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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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in that event, it will not be practicable for the Commonwealth Secretary to seek Canadian support for specific policies though we should be glad to know we can count on their general support.’ 145 Bottomley could only advise that the British Government was not prepared to impose economic sanctions as such, but would withdraw preferences, place an embargo on tobacco, and exclude Rhodesia from the London capital market. 146 It cannot be coincidental that in a lengthy dispatch sent before the talks between Bottomley and Martin, the British High Commissioner in Ottawa noted that: ‘There are perhaps times when Canadian attitudes on international affairs seem tiresome to us: the perpetual demand to be consulted, the slightly “holier than thou” approach on thorny problems of which Canadian have little or no practical experience, a tendency to naivety and starry eyes in the approach to the newly independent nations.’ 147 The Commonwealth Relations Office was no doubt irritated by the ‘perpetual demand to be consulted’ on the Rhodesian problem, especially since it was not in a position to divulge greater details of British policy in the event of a UDI until a very late stage.

In mid-September 1965 the Commonwealth Relations Office advised the Old Commonwealth High Commissioners in London that developments in the Rhodesian situation had taken a ‘serious down-turn’ and the British considered that the prospect of TNA: PRO, DO 183/674, ‘Brief for Secretary of State’s Meeting with Mr Paul Martin’, Rhodesia Department, CRO, May 1965, para. 3.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/674, ‘Extract from a meeting between Mr Paul Martin and the Commonwealth Secretary’, 10 May 1965.

TNA: PRO, DO 183/674, Sir Harry Lintott, ‘Canada’s Foreign Policy’, Dispatch No. 7, 3 May 1965, p.


negotiating an acceptable solution was slim. 148 By the time of the London negotiations the Canadian Prime Minister had come to the conclusion that the Rhodesian Government was ‘under right wing domination and beyond influence.’ 149 In those circumstances the Canadian Government would no doubt have been anxious to finalise the measures that it would take in the event of a UDI, and would have been relieved when it at last received firmer details of British contingency plans. 150 However, Canadian officials were still hesitant to recommend a trade embargo in the event of a UDI, not because of the costs to Canada but because of the principle of interfering with trade for political reasons. 151 The Canadian Cabinet finally resolved the matter on 11 October, when it took decisions to withhold recognition of an illegal Rhodesian regime, withdraw its Acting Trade

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Wellington, Cable No. 3130, 16 September 1965.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 13, New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 576, 5 October 1965, para. 2.

TNA: PRO, CAB 148/22, OPD (65) 132, ‘Contingency Planning in the Event of a Unilateral Declaration of Independence: Memorandum by the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations’, 21 September

1965. The CRO supplied a revised copy of the paper to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on 8 October 1965, but with the following warning: ‘This working level document is prepared for the secret information of the persons to whom it is communicated. It mentions certain decisions which have been taken by British Ministers, but on some of the matters with which it deals no such decisions have yet been reached. The document cannot, therefore, be taken as an indication of the magnitude of the likely reaction of the British Government to a UDI in Rhodesia.’ ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 13, New Zealand High Commission, London, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 3509, 8 October 1965; NAA: A1838, 370/1/26, Part 1, New Zealand High Commision, London, to DEA, Wellington (rptd. Canberra), Cable No. 3510, 8 October 1965.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 13, New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 576, 5 October 1965, para. 3.

Commonwealth preferences, and refuse all aid and finance agreements. 152 According to one senior official, these decisions were taken to establish Canada in a position ‘from which it could give a relatively moderate lead to Commonwealth Africans, rather than merely argue against possibly extreme African initiatives.’ 153 It may therefore be observed that in its response to UDI the means of Canadian diplomacy were ultimately consistent with the objectives of Canadian foreign policy, despite some official reservations about the principles involved.

Australia Canadian officials liaised extensively with their Australian counterparts throughout 1965, but they found little willingness in Canberra to discuss contingency plans. As noted in the preceding chapter, key Australian officials were as averse as their political masters to the possibility that they might have to impose of sanctions against Rhodesia. The Australian Government was also keen to avoid any involvement in contingency planning to protect Zambia against the effects of a UDI. 154 However, the Australian Government’s response to Rhodesia’s UDI was eventually sufficiently robust to deflect any international criticism of Australian policy.

NAA: A1838, 190/11/1, Part 3, Australian High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Canberra, Cable No.

605, 12 October 1965.

NAA: A1838, 190/11/1, Part 3, Australian High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Canberra, Cable No.

606, 12 October 1965, reporting the views of Tom Carter, AMED, DEA.

NAA: A1838, 190/10/1, Part 6, ‘Possible Action in the Event of a UDI’, DEA Memorandum, 5 November 1965.

By late September 1965, Britain, Canada and New Zealand were beginning to consider their contingency plans in some detail, but this was not the case in Australia. New Zealand officials in Canberra reported that it was ‘not thought likely that there will be much planning of Australian measures against the contingency of a UDI’, which reflected advice from the Attorney-General’s Department that the precise form of a UDI could not be predicted and without details of the British response Australian planning could not be taken very far. The Australian Government therefore did not intend to resume interdepartmental consultation ‘until UDI has ceased to be a contingency and has become a reality.’ 155 The day after Rhodesia declared itself independent New Zealand officials advised Wellington: ‘As you would expect there is more than a little sympathy in some influential quarters of the Cabinet for the position of the Rhodesian Europeans, and Ministers have hitherto shown a marked reluctance to consider in advance of the event what action Australia should take in response to a Rhodesian UDI.’ The Cabinet had begun to discuss the issue seriously, but it had concluded that the Australian Government should not rush into an announcement of punitive measures. 156 In fact the only decision that the Australian Government made initially was to decline to finance or contribute physically to any use of force. 157 As far as economic measures were concerned, the Cabinet observed that the British Government would hope to receive Commonwealth cooperation, and the United Nations was bound to call for these as a minimum response.

