meeting and CRO officials presently studying next move. They may recommend take-or-leave-it offer, but would want UK Ministers first decide whether UK willing accept stalemate over bases should GOC reject offer. Heretofore, negotiations have been based on assumption that agreement would eventually be reached. Re Ceylon’s commitment furnish bases, one CRO official has explained there is clear general undertaking to this effect pursuant to terms 1947 agreement, but that difficulty arises from broad wording agreement which has made it difficult pin GOC to specifics. Ceylon Prime Minister argued in London that British bases made Island enemy target which it would not otherwise be and that he had to give proof to his public that Ceylon’s own security adequately provided for.

Comment: Embassy believes UK desire help is sincere and that support our request will be willingly given if British advice sought by GOC, as we should try ensure. There does appear, however, be validity to UK contention it must know more about USAF intentions to be really helpful.4

Sent Department 4900, repeated information Colombo 38.

  1. No. A–1323 to London, February 2, not printed, instructed the Embassy, in its discretion, to inform the appropriate British officials that the U.S. Government was requesting the Government of Ceylon to grant communications facilities to the U.S. Air Force and to enlist if possible the support of the U.K. Government for this request. The Department of State desired to know, in any case, the position the U.K. Government would take with the Government of Ceylon on this matter. (711.56346E/2–251)
  2. Telegram 4372 from London, February 10, not printed, stated that the Embassy had informed Mr. J. J. S. Garner, Assistant Under Secretary, Commonwealth Relations Office, in accordance with the instructions in airgram A–1323. Garner promised to look into the matter and give the Embassy a (reply within the next few days. (711.56346E/2–1051)
  3. Not printed. The portion of instruction 31 under reference read as follows:

    • a. The total space requirement for the transmitter area, communications center and administration area is 275 acres.
    • b. The total space requirement for the receiver area is 470 acres.
    • c. The total personnel contemplated for the activities under paragraph a. above is 245.
    • d. The total personnel contemplated for the activity under paragraph b. above is 133.
    • e. The estimated value of the structures to be erected—assuming no existing facilities available—is $3.2 million.

      “The above stated figures should be considered as purely planning estimates developed with no specific knowledge of conditions in Ceylon. ‘Antenna farm’ acreage may vary substantially from the above figures since it will depend upon terrain features of the selected areas. Similarly, requirements for new construction will be dependent upon the availability of existing facilities. No firm figures can be developed until an on-site survey can be made.” (711.56346E/2–251)

  4. A memorandum of April 4 by Mr. Frederic G. Ranney of the Office of British Commonwealth and Northern European Affairs, addressed to the Director of that Office, Mr. G. Hayden Raynor, and to Mr. Robert D. Coe, also of that Office, read in part as follows:

    “I have discussed the attached telegram [telegram 4900 from London, March 13] with Miss [Mildred M.] Yenchius of SOA, who tells me that the whole question of military communication facilities in the Indian Ocean area is undergoing reconsideration in the Defense Department. It is now felt that further efforts to persuade the Ceylonese to grant us these facilities would be fruitless, in view of the fact that our negotiations have already dragged on for two years, even though the British have given us support throughout. Present thinking is to increase the establishment which the British have agreed to grant us at Aden.” (711.56346E/3–1351)