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«THE RHODESIAN CRISIS IN BRITISH AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICS, 1964-1965 by CARL PETER WATTS A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham For the ...»

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Australian diplomatic representation in Salisbury was even more limited than that of the Canadian Government. Australia had maintained a Trade Commission in Salisbury since December 1954, but in 1963 the Department of Trade decided to reassign its Trade Commissioner to another post. Administration of Australian trade interests was left in the hands of a locally recruited Englishman who was designated as a Marketing Officer. 125 In September 1963 Winston Field wrote to Sir Robert Menzies enquiring whether NAC: RG 25, Vol. 10071, 20-1-2-SR, Part 1.2, Ian R. Smyth, Acting Canadian Trade Commissioner, Salisbury, to T. L. Carter, AMED, DEA, Ottawa, Letter, 16 June 1965.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/6, Part 1, ‘Australian Trade Commissioner, Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia’, Memorandum by R. L. Harry, First Assistant Secretary, Division IV, DEA, Canberra, 17 January 1964, para. 1.

Australia might open a diplomatic mission in Salisbury in order that Australia could be better informed on the Rhodesian problem (but it was also, no doubt, an attempt to obtain de facto recognition). The Australian Government made no reply but official opinion suggested that sufficient information could be obtained from the Australian Ambassador in South Africa, Australian High Commissions in Africa, and material circulated by the British and Rhodesian Governments. 126 A senior External Affairs official who visited Salisbury advised his Minister that Field had again raised the question of Australian representation. In reviewing the situation the official recognised the same dilemma that faced the Canadian Government: on the one hand, it would probably be politically disadvantageous in terms of African opinion; but on the other hand, it would be useful to have better representation in Salisbury to handle technical assistance and immigration matters. He concluded that ‘For these purposes, the maintenance of the Trade Commission, if properly staffed from Australia, would provide a suitable answer.’ 127 The Minister for External Affairs therefore requested the Department of Trade to appoint a suitably qualified officer to Salisbury. 128 However, the Department of Trade did not feel that it could accommodate the request because Australian trade with Rhodesia was stagnant and its staffing resources for overseas posts were inadequate, so it shunted responsibility back to External Affairs. 129 Against this background of bureaucratic unwillingness to accept responsibility, the Rhodesian Government once again asked if it would be possible to send a diplomatic representative to Salisbury. The Australian Ibid., para. 2.

Ibid., para. 3.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/6, Part 1, Sir Garfield Barwick, Minister for External Affairs, to J. McEwen, Minister for Trade and Industry, Letter, 6 February 1964.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/6, Part 1, N. H. D. Henty, Acting Minister for Trade and Industry, to Sir Garfield Barwick, Minister for External Affairs, Letter, 16 March 1964.

Ambassador to South Africa opined that this would probably not accomplish a great deal, ‘although it might make the Southern Rhodesia authorities feel rather less isolated inside the old Commonwealth.’ 130 Yet this was precisely the point, and the Department of External Affairs ought to have apprehended the value of maintaining one of its officers in Salisbury not only for the purpose of gathering information, but also to signal a clear interest in the Rhodesian problem and to establish a clear line of communication with Salisbury. However, External Affairs advised its Embassy in South Africa that it had decided to maintain the status quo, partly due to the impending Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Meeting and partly because ‘Mr Smith’s emergence as Prime Minister has made the situation a little different’. 131 One consequence of this decision was that in the absence of first-hand reports from Salisbury, the Department of External Affairs would have relied to a great extent on political reports from its Ambassador to South Africa who, as noted in the preceding chapter, was very sympathetic to the Europeans in Rhodesia. It would perhaps be going too far to suggest that this shaped Australian policy on the Rhodesian issue, but it certainly reinforced it.

