UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canadian-Indonesian relations 1945-63 : international relations and public diplomacy Webster, David


Canadian foreign policy towards Indonesia during the governments of Louis St. Laurent (1948-57) and John Diefenbaker (1957-63) was conditioned by Canada's place in the North Atlantic alliance, seen as more central to national interests. The most direct Canada-Indonesia connections were forged by non-government "public diplomats." This thesis utilizes the theory of "mental maps" as a way of understanding how diplomats imagined the world. Policymakers1 mental maps gave prominence to Europe and the North Atlantic. Southeast Asia appeared only as a periphery needing to be held for larger "free world" goals. Ottawa viewed Indonesia through the prism of its alliances and multilateral associations. Canadian diplomacy towards Indonesia was often designed to preserve the unity of the North Atlantic alliance. During the Indonesian national revolution, Canadian representatives on the Security Council acted to help their Netherlands allies. They found a compromise solution that helped to prevent splits within the North Atlantic alliance and the Commonwealth. Policymakers were working out a diplomatic self-image: Canada as mediating middle power. This was a process of myth making in which actions taken for alliance reasons were remembered as part of a global peacemaking mission. However, Ottawa avoided involvement in the second Indonesian-Dutch decolonization dispute over West New Guinea (Papua). Development aid also became part of Canada's diplomatic self-perception. Canada sent aid through the Colombo plan, intended to restore global trade and fight the cold war with non-military weapons. Canadian aid to Indonesia was negligible, primarily wheat. While bilateral relations were limited, non-state actors operating within North America-wide networks forged more important connections. Canadian advisers to Indonesia's National Planning Bureau mapped out a development path based on Western models. McGill University's Institute of Islamic Studies promoted the "modernization" of Islam. Indonesia under Sukarno (1945-65) tried to avoid dependence on aid, but welcomed investment by oil companies such as Asamera and bought de Havilland aircraft from Canada. The seeds for the economic policies of Suharto's New Order (1965-98) were sown during this period by Indonesians based in the Planning Bureau and at McGill. Public diplomacy had a more enduring effect than government policy.

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