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Dutch Decolonization of Indonesia Essay

Indonesia is a country in south East Asia that consists of more than 13,600 islands. The islands lie along the equator, and extend more than 5,000 kilometers. Indonesia was founded on August 17, 1945 under the name, the Republic of Indonesia and before 1945 it was ruled by the Dutch. But even a half a million years before the Dutch even set foot in Indonesia soil prehistoric humans began to settle the land. Not until sixty thousand years ago though were there fully developed human settlements there.

Then in 1511 the Dutch started to rule Indonesia (then Java) because it had some of the best coffee beans and spices in the known world. They ended up taking seventy-five percent of the coffee and spices for themselves and mistreating the Indonesian people. In 1941 the Indonesian people started a war against the Dutch rulers and four years later they won their independence. After World War two the Japanese left a city call Ahmed Sukarno in Indonesia. The Dutch can and tried to gain control in Indonesia. The Indonesians wanted independent, so war took place between the Indonesians and the Dutch.

After the peace talk in 1963, most of the island of Indonesia got independence except Irian Jaya. In 1963, the island got independent. The East Indies were more important to the Netherlands than the West Indies would ever be, not only in the economic sense but also in the geopolitical sense. In the period following World War II, the importance of the East Indies drove the Dutch government to extreme measures to retain its colonial realm. The cultural relationship between the different territories and the `mother country’ presents a paradoxical image.

(Broek 1950) In Indonesia, with its predominant indigenous population, the influence of the Dutch language and culture remained limited to a thin upper layer of society, even though a relatively large group of Dutch people settled there. This colonial `elite’ experienced `Our East Indies’ as an essential part of the Dutch realm — as did increasingly broader layers of Dutch society. (Bernard, 1960) The Dismantling of the Dutch Empire, 1940-1954 World War II signified a definitive breach in Dutch colonial history.

A virtually powerless government in exile stood before the almost impossible task of not only monitoring the developments in the occupied Netherlands from London, but also using what little influence that remained to give them some form of guidance. These circumstances also impeded the overseas affairs. The war left the Netherlands impoverished and insecure regarding its prospects. In the first post-war years, hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens immigrated to seemingly more promising countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The emerging Cold War only increased insecurity, but the effects of the Marshall assistance would induce the miraculous economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s. Decolonization policies were usually backed by large majorities in parliament. World War II, Powerless Dutch Colonialism and the Atlantic Charter On 10 May 1940 the German army invaded the Netherlands. Five days later the country surrendered and the Queen fled to Great Britain, together with her ministers. During the war Queen Wilhelmina would address her people on countless occasions from London where the Dutch war cabinet under Prime Minister P.

S. Gerbrandy carried on its regime where possible. However, only the Ministries of Colonial Affairs and Foreign Affairs could actually implement whatever was developed as policy from the London exile. Indonesia remained the government’s primary `colonial’ concern, even after its capitulation to Japan, on 9 March 1942. West Indian affairs occupied very little of the Ministry of Colonial Affairs’ time. Apart from war related events, the cabinet’s most important issue was how to shape the post-war Kingdom, which they hoped would include Indonesia.

This was far from easy; not only because of the Japanese occupation, but also because of the — for the Dutch — unexpected and widespread rise of Indonesian nationalism and the growing American pressure to take the nationalist wishes seriously. The Dutch cabinet began to accept long before the Queen that after the ending of the war it would be impossible to continue the colonial relations in the same manner as before. Most of his colleagues were skeptical about his plans and warned against too much publicity which would possibly `create illusions’ overseas.

(Kahin 1952) Others wondered whether a change in the structure of the Kingdom was even necessary at all. Meanwhile, in August 1941, Roosevelt along with Churchill — who was somewhat dragging his feet — in their Atlantic Charter had equated the Allied battle against Nazi-Germany with a war against any form of oppression, and had propagated the right of any people, wherever in the world, to choose in freedom their own form of government. A new approach to colonialism had been confirmed and was, in fact, also imposed.