Diplomatic representation has four major functions: achievement of statehood; contact and communication; promotion, explanation and defence of national interests; and acquisition of information. 132 The Rhodesian Government undoubtedly aimed at the first and third functions in its exchanges with Canada and Australia, whereas the Canadians and Australians were concerned with the second and fourth functions. Ottawa and NAA: A1838, 190/10/6, Part 1, J. C. G. Kevin, Australian Ambassador to South Africa, to DEA, Canberra, Letter, 12 June 1964.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/6, Part 1, Charles Lee, DEA, Canberra, to Australian Embassy, Pretoria, Letter, 3 July 1964.

R. P. Barston, Modern Diplomacy (London: Longman, 1988), pp. 18-19.

Canberra were attuned to the different emphasis that the Rhodesian Government was attempting to place on its diplomatic representation, which presented the Canadians and Australians with a delicate situation. Ottawa was not prepared to exchange accredited representatives with Salisbury, nor even to augment the staffing of its Trade Commission, because this could easily be construed as showing approval of Rhodesian policies. Only if the Rhodesian Government implemented progressive policies would Canada be disposed to review its policy. 133 The Australian Government, which was aware of Canadian policy on representation, was also cognisant of the political disadvantages that

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Australian policy appears to have been guided less by concern for African opinion than consideration of staffing costs in the Departments of External Affairs and Trade. The cautious approach adopted by Canada and Australia on the problem of representation was understandable, but it did not maximise their opportunities to exert influence in Salisbury and possibly signalled a lack of interest in the Rhodesian problem.

Old Commonwealth contingency plans and initial responses to UDI Although the threat of a UDI was just below the surface on several occasions during 1964 and 1965, the Old Commonwealth remained in the dark about the details of Britain’s likely response until just days before the Rhodesian Government issued its illegal declaration. This was because British ministers had resolved to take firm decisions only in the light of the circumstances that prevailed at the time of a UDI, so British officials could not communicate much useful information to their Old Commonwealth NAA: A1838, 190/10/6, Part 1, L. G. Sellars, Acting Australian High Commissioner, Ottawa, to DEA, Canberra, Letter, 26 June 1964.

counterparts about British intentions in the event of a UDI. This generated some friction between the British and Canadian Governments because the Canadians were anxious to be taken into British confidence. By contrast the Australians and New Zealanders tended to take a more relaxed approach to contingency planning, which reflected their overall reluctance to impose economic sanctions against Rhodesia in the event of a UDI.

Canada The Canadian Government gave urgent consideration to contingency planning against a UDI at three junctures during the Rhodesian crisis: in October 1964, when the British Government issued its warning statement against the consequences of a UDI; in the period February–May 1965, when it appeared to the Canadians that the effects of the warning statement had worn off and the Rhodesian Government was again preparing for a UDI; and between September and November 1965, when the fruitless Anglo-Rhodesian negotiations brought the prospect of a UDI much closer. Unlike the Australian and New Zealand Governments, the Canadian Government was also involved in ongoing consultation with the British and Americans to safeguard Zambian copper production in the event of economic warfare between Rhodesia and Zambia. 134 During the first period of discussion, in October 1964, Canadian officials recognised that the Canadian Government would be obliged to take action against Rhodesia ‘especially in light of any British moves’, and would also need to take action ‘if the UN becomes seized ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 11, New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 62, 18 February 1965, para.4; Part 12, New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, to Secretary of External Affairs, Wellington, Letter, 8 June 1965.

of the issue’. 135 Suggested actions included: non-recognition of an illegal regime;

withdrawal of Commonwealth preferences (though it was noted that this would have little economic effect on Rhodesia); and withdrawal of the Canadian Trade Commissioner (though it was felt that it might be valuable to retain some presence in Salisbury for consular purposes to assist Canadian citizens). 136 Officials determined that if the Rhodesian question were brought before the UN Security Council and the Council decided to take action under Article 41 of the Charter, Canada would be committed to that decision. 137 This immediate willingness to accede to a resolution in Chapter VII terms was characteristic of Canadian foreign policy and stood out in contrast to British,

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however, concerned that the imposition of trade sanctions against Rhodesia could set a precedent for similar action against South Africa, and ‘would of course be contrary to the long-standing and moderate Canadian policy of non-interference with trade for political reasons.’ In the event of a UDI it would therefore be necessary to distinguish between South Africa and Rhodesia by stressing that the latter was ‘a rebellious and illegal government.’ 138 As Canadian officials began to study the implications of action against Rhodesia, Paul Martin approached the British Government to request details of the measures that it NAC: RG 25, Vol. 10071, 20-1-2 SR, Part 1.1, ‘Record of Discussion on Southern Rhodesia’, by L. M.