However, the Cabinet noted that economic measures were likely to have a greater impact on the African population in Rhodesia than the Rhodesian Government, and it was not ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 12, New Zealand High Commission, Canberra, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 853, 27 September 1965.

ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 15, New Zealand High Commission, Canberra, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 1060, 12 November 1965.

NAA: A5828/1, Vol. 4, Cabinet Decision 1373, 12 November 1965, p. 2.

clear that they would succeed in re-establishing a legal administration. 158 The Cabinet also recognised: ‘There is the further and important question of whether it is acceptable to the Australian people that there should be action by Australia against Rhodesia, especially in the light of our decisions not to place any measures on South Africa and our attitude to trade with Communist China.’ 159 The Cabinet therefore decided to defer any decisions pending further developments. 160 Developments in the UN Security Council, where African and Asian countries were demanding military intervention, overturned the Australian Government’s hesitant response to UDI. ‘The Cabinet felt that the practical choice for all countries had now come down to a choice between supporting or acquiescing in military action and supporting economic measures. This points, in Australia’s case, to a programme of economic measures.’ 161 If Australia did not act it would not only create embarrassment at the United Nations, ‘but would make Australia unacceptably conspicuous as the one country, apart perhaps from South Africa and Portugal, not to take action.’162 Accordingly the Cabinet decided to ban the export of arms and military equipment to Rhodesia, to suspend tariff preferences, to ban the import of tobacco from Rhodesia (but with provision for the entry of shipments already in transit), to amend the Australian banking exchange regulations to exclude Rhodesia from the Sterling Area and to take

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action to prevent evasion of exchange control measures, and to terminate the appointment of the Australian Trade Representative in Salisbury. 163 Menzies announced this programme of measures to the House of Representatives on the same day. 164 As noted in the previous chapter, the Government’s policy was subjected to considerable debate, which revealed a substantial current of political opinion favourable to the Europeans in Rhodesia. Yet despite the fact that the Australian Government had only reluctantly decided to impose economic sanctions, Australia’s international reputation was preserved by its robust response. For example, the Ghanaian Government had ‘professed satisfaction with economic sanctions announced by Australia and said Ghana was lobbying in other non African states for a similar declaration.’ 165 By contrast, New Zealand’s response to UDI was subject to international criticism.

New Zealand The New Zealand Government was apprised of British, Canadian, and Australian contingency planning (or lack of it) but did not itself address the implications of a UDI until the final stages of the Rhodesian Crisis. New Zealand officials then took an intensely legalistic approach to the issue, which retarded New Zealand’s response to UDI.

Britain and the wider Commonwealth interpreted New Zealand’s hesitant response as NAA: A5828/1, Vol. 4, Cabinet Decision 1375, 16 November 1965.

Summary of a Statement on Rhodesia by Sir Robert Menzies, House of Representatives, 16 November 1965, The Parliamentarian, Vol. 47, No. 1 (January 1966), pp. 93-95.

NAA: A1838, 190/11/1, Part 5, Mr J. E. Ryan, Australian High Commissioner, Accra, to DEA, Canberra, Letter, 17 November 1965.

political reluctance to impose measures against Rhodesia, and this interpretation was perhaps justified given the evidence presented in the preceding chapter.

In late September 1965, a senior New Zealand official noted that the deterioration in relations between Britain and Rhodesia could prompt the latter to take some form of ‘decisive action’, but anticipated that instead of an outright UDI, ‘it is more likely perhaps that Salisbury will attempt, through a series of unilateral acts, to assume independence gradually.’ 166 This assumption was based on the recent Rhodesian effort to have their representative in Lisbon formally accredited. 167 It was argued that: ‘Although there are numerous imponderables, this is a subject to which we should now be giving some careful thought.’ In particular, the New Zealand Government would have to consider: the effects of a cessation of trade with Rhodesia; the amendment of legislation to permit ANZ: ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 12, ‘Rhodesia: New Zealand Contingency Planning’, Memorandum by T. C. Larkin, 28 September 1965.

Ibid. On 13 September the British Defence and Overesea Policy Committee (DOPC) noted that a Rhodesian representative, Mr Harry Reedman, was due to arrive in Lisbon two days later and the Portuguese Government had refused to give the British Government any assurance that Reedman would neither present diplomatic credentials nor be received in a diplomatic capacity. The DOPC considered referring the matter to the North Atlantic Council (as Portugal was a NATO ally) and Bottomley argued that the British Ambassador should be recalled from Lisbon. TNA: PRO, CAB 148/18, OPD (65) 38th Meeting, 13 September 1965. The Canadians were worried because they did not know how to treat Reedman.


ABHS 950, W4627, 245/8/3, Part 12, New Zealand High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Wellington, Cable No. 534, 21 September 1965; and NAA: A1838, 190/9/1, Part 2, Australian High Commission, Ottawa, to DEA, Canberra, Cable No. 183, 21 September 1965. In the House of Commons Michael Stewart asserted that Reedman’s appointment was not in the capacity of ‘accredited diplomatic representative’. Hansard, House of Commons Debates, Vol. 718, Col. 116, 1 November 1965. Cited in Windrich, Britain and the Politics of Rhodesian Independence, p. 41.

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