INDONESIA: End of the Union

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Of the empires that crumbled at the shock of nationalism after World War II, few fell apart so abruptly as The Netherlands'. Just three days after Japan's surrender, Indonesia declared its independence and proclaimed the end of The Hague's richest and biggest colony, The Netherlands East Indies. By late 1949, prodded by the U.S., the Dutch had recognized Indonesian sovereignty over practically all of their Pacific territories.

In exchange for sovereignty, Indonesian leaders agreed to place their country in a Netherlands-Indonesian Union, an arrangement which had the appearance of a common bond but was not one in fact. Last week even this tenuous tie was broken. In The Hague, Dutch and Indonesian delegates signed a protocol to end the political union. The Dutch took satisfaction in the fact that the economic links were left intact: they still have a billion-dollar investment in Indonesia.

Still unsettled was the major source of irritation between the two nations: possession of western New Guinea, which is still under Dutch rule. The infant Indonesian government, which has trouble enough trying to maintain order over its 78 million people, demands western New Guinea too. But The Netherlands refuses to give it up as the last relic of its imperial prestige in the area.