Berry, AMED, DEA, 28 October 1964, para. 2.

Ibid., para. 8.

Ibid., para. 10.

Ibid., paras. 11-12; and ‘Southern Rhodesia – Possible UDI – Canadian Interests’, Memorandum by Tom Carter, AMED, DEA, 28 October 1964.

intended to implement in the event of a UDI. 139 Arnold Smith also approached the British High Commission in Ottawa, but was told that no firm answers could be given on the points of detail that he raised. 140 This was the beginning of a pattern of exchanges between the Canadian and British Governments. The Canadian sense of urgency about consultation receded temporarily after it became clear that Ian Smith had backed away from a UDI. The Canadian Government also felt more at ease because the British ministerial visit to Ottawa facilitated brief consideration of the Rhodesian issue, and the Commonwealth Relations Office instituted a practice of periodic consultation with the

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February 1965, however, Canadian anxiety became heightened as a result of Ian Smith’s posturing. Paul Martin wrote to Arthur Bottomley advising that because ‘a Rhodesian move might come very suddenly’ the Canadian Government was drawing up contingency

plans for immediate action, including withdrawal of Commonwealth preferences:

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considering other measures, such as freezing Rhodesian sterling balances, treatment of Rhodesia as outside the sterling area and prevention of private TNA: PRO, DO 183/317, Martin to CRO, Cable No. ME448, 28 October 1964.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/317, E. J. Emery, British High Commission, Ottawa, to A. Smith, Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs, Letter, 9 November 1964.

TNA: PRO, CAB 133/266, Prime Minister’s Visit to USA and Canada, December 1964; DO 183/317, Record of Conversation between Arthur Bottomley and Paul Martin, 9 December 1964; NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 4, Australian High Commission, London, to DEA, Canberra, ‘Liaison Between HMG and Old Commonwealth’, Cable No. 8426, 4 December 1964.

financial transactions with Rhodesia which have been mentioned in public discussion of the economic consequences of a unilateral declaration of

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Martin’s questions demonstrate that the British Government had not yet communicated anything specific to the Canadian Government. Yet this was not surprising given that the Defence and Oversea Policy Committee had the matter under review at that precise moment, and had to address not only contingency measures against Rhodesia but also the Zambian aspects of the Rhodesian problem, the forthcoming visit of the Commonwealth Secretary to Rhodesia, and Rhodesian complaints about subversion fostered by neighbouring Commonwealth countries. 143 Against this background Bottomley advised that he would arrange for an exchange of views with the Canadian Government once he had returned from Rhodesia. 144 No substantive exchange took place until May, but even then British officials noted that: ‘In the absence of a decision by Ministers in advance of [a UDI] on the economic measures the British Government would take against Rhodesia TNA: PRO, DO 183/674, Paul Martin to Arthur Bottomley, Letter, 18 February 1965 (also in FO 371/181876).

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, OPD (65) 6th Meeting, 29 January 1965, OPD (65) 10th Meeting, 17 February 1965; CAB 148/19, OPD (65) 22, ‘Southern Rhodesia: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations’, 27 January 1965; OPD (65) 23, ‘Zambian Copper: Note by the Secretary’, 27 January 1965; OPD (65) 27, ‘Southern Rhodesia – Relations with Neighbouring Countries’, Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations’; CAB 148/20, OPD (65) 40, ‘Possible economic pressure against Southern Rhodesia. Note by the Secretary’; OPD (65) 41, ‘Possible alternative coal and power supplies to Zambia. Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations’, 15 February 1965.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/674, Arthur Bottomley to Geoffrey Murray, Canadian Deputy High Commissioner, London, Letter, 19 February 1965.



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