96. Memorandum of Conversation1 2

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  • The Secretary’s Meeting with Ceylonese Ambassador Kanakaratne


  • Ambassador Kanakaratne
  • J. H. Lanerolle, Counselor, Embassy of Sri Lanka
  • The Secretary
  • Alfred L. Atherton, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
  • Dennis Kux, NEA/INS (Notetaker)

The Secretary: How are you? I’m not as thin as you are.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : That’s not my fault.

The Secretary: You’re going back to Sri Lanka?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : Yes, for the Non-Aligned Conference. I thought it would be useful to talk to you beforehand.

The Secretary: Yes (turning to Atherton), he is a former student of mine, but not as spectacular as his successor. What happened to her?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : Yes, Jane Rajasingha. She’s now in the ILO. She’s divorced and has remarried.

The Secretary: What about the others?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : One is a Clerk of our Parliament. This is an important job.

The Secretary: And Fernando?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : He is now head of the Tea Research Board.

The Secretary: That’s not something he learned at Harvard, not from me at least. We are gradually infiltrating this place. Now we need you as Foreign Minister.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : No, I would want to stay as Ambassador.

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The Secretary: When is the meeting taking place?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : It is starting August 9. The Foreign Ministers meet August 12 and the Summit starts August 16.

The Secretary: Why not invite me?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : We’d like to invite you.

The Secretary: But it wouldn’t be a good idea for me to be there just before the Non-Aligned Summit.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : I agree, but you and Nancy should come sometime. You know there is an old saying that Sri Lanka is supposed to be 40 miles from Paradise.

The Secretary: Really! (Turning to Atherton) Have you been there?

Mr. Atherton : No. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to organize a Chiefs of Mission meeting there for the past couple of years.

The Secretary: Now on the Non-Aligned meeting. I think the Non-Aligned are playing a dangerous game if they organize into a tight pressure camp. They are bound to do something that will cause us to respond in a strong way. Puerto Rico is something we cannot accept as an international issue. We will take it as an unfriendly act if countries pass resolutions on this. I think we would not participate in a session of the General Assembly if it voted an unfriendly resolution. That gives you some idea of the strength of our sentiments on this issue.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : On Puerto Rico, we have no differences with your position. We believe in self-determination as a matter of principle and know that the Puerto Ricans have expressed their views. It is not for us to become involved. At Algiers, the Ministers endorsed the previous Lima resolution. They said the Puerto Rican people were entitled to self-determination and independence. We are not happy about this and speaking for the Government of Sri Lanka, I can say that we will try to adjust the language at the Summit to eliminate the mention of independence. This would have the effect of making the resolution meaningless as the Puerto Ricans already have self-determination. We recognize that this is an internal U.S. matter

The Secretary: On what basis can Cuba be in the Non-Aligned?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : The original definition was to include countries outside of multilateral military alliances.

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The Secretary: What about the South Koreans?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : They probably would be O.K.

The Secretary: Spain?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : They have asked to send an observer. So has Switzerland. We have objected to efforts to establish a secretariat. They would institutionalize the Non-Aligned group. We want to maintain independence of either super power. Rumania wants to join but can’t because it is a member of the Warsaw Pact. If we let them in, then we would also have to allow Pakistan.

The Secretary: Is India a part of the group? With them hegemony is O.K. but alliances are not. What about China?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : As a major power, China could not join. The purpose originally was to gather together a group of countries that would look at issues on their merits and not in accord with Bloc views.

The Secretary: The Non-Aligned has become more of a bloc than the alliances. There is a high degree of commensurability.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : On economic matters, the countries subscribe to rather broad principles on commodities and other issues but they have little in common except for these broad principles, such as stable commodity prices. A case in point are Brazil and Sri Lanka. If coffee is in trouble, tea is helped. But my Government wants to focus on economic issues. It has been our approach all along to deal with issues on a pragmatic basis. That’s why we were willing to upset the Indians in 1971. We allowed Pakistani planes to land when they were ferrying troops to East Pakistan. We always felt that they should be able to communicate with other parts of their country.

The Secretary: The day will come when India will regret what it did in 1971. I have always felt that.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : We were one of the last to recognize Bangladesh.

The Secretary: Is that also true regarding Angola?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : That’s a different case.

The Secretary: It is a question of Cuban troops.

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Ambassador Kanakaratne : But on Puerto Rico there is no problem between us.

The Secretary: I didn’t think so.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : I have been instructed by the Prime Minister to do what we can to deal with the Puerto Rican problem.

The Secretary: Another is Korea. We hope that the Non-Aligned will not adopt a pro-North Korean resolution which amounts to taking sides. We would prefer that the issue not be raised at the UN.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : We abstained on both resolutions last year. Our position is that the North and the South should enter into bilateral discussions.

The Secretary: That’s essentially our position. We are prepared to abolish the UN command but we want it to be replaced by some legal instrumentality.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : The Prime Minister may be at a disadvantage if Kaunda and Nyerere are not present. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore will be there but Suharto of Indonesia will be away because of their Independence Day.

The Secretary: When do the Heads of Government meet?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : August 15–18.

The Secretary: Will I run into that?

Mr. Atherton : No, you will be through the area before then.

The Secretary: Yes, I will be back August 15.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : Where will you visit?

The Secretary: It’s not yet decided. I may have to go to Africa again.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : In my discussions with Mr. Dubs and Mr. Habib we also talked about the Middle East issue. I can report that together with India and Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka worked at Lima to avoid an expulsion resolution.

The Secretary: This is also an explosive issue, not only in regard to foreign policy but here in the U.S. There should be no doubt about that.

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Ambassador Kanakaratne : I don’t know what impact the Uganda business will have. I am not sure if you saw the Sri Lanka statement which both condemns the violation of Uganda territory and highjacking. I think on this issue we will definitely try for a balanced resolution if it comes up. Colombo is well aware of your sentiments on key issues. This is one reason why I and Shirley Amerasinghe have been called back.

The Secretary: Those are the big issues but we have a general interest that the Non-Aligned remain genuinely non-aligned. Now Castro is even to the left of Moscow.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : We are aware. We don’t want the Summit to be used by others to pull their chestnuts out.

The Secretary: Have you the facilities?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : Yes, we have a first-class conference hall built by your friends the Chinese. We also have enough hotel space. In fact, this is not the tourist season and the Government has closed off the island from visitors.

The Secretary: Will it be hot?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : No, but the rains have been delayed and the monsoon is just beginning. It is late and is affecting our crops, while India has had a good harvest. I want to assure you that we have no intention of upsetting our good bilateral relations.

The Secretary: You know our interest in these and we are aware of the limits of what you can do, but just keep our interests in mind.

The Secretary: When are you inviting me to your Embassy?

Ambassador Kanakaratne : We have, but you never come. We tried to get you before.

The Secretary: I will come as long as it is not a dinner in my honor. Then all your colleagues will want to do the same.

Mr. Atherton : He has some of the best South Asian food in town.

Ambassador Kanakaratne : I know you have been very busy and I haven’t wanted to press you. I would prefer to get you together with 4 or 5 like-minded people.

The Secretary: You won’t find them in this building.

Mr. Atherton : Perhaps that many.

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At this point the meeting ended. On the way out Mr. Atherton advised the Ambassador that we had arranged to approve free transportation by Pan American for the elephant the Ceylonese were giving to the Bicentennial. The Ambassador expressed his appreciation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files. Confidential; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Secretary’s Office. It was drafted by Kux and approved on August 17 in S.
  2. Secretary of State Kissinger and Ambassador Kanakaratne met and discussed issues related to the Non-Aligned Conference, the Middle East, and voting in the United Nations.