40. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1

1943. Embtel 1854.2 Gen Nasution recently indicated interest in follow-up of talk reported reftel and I spent hour and half with him yesterday morning. Highlights of this conversation follow:

Regardless of how Malaysian dispute develops, Nasution is concerned with preservation long range relationship with US Govt. To that end, he considers it vital for US to maintain some continuing link with Indo army. He recognizes current strains in relationships but armed forces are strongly pro-US and anti-PKI. It is of vital importance to US and to Indonesia that certain programs in support of armed forces continue. Appreciating political limitations we face, he said training of military officers in US and civic action program in Indonesia must continue as investment in future. He felt so strongly about this he asked me if I could arrange to send a personal message from him to Secy Harriman, Gen Maxwell Taylor and Robert Kennedy. I said I would be glad to do so and will transmit message as soon as received.
I explained difficulties which faced US in continuing aid to Indonesia and spelled out implications of amendments to aid bill. I pointed out that if Indo army continues to be involved in sponsoring “aggression” in Borneo, it would be next to impossible for US to help, even though we too were concerned about long range relationships.
Nasution felt that no real solution to Malaysia dispute was possible within immediate future because of hard positions on both sides. He wants talks to continue because there is always hope that solution will be found but he is not optimistic. He understands Tunku’s position (“I have never criticized the Tunku even though I disagree with him,” he pointed out) and his political problems. He also indicated frankly that in his view Sukarno needed to continue confrontation policy in order to induce his people to accept hardships of current economic situation. To this I retorted that way to solve economic situation was to end confrontation—economic situation did not have to be “accepted.”
Expanding on his reasons for pessimism over likelihood of settlement, Nasution said Sukarno was still holding to position that, pursuant [Page 81]to agreement reached in Manila, some form of plebiscite or referendum must be held to confirm public opinion in Sarawak and Sabah favored joining Malaysia. Nasution did not think, even after April election that Tunku would consider this. Therefore, he expected talks to break down, cease fire to break down. If this happened, he would do his utmost to prevent escalation of struggle and believed it could be kept within confines of small guerrilla action. He said he still had officer friends in Malaysian army with whom he was in quiet communication and that they too were anxious to avoid open conflict. I pointed out seriousness of Indo position internationally if “aggression” in form of insertion new guerrillas into Borneo continued, also inconsistency in his expecting US to support Indo army in any way when same army was responsible for these actions. Nasution took me up on word “responsible.” He said his govt was responsible for whatever decisions might be made, that army was forced to carry out decisions of govt. He appeared to be saying that time would come when situation might be different and meanwhile it was vital to our mutual interests not to destroy confidence and communication which presently existed between Indo army, particularly, and US army.
As to resolution of impasse over Malaysia Nasution thought political changes in either Kuala Lumpur or Djakarta might be required before real solution to Malaysian dispute would be possible. He added caveat which I did not ask him to explain “unless God intervenes.”
In response my question as to how much control Indo army actually had over guerrillas, Nasution replied, “Complete control over Indo volunteers” but probably very little control over remainder.
I asked Nasution whether army would take action against PKI if party attempted exploit current economic difficulties through strikes, riots, etc. He said PKI was still supporting Sukarno and would not go so far as to adopt tactics directed at Sukarno. If PKI did, however, Madiun (1948 crushing of PKI attempted coup) would be mild compared with army crackdown today. He said Sukarno had personally ordered PKI recently to stop aggravating economic difficulties and food situation by exploiting it for propaganda purposes.
What about PKI in important executive posts in cabinet, I asked in recent meeting. Following PKI report on seriousness of economic and food situation, Nasution said Sukarno had offered cabinet post to anyone who would guarantee to solve problems. There were no takers. Army was still against PKI in executive cabinet, he said. But important thing was not formal structure of cabinet. Thus Justice Min and Education Min were leftists if not actually PKI members, but neither were in small power group which made decisions. Nasution implied Sukarno’s continuing tactic was to subordinate PKI in ways which resulted in dilution PKI influence in conduct of govt.
Situation in Sarawak and Sabah, according to Nasution, could be summarized about as follows: There were 1,000 trained guerrillas in area of which one-third were native to area, one-third were youth volunteers from Indo army and veterans. These men were trained to expand their influence so that presumably six to ten times their number could be counted upon.3

Col George Benson and Gen Marjadi were present during conversation.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 32–1 INDON–MALAYSIA. Secret; Limdis; Noforn. Repeated to Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and CINCPAC for POLAD. There was no time of dispatch on the telegram, which was received at the Department of State at 6:59 a.m., March 19.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 33.
  3. The CIA estimated that there were 400–500 Indonesian reinforcements on the Malaysian Borneo border ready to cross into Malaysia at any time. They estimated that there were 800–870 guerrillas in Borneo and 1,600 Indonesian guerrillas committed to confrontation with Malaysia. (Memorandum from McCafferty to McGeorge Bundy, March 11; Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Indonesia, Vol. IV, Memos, 3/65–9/65)