The Dutch government was not enthusiastic. Prime Minister Gerbrandy initially considered the Charter to be a `feeble piece’ of little relevance to the Netherlands. Yet a frank refusal to subscribe to these principles would not only have damaged the Dutch credibility, but could also have endangered the Allied readiness to accord assistance to the protection of the Dutch colonies. In this light, during the course of 1942, the Council of Ministers regularly discussed the prospect of a public conference, the attention still mainly focused on Indonesia.

As by this time the colony had been lost to Dutch authority, such talks were even more speculative: before any new relations could be realized, not only did the Netherlands, but also the East Indies need to be liberated. In the Shadow of Indonesia A brief discussion of Dutch decolonization policies in the Dutch East Indies is appropriate at this point, not simply to paint a broader picture, but also to provide a deeper insight into the fundamentals of Dutch thinking on the colonies and their own task there.

The Indonesian contribution to the Dutch economy was significant, and indeed many leading figures thought of this colonial contribution as `the cork which keeps the Dutch economy from sinking’. (Vandenbosch, 1954) Moreover, there was the geopolitical argument that with its immense Asian extension the Kingdom counted as a world power. As it was envisaged, even in the Dutch parliament, without Indonesia the Netherlands would degrade `to the rank of a country such as Denmark’.

Coupled with such observations was the paternalistic conviction, again shared by virtually all involved Dutch parties, that without their colonial presence the East Indies were destined for disintegration and collapse. (Wehl , 1948) Prolonged Dutch presence should therefore be regarded by the Indonesians as a favor, as opposed to an imposition. Tangible self-interest was thus happily married to an ethical mission. As the Dutch war cabinet considered its future colonial policies, it had to face the challenge of a fundamental reappraisal.

Yet the very convictions which had stopped The Hague from introducing major reforms in the prewar period had not changed. The loss of Indonesia was perceived as a nightmare because of its crucial economic and geopolitical interest; it was also widely believed by the Dutch that their presence was crucial to Indonesia’s stability. The alarming fact that there had been hardly any Indonesian support for the Dutch against the Japanese was disregarded, and the initial nationalist siding with the new occupying force was simply depicted as criminal collaboration.

After the war, a new start had to be made, with more local autonomy and representation — but not without Dutch supervision. Even if the time for a transfer of power might one day come, this would be a distant goal. In the meantime, so the Dutch thought, they were as indispensable to the Indonesians as the colony was to the metropolis. In 1945, with the restoration of Dutch sovereignty, decision making once more took place largely in The Hague.

The post-war environment required a new attitude from politicians, administrators and civil servants, which was to be reflected in their policy making. The Dutch government is very much prepared to set itself as a clear and rapidly attainable goal for Indonesia’s political development, the legitimate goal of any people as has been recognized in the Atlantic Charter and the Charter of the United Nations, namely the right to self-determination.

‘ (Vandenbosch 1954) Ironically, eight years later the Dutch government would frustrate the inclusion of the notion of this `right to self-determination’ in the Charter of the Kingdom. This political principle, at the time mentioned exclusively in view of Indonesia and still with little meaning for Suriname and the Antilles, had by then become a crucial element in the decision making process with respect to the West Indies. (Kennedy 1948) Conclusion

By the time the breach with Indonesia had become inevitable, the political course of the decolonization process in the West Indies was already so far advanced that there was no possibility of searching for radically different models. The option of the incorporation of both former colonies into the Kingdom in the form of overseas provinces — an option chosen by There is no convincing evidence to suggest that the possible consequences of such a structure were ever seriously considered in the Netherlands. References

Bernard Vlekke, Nusantara: 1960: A History of Indonesia, revised edition, Quadrangle, Chicago. Broek J. O. M: 1950. Economic Development of the Netherlands Indies: New York, Institute of Pacific Relations. Kahin, G. McT. 1952: Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia: Ithaca, N. Y. , Cornell University Press. Kennedy R. : 1948: The Ageless Indies: New York, The John Day Co. Vandenbosch Amry. 1954. The Dutch East Indies. Its Government, Problems, and Politics: 3rd ed. , Berkeley-Los Angeles Wehl David 1948: The Birth of Indonesia. London.

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