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SINCE the ninth meeting of the Atlantic Pact nations in Lisbon in February last, Portugal, the little seaboard country that looks out across the Atlantic toward the Americas, has developed a community consciousness which is the mark of her absorption into the common defense of Western civilization.
Portugal is lacking in heavy industry and is not in a position to contribute to the common cause on a large scale with raw materials and troops. Fully mobilized, her Army numbers 700,000 men, now rapidly being equipped with modern American and British matériel. Her Air Force is small and in the event of war seems destined to be used more for scouting and Atlantic rescue work than for combat. Her Navy comprises about 60 vessels, counting training ships, hydrographic ships and patrol boats; but it does not include a cruiser, battleship or aircraft carrier. Experts say that the Portuguese Navy is at least ten units below desirable strength, and although sloops, destroyers and submarines now regularly exercise with the other Pact fleets off the Atlantic coast, no program has yet been set in motion to remedy this deficiency.
Portugal's neutrality during the last war, and the loan of her Azores bases to the Allies within the framework of the 600-year-old Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, showed that her adjacent islands are of immense strategic value in warfare in the Atlantic. