20 JANUARY 1950, Page 1


NY feeling of disappointment about the apparently small

achievements of the Colombo Conference of Common- wealth Foreign Ministers must rest first on a misunder- standing of the nature of the Commonwealth and second on a misunderstanding of the nature of the problems facing it in Asia. It has long been agreed between the members of the Commonwealth that when meetings of this kind are held the conclusions they reach must always be in the form of issues to be presented to the respective Govern- ments, and only to be settled by those Governments. And of the

problems of Asia considered at Colombo only one—that of the economic and military tension between India and Pakistan—bears in it any logical possibility of a quick solution. Though this particular quarrel was not on the agenda, and both sides would have objected if it had been, the representatives of India and Pakistan cannot possibly have gone away without realising perfectly clearly what the other Dominions thought about this avoidable dispute. The point was, made quite plain without interrupting the creation of the new atmosphere of Commonwealth relations— an• atmosphere which` maybe breathed by old and new Dominions alike. In this respect something fundamental was achieved. The foundation for an economic policy in Asia was also laid. Mr. Spender, of Australia, produced proposals for the economic advancement of South-East Asia under the three main heads of consumption goods, technical advice, and capital equipment. By the time these proposals are further developed in Canberra in about four months' time it may be possible to see what are the possibilities of their attracting the essential American support. It is in any case certain that however great the forces stirring in Asia today—social, political or nationalistic— not one can be built up into an edifice of order and freedom except on the foundation of fellowship and economic aid laid at Colombo.