The Netherlands: Feathers from a Frog

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Trade, as well as politics, makes strange bedfellows: Spain and Castro's Cuba, Britain and Red China, Israel and West Germany. One of the strangest tie-ups these days is between The Netherlands and its former colony, Indonesia, which severed diplomatic relations in 1960 and seemed headed for a full-scale war. The once bitter enemies have recently begun exchanging public compliments and friendly trade delegations, will even exchange ambassadors in January in a full resumption of diplomatic relations.

At a time when the U.S. and other Western nations are washing their hands of Indonesia's erratic strongman, Sukarno, the alliance is clearly a case of economic necessity rather than natural affinity. Both countries have been hurt by the disruption of their once strong economic ties, and both have had to swallow national pride in an attempt to mend them.

Traditional Role. To stimulate Indonesia's economy, nearly wrecked by Sukarno's mismanagement and the withdrawal of Dutch trade, The Netherlands recently granted Indonesia $27.4 million in credits for 1965, will probably extend at least as much again in 1966.

The Dutch treat will be used to rebuild Indonesia's Dutch-equipped railway system and sugar and tin industries—crippled when the flow of replacement parts from The Netherlands was halted—and to expand and improve inadequate port and airport facilities.

Indonesia has responded with a $10.5 million order for trucks and buses from DAF, the Dutch automaker, and a $22 million contract for Verolme United Shipyards to construct Indonesian port facilities. Meantime, The Netherlands is again assuming its traditional role as Indonesia's marketplace.

In the first nine months of 1964, Indonesia exported $56 million worth of tin, oil, rubber and other resources to The Netherlands, compared with only $15 million worth during all of 1963.

No Hard Feelings. Many obstacles remain to the full resumption of Dutch-Indonesian trade because, as one Dutch businessman puts it, "You cannot pluck feathers from a frog." Yet the Dutch recognize Indonesia's great trade potential and seem determined to play as large a role in restoring trade as Sukarno will allow. KLM has resumed twice-weekly flights to Djakarta. Djakarta's once large Dutch community, depleted when 200,000 Dutch left Indonesia in 1958, is growing again. Dutch newspapers and candies have reappeared in major Indonesian cities, and Djakarta radio recently played the Dutch national anthem to emphasize that no hard feelings remained. The music will have to get awfully loud, however, before Dutch businessmen forget Sukarno's expropriation of Dutch property—to the tune of $1 billion.