The Linggadjati Agreement was agreed upon by a Dutch delegation and representatives of the Republic of Indonesia on November 12, 1946, in the hill station Linggadjati (Linggarjati) near Ceribon on Java. The agreement was signed in Batavia (Jakarta) on March 25, 1947.
Dutch authorities returning to the Dutch East Indies after World War II (1939–1945) soon realized they were not in a position to restore Dutch authority on Java and Sumatra, which was controlled by the Republic of Indonesia. This Republic had proclaimed its independence on August 17, 1945. Lieutenant Governor-General H. J. van Mook (1894–1965), the highest-ranking Dutch administrator in the East, realized that negotiations with Sukarno (1901–1970), president of the Indonesian Republic, were inevitable. However, the Dutch government in the Netherlands, together with most Dutch political parties, was reluctant to talk to Sukarno, especially given his pro-Japanese stance during the war.
Under strong British pressure, the Dutch reluctantly started negotiations with the Republic of Indonesia. Van Mook studied events in French Indochina to find a solution for the Dutch problems in Indonesia. He wanted to recognize the Republic of Indonesia as having de facto authority over Java and Sumatra in exchange for the willingness from the Indonesian side to accept a federal Indonesian state that would be a partner with the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Within the federal Indonesian state the Dutch would at least control Borneo (Kalimantan) and the eastern part of the archipelago. The model for this proposal was the Fédération Indochinoise (Indochina Federation) and the Union Française (French Union), which were designed to maintain French control over Vietnam.
After the Dutch elections of May 1946, the newly formed Dutch coalition government decided to establish a "commission-general" in order to start negotiations with the Republic of Indonesia. The members of this commission-general were former prime minister Wim Schermerhorn (1894–1977), Max van Poll (1881–1948), and Feike de Boer (1892–1976). Their assignment was to adapt the constitutional arrangements for the Dutch East Indies to postwar realities without giving up the Dutch imperial mission.
The commission-general left for Indonesia in November 1946 and started negotiations with a delegation of the Republic of Indonesia, which included Sukarno and Sutan Sjahrir (1909–1966), in Linggadjati. Difficult and long negotiations followed on the future relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia. In the end, van Mook laid down a compromise in which the "United States of Indonesia" would become a "sovereign and democratic state" within a Dutch-Indonesian Union, which would concentrate on economic and cultural cooperation. The United States of Indonesia would have three states: the Republic of Indonesia, East-Indonesia, and Borneo. The Dutch would recognize the Indonesian Republic as having all authority on Java and Sumatra.
Sukarno accepted this compromise in order to avoid a long and difficult armed struggle against the Netherlands and, with the knowledge of his Republic, would control the vast majority of the population of Indonesia and would therefore soon control the United States of Indonesia. The Dutch commission-general accepted the compromise because a possible war was avoided and a close future relationship between the Netherlands and Indonesia seemed to be assured.
In the Netherlands, conservative forces strongly opposed the Linggadjati Agreement. The commission-general seemed to have "given away" the Dutch East Indies to an irresponsible and unreliable group of Indonesian nationalists. The Dutch government decided to amend and to interpret the agreement in order to assure the Netherlands a reasonable future influence in Indonesia. The Dutch minister for overseas territories, J. A. Jonkman (1891–1976), issued a statement in parliament in which the Linggadjati Agreement was called merely a basis for further discussions and Dutch overseas ambitions were reasserted. The Social-Democratic Party and the Catholic Party proposed a motion that made clear that the future United States of Indonesia would be a part of a sovereign Dutch-Indonesian Union. Parliament passed this motion, by which the Netherlands definitely gave a new interpretation to the Linggadjati Agreement—without changing the precise words of the agreement itself.
Within the Republic of Indonesia, Sukarno faced his own problems in gaining support for the Linggadjati Agreement. Radical elements within Indonesia were supported by the leader of the army, General Sudirman (1915–1950), in opposing the agreement, which did not bring immediate and full independence to Indonesia. However, Sukarno succeeded in convincing the Indonesian Parliament that the Linggadjati Agreement was a stepping stone toward full independence. On March 5, 1947, the parliament accepted the agreement, but only with the explicit understanding that the Indonesian government should work toward the "liberation" of Borneo and East-Indonesia by making these areas a part of the Indonesian Republic "as soon as possible."
On March 25 the Linggadjati Agreement was finally signed by the Netherlands and Indonesia in the Rijswijk Palace in Jakarta. In reality, two different agreements were signed. The Dutch signed the agreement as interpreted by the Dutch government and the Dutch Parliament, which meant they agreed on forming a sovereign and powerful Dutch-Indonesian Union in which the United States of Indonesia and the Republic of Indonesia only played a minor role. The Indonesians signed the agreement in its more original form, accepting only a symbolic Dutch-Indonesian Union and wanting a fully sovereign United States of Indonesia in which the Republic of Indonesia would play a dominant role.
This fundamental difference of opinion on the future of Indonesia could not be bridged in the months following the signing of the Linggadjati Agreement. Finally, the Dutch government decided in June 1947 to fight a war against the Republic of Indonesia, hoping "moderate" Indonesians would grasp the opportunity to take over power in the Republic. The Dutch failed to understand that "moderate" Indonesians also desired full independence. In December 1948 a second war followed, after which international pressure, military failure, and the loss of political influence in Indonesia made the Dutch accept the independence of Indonesia along the lines of the original Linggadjati Agreement.
In December 1949 the United States of Indonesia was formed. The new country was linked with the Netherlands through a symbolic Dutch-Indonesian Union. This political construction only lasted for a few years: the United States of Indonesia was soon replaced by a unitary Republic of Indonesia. Indonesia left the Dutch-Indonesian Union in 1954.
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