EUR files, lot 59 D 233, “Portugal, 1948–1955”

No. 811
Memorandum by the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Murphy)1

  • Subject: Portuguese Ambassador’s Call regarding Goa


The Portuguese Ambassador, Sr. Esteves Fernandes, is calling on you at 5 p.m. today on instructions from his Government in order [Page 1743] to discuss Goa, a small Portuguese colony on the southwest coast of India. This is the second time recently that the Portuguese Ambassador has been instructed to take up this matter at the highest level in the Department, the first interview having taken place with Under Secretary Smith on April 9.2

At that meeting he handed General Smith a memorandum3 which described the agitation inspired by the Indian Government for the elimination of foreign pockets such as Goa from Indian soil. Our reply on May 34 stated that the US has been following this situation closely, is concerned over the controversies involving both Portuguese and French possessions in India, and hopes that an amicable understanding may be reached before the issue reaches serious proportions.

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Government has contended that Article IV of the North Atlantic Treaty (consultation in case of threat to territorial integrity), as well as the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, apply. The Indian Government has denied the applicability of Article IV, further stating that it is not bound by treaties to which it is not a party. Our position with regard to Article IV is that it covers all territories of NAT members, and we are so informing the Indian Government in reply to its note requesting our view on this subject. We also advised the Portuguese Counselor of our position, when he inquired yesterday, and said the we expected our reply to be given to the Indians today or tomorrow at New Delhi.

(It was clearly understood by all Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty, at the time of its signature, that Article IV is applicable in the event of a threat in any part of the world to the security of any of the Parties, including a threat to the security of their overseas territories. The applicability of Article IV to overseas territories outside the NAT area, such as Goa, is not to be confused with the obligations of members under Articles V and VI for appropriate action to resist armed attack within the NAT area. See text, Tab A.5)


That you reaffirm the position stated in our note of May 3 to the Portuguese Embassy, and our views on the applicability of Article IV.
If the Ambassador raises the question of invoking Article IV, that you express our doubt that this course would prove desirable from any viewpoint, including their own, because:
We do not think such consultation would result in any action by the Council.
If the Council should take any action, it is doubtful it would be effective in producing a solution and would allow Communist propaganda to arouse Indian and South Asian sensitivities regarding a “Western Bloc” and the preservation of colonialism.
If the Ambassador indicates that his Government is intent on invoking Article IV, that you suggest the wisdom of determining in advance the attitude of NAT members. (Unanimous approval is required for any NAT resolution and the Portuguese would undoubtedly wish to avoid failure in obtaining such action after formally raising this subject in NATO.)6
  1. Drafted by Rabenold and Dunham.
  2. No record has been found in Department of State files.
  3. Not found in Department of State files. Documentation on the conflict between India and Goa is in file 753D.00.
  4. Transmitted in telegram 350 to Lisbon, May 6. (653.53D/5–654)
  5. Not found attached to the source text.
  6. Subsequent to the meeting between Fernandes and Murphy reported here, the Portuguese Government dropped its plan to invoke Article IV of the North Atlantic Treaty. But when the unrest in Goa continued unabated throughout the summer, the Portuguese sought to enlist U.S. aid in the form of representations to the Indian Government and of a strong public statement condemning Indian aggression, as reported in telegram 519 to London, July 26. (753D.00/7–2654) In telegram 20 to Lisbon, July 28, the Department of State revealed its reluctance to make representations to the Indians, on the grounds that the United Kingdom was in a better position to do so, and refused categorically to make a public statement condemning the Indian action. (753D.00/7–2754) As reported in telegram 37 to Lisbon, Aug. 9, the Portuguese then turned to the idea of exerting pressure on India by the formation of a joint commission, consisting of members from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Belgium, which would possess observer status in the conflict between India and Portugal over Goa. (753D.00/8–954)