17. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State0

2506. Foreign Minister Dr. Subandrio asked me to call at 9:30 this morning. He opened the conversation by saying that it had been his understanding up to now that the United States was maintaining a position of strict neutrality on the West Irian question and on all issues concerning the internal affairs of Indonesia. Therefore he was disturbed this morning to read UP report quoting critical observations by Secretary Dulles on Indonesia’s guided democracy (see Embtel 2503).1 The Foreign Minister said he had conferred with the Prime Minister, and if the UP report was accurate, the Indonesian Government would regard Mr. Dulles’ statement as unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of [Page 37]this country. He referred to the last two paragraphs of the UP release and observed that these were inconsistent with the unfavorable remarks about Indonesia’s “guided democracy”.

The Foreign Minister then said that he also deplored the statement of Mr. Dulles if it proved to be true because he believed it would place Indonesia in the position of being a pawn in the cold war between the East and the West. He said the Russians had some time ago asked him if he would like to have them support publicly the Indonesian position on the West Irian and other issues but that he had requested the Russians not to give such public support. He did this because he said he felt Russian public support would provoke a reaction from the West and make Indonesia a battleground in the cold war.

Foreign Minister then said that he thought it would be in the best interests of the US to refrain from statements such as those allegedly made by Mr. Dulles because he was sure that in any psychological contest in Indonesia the US would be at great disadvantage and that the Communist position would be regarded much more favorably by the general public. This, he said, was because the Indonesian people equated the Dutch attitudes with Western attitudes and were inclined to regard Communist support and sympathy with satisfaction.

Finally the Foreign Minister said that the Indonesian Government thought Mr. Dulles’ statement was particularly unfortunate since it came the morning after the ultimatum from Hussein. He said the Indonesian Government had decided to dishonorably discharge from the Army Hussein, Lubis, Djambek and Simbolon for their insubordination. He said the Indonesian Government did not object to legitimate political opposition since this was truly democratic but it would not tolerate military insubordination. He said if the government did not act firmly now it would find itself faced with outrageous demands by many other areas.

In conclusion, the Foreign Minister said he would appreciate my conveying these views to my government. I assured him I would do so.2

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 656.56D13/2–1258. Confidential; Niact. Repeated to Singapore.
  2. Telegram 2503, February 12, contained an Embassy translation from the Indonesian-language newspaper Antara of John Foster Dulles’ remarks regarding Indonesia, which were made during his press conference of February 11. (Ibid., 611.56D/2–1258) For text of these comments, see Department of State Bulletin, March 3, 1958, p. 334.
  3. In telegram 2173 to Djakarta, February 12, the Department instructed Cottrell to call upon Subandrio at the earliest opportunity and hand him the text of Dulles’ statements regarding Indonesia. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.56D/2–1258) In telegram 2575 from Djakarta, February 15, Cottrell reported that he met with Subandrio that morning and presented him with the text of Dulles’ remarks. According to Cottrell, Subandrio remarked in part as follows: “Please convey to your government my statement that I shall be very pleased to receive any private criticisms your people care to make about Communism, ’guide democracy’ or any other aspect that displeases your government, but I do not appreciate public statements on these subjects and I am bound to react publicly. I am sure this is not the way to maintain friendly relations. Of course, if your government has something else in mind perhaps such tactics might advance your interests but I would not be able to judge this.” (Ibid., 756D.00/2–1558) See Supplement.