1. Minutes of a Meeting, Secretary’s Office, Department of State, Washington, January 7, 1955, 3 p.m.2


  • Afro-Asian Conference, Secretary’s Office, 3:00 p.m., January 7, 1955


  • The Secretary
  • The Under Secretary
  • Mr. Allen Dulles
  • Mr. Murphy
  • Mr. MacArthur
  • Mr. McCardle
  • Mr. Robertson
  • Mr. Key
  • Mr. Bowie
  • Mr. Sebald
  • Mr. Jernegan
  • Mr. Barbour
  • Mr. Roosevelt
  • Mr. Stelle

The Secretary opened the meeting by defining its purpose as the formulation of a U.S. position toward the impending Afro-Asian Conference. Mr. Murphy submitted for discussion and approval a suggested circular telegram3 to our missions in friendly Asian and Near Eastern countries.

[Page 2]

Mr. Allen Dulles and Mr. Murphy pointed out that we have received a report from Ceylon that, should a considerable number of nations decline to attend the Afro-Asian Conference, the sponsoring countries would very probably postpone it. Mr. MacArthur pointed out that among the nations invited the nine Arab states seemed the key to the success of the Conference, and, that certain African nations in which the British have considerable voice plus the Philippines, Thailand, the three Associated States, Japan and Turkey, all good friends of the free world, would be much influenced by the action of the Arab states and were seeking guidance from us.

After reading Karachi’s telegram 9164 reporting the views of the Prime Minister of Pakistan as expressed to our Ambassador, Mr. Robertson recalled Chou En-lai’s skillful diplomatic machinations at Geneva and said that in the view of FE this would be a “rigged conference”. The Communists will introduce one or more anti-colonial resolutions which no Asian leader would dare oppose, and will very probably ensnare the relatively inexperienced Asian diplomats into supporting resolutions seemingly in favor of goodness, beauty and truth.

Returning to Mr. MacArthur’s point, Mr. Jernegan reported that the chances were 60–40 that the Arab states would attend en bloc. Mr. Allen Dulles and Mr. Roosevelt said that Egypt will probably attend the Conference and that it is a bit late to urge the Egyptians not to go, since at the present time they are trying to determine whom they will send as their representatives. Mr. Allen Dulles … further observed that neither the Iranians nor the Turks have made a firm decision yet.

Mr. Murphy cited the very great British interest in the entire affair and said he had learned from Ambassador Makins only a few hours before that the British Embassy had received no guidance from London and that in all probability a decision on the British attitude toward the Afro-Asian Conference must come from Sir Anthony Eden himself. Sir Roger also told Mr. Murphy that Nehru was not at all enthusiastic about the Conference, possibly because of the key role played by the Burmese; to which Mr. Allen Dulles added “at the instance of the Chinese Communists”.

The Japanese, Mr. Robertson reported, are quite confused since they lack information as to the agenda to be discussed at Bandung. He went on to say that the Japanese wanted to overcome the diplomatic isolation they have felt since the end of World War II and [Page 3] would therefore not want to be isolated from other Asian nations if acceptance should be general. He noted the the Afro-Asian meeting in April following on the heels of the Manila Pact meeting at Bangkok with only three Asiatic participants would put the earlier meeting in an unfavorable light; and that, worse still, the Bandung meeting would provide Chou En-lai with an excellent forum to broadcast Communist ideology to a naive audience in the guise of anti-colonialism. Mr. Murphy observed that it was more than likely that the Tunisian and North African items would also be discussed at the Afro-Asian Conference. Noting that three Commonwealth nations are sponsors of the Bandung meeting, Mr. Key likened our present situation to that which the U.S. often faces in the United Nations: a need to work hand-in-hand with the British in an area where we have a joint interest.

