Indiaâ€™s role in Indonesiaâ€™s revolution (Part 1 of 2) | The Jakarta Post On Jan. 26, 2011, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will be chief guest at Indiaâ€™s 61th Republic Day. The visit is an opportunity to recall a forgotten slice of history. President Sukarno was chief guest at Indiaâ€™s first Republic day in 1950. The Netherlands had just recognized Indonesiaâ€™s independence and he came to thank India for help in fighting Indonesiaâ€™s revolution (1945â€“1949). In these four bitterly contested years of facing the Kingdom of The Netherlands, India made several logistical and diplomatic interventions in the Republicâ€™s support. From the mid 1960s, her role has unfortunately been discounted and even ignored by vested interests, often of the third part. However, Asiaâ€™s rising profile demands that her two largest democracies develop a closer relation-ship, for which a common understanding of their shared past is a prerequisite. The Republic of Indonesiaâ€™s first breakthrough came when it was accepted as a legitimate negotiating partner by The Netherlands, overcoming an earlier boycott of Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta, the infant Republicâ€™s president and vice president, as fascists and collaborators of Imperial Japanâ€™s occupation administration (1942-1945). A second breakthrough occurred when Indonesiaâ€™s cause was recognized by the UN as the first case of decolonization, thus ending her isolation. On both occasions, Indiaâ€™s role was critical. This by no means implies that Indiaâ€™s motives were only altruistic: indeed, as in all good diplomacy, an element of realism was present in them too, but it does mean that without these interventions, the Revolution could have taken longer. On Sept. 29, 1945, weeks after the Allied victory over Japan, Lt. Gen. Sir Philip Christison arrived in Batavia (now Jakarta) as British commander of a temporary occupation force. Its mission was twofold: Accepting the surrender of the Japanese forces and taking care of the released prisoners of war and civilian internees. In the process, unavoidably but rather hesitantly the British assisted in the restoration of Dutch colonial rule under an agreement signed with The Netherlands. On the other hand, the infant Republic of Indonesiaâ€™s assistance was requested to carry out their twofold mission, implying an indirect de facto recognition a nationwide clamor against the use of Indian troops in Indonesia caused the British to go slow in the early stages, but later, as the surreptitious inflow of Dutch troops increased, their real intentions became apparent. The number of towns under British occupation was increased on one pretext or other and Dutch civil administrators (NICA) invited to take them over. When the Dutch navy installed itself between Java and Sumatra and choked off interstate trade to the Republic, its prospects looked bleak indeed. But, despite its weakening position, by mid-November 1946 Britain had pressured The Netherlands to recognize the Republic as a negotiating partner and to sign the Linggadjati Agreement! Much of the credit goes to the Indonesianâ€™s own wisdom and administrative competence and the courage demonstrated in the Battle of Surabaya. It was wise of the Republicâ€™s top leaders to save Dutch face by vacating their posts and appointing Sutan Sjahrir (who was untainted by charges of collaborating with the Japanese) as prime minister and chief negotiator. But the Indians too, by mobilizing agitations, striking at ports and stopping Dutch over-flights, maintained strong and consistent pressure on Britain to stop using their troops as pawns to further Dutch mercantile interests and, to recognize the Republicâ€™s aspirations as legitimate. Orchestrating it all was Jawaharlal Nehru. Immediately following the War, the world was still Eurocentric and the US was guided by Britain on matters concerning the eastern colonies. Britain in her turn, was then engaged in a delicate end-game over her â€œJewel In Their Crownâ€ and could not afford to ruffle feathers of Indiaâ€™s leaders: This was Nehruâ€™s advantage. On the eve of Aug. 17, 1946, while greeting the Republic on its first anniversary (before India had become independent herself!) he boldly announced a plan to hold an Asian Relations Conference (ARC) in New Delhi. The announcement boosted the Republicâ€™s sagging morale. Sukarno was so pleased with Indiaâ€™s support that he ordered her tricolor to be flown with the Merah Putih at anniversary celebrations in Yogyakarta! Yogyakarta was then the Republicâ€™s emergency capital. To Nehru, he wrote: â€œYour country and your people are linked to us by ties of blood and culture which date back to the very beginning of history. The word â€˜Indiaâ€™ must necessarily be a part of our life for it forms the first two syllables of the name we have chosen for our land and raceâ€¦â€ By March 1947, the Linggadjati Agreement had been ratified and signed, giving the Republic de facto rights over Java, Sumatra and Madura. Flush with victory, Sjahrir flew to New Delhi for the close of the ARC in a plane piloted by Biju Patnaik, later Orissaâ€™s former chief minister. On Purana Qilaâ€™s grounds, he pleaded for Asian solidarity and said, â€œmany as our faults are, we Indonesians have never been and never will be, guilty of ingratitude. We owe all of you [conference delegates in general, India in particular] a great debt â€¦â€. Delegates lustily cheered him as the â€œBomb of Asiaâ€! But the Dutch had ratified the Linggadjati Agreement only to buy time for arranging overwhelming troop superiority, to enable return to their pre-war sugar, tobacco and rubber plantations. Spurious objections over Linggadjatiâ€™s implementation were raised and, on July 20, 1947, The Netherlands East-Indies Lt. Governor-General DR Hubertus van Mook ordered a full-scale attack to â€œcrushâ€ the Republic. But he had not contended with Nehruâ€™s tenacity. A cat and mouse game began! Prime minister Sjahrirâ€™s recent brainwave to offer rice to Indiaâ€™s famine victims had opened up travel opportunities for the Republic and a letter carried by a rice delegation to New Delhi alerted Nehru to the possibility of a Dutch attack early in July 1947. Sjahrir asked, could India approach the United Nations in this eventuality? Thus forewarned, Nehru on July 8 advised Britain to impress upon The Netherlands the need for third party arbitration as foreseen in the Linggadjati Agreement. The Dutch response was that the arbitration clause was irrelevant â€œas it applied only to disputes over interpretation.â€ Retorting that this made no sense, Nehru said, â€œPolitical difficulties â€¦ are not likely to be resolved by too legalistic an approach.â€ The writer has served as Indiaâ€™s ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia. She is completing a book on Indiaâ€“Indonesia bilateral relations.