Mr. Allen Dulles, seconded by Mr. MacArthur, said that we might be able to delay and forestall the meeting by suggesting to friendly countries that they ask the sponsors to furnish a detailed agenda and information regarding procedures to be followed at the meeting place. Mr. Robertson expressed his agreement with this course and urged that we point out to our friends abroad that, should they attend, they would antagonize many influential members of the United States Congress and make it extremely difficult to obtain the needed support for an Asian economic program. After a general discussion of the leading personalities in the free Asian and African nations, there was general agreement that none had the stature to rebut Communist propaganda effectively on behalf of the free world.

The Secretary then turned to the draft circular telegram, and, after having studied it, said he did not glean from it too clear an idea as to the U.S. position. He said he did not feel there was much value in passing on to Chiefs of Mission our philosophising and he seriously questioned the wisdom of “encouraging consultation among the invitees”. Mr. Murphy owned that a certain degree of unclarity in the draft telegram might be due to an attempt to bridge certain differences of view with regard to the Conference here in the Department. It was then suggested that we might urge friendly nations to ask the sponsors for details about the agenda, and thus delay their acceptance or rejection of the invitations. The Secretary pointed out that the communiqué announcing the Bandung Conference said that the Conference would determine its agenda and that the entire purpose of the meeting was to enable Asian and African nations to get better acquainted with each other. The Secretary said that such a loose regional association with meetings from time to time could become a very effective forum, and that the idea of such regional groupings approximated the Soviet line advanced at the Berlin Conference [Page 4] in favor of continental groupings from which the U.S. would be excluded. If the Communists succeed in forming continental groupings in Europe, Asia and Africa with the U.S. excluded, then the Communist engulfment of these nations will be comparatively easy. After a general discussion of the resolutions likely to be adopted by the Bandung meeting, Mr. MacArthur noted that the original Colombo Powers gathering had been an ad hoc affair to discuss certain economic problems, but that this grouping had very quickly become a fixture. The Secretary said that, if the nations invited to Bandung, acquired the habit of meeting from time to time without Western participation, India and China because of their vast populations will very certainly dominate the scene and that one by-product will be a very solid block of anti-Western votes in the United Nations.

Mr. Murphy reiterated his belief that the Department should send some sort of message to the Chiefs of Mission in friendly Asian and African countries urging the Governments to which they are accredited not to take a final position until we have had a chance to complete our study of the situation. Mr. Murphy also suggested that we make a concerted effort within the next day or two to determine the British position. The Secretary agreed to the despatch of a short telegram to the Chiefs of Mission urging friendly governments to neither accept nor decline invitations until the situation had developed further.5 We should point out that we see very serious implications in the Conference in terms of the exclusion of U.S. cooperation with them, a step which could weaken and expose them to Communist domination. However, we should not seem threatening or unduly concerned in making this representation to our friends.

After another general discussion of the leaders in free Asian countries and the domestic repercussions to be expected if the Arab states attend after Israel had not been invited, the Secretary said that Egypt is the key to the success or failure of the Conference, … We believe the Arab states are the key to the success of the Conference, and that Egypt is the key to the final position taken by the Arab states. If the Arab bloc decides to attend the Conference, their decision will tip the balance, and many other states such as Thailand and Japan will want to attend. Should this occur, the U.S. should establish as many contacts as possible with the friendly countries attending and with their delegations at the Bandung Conference in an effort to propose courses of action which would embarrass Communist China and minimize the danger that the Conference might lead to the formation of an Asian-African bloc which could ultimately [Page 5] weaken relations between non-Communist Asia and the United States.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 670.901/1–2155. Secret. Drafted by Eugene V. McAuliffe of the Reports and Operations Staff, who is not listed among the participants in the meeting, on January 14. The source text bears the following handwritten notation by Roderick O’Connor: “OK. for Dist RO’C.”
  2. Not found in Department of State files.
  3. In telegram 916, January 7, Ambassador Hildreth reported that Prime Minister Mohammad Ali had urged him “to cable Department his emphatic plea for encouragement of attendance all nations anti-Communist bloc” and had gone on to say there was no reason to be afraid of Chou En-lai. (Department of State, Central Files, 670.901/1–755)
  4. Circular telegram 351, January 7, not printed. (Ibid., 670.901/1–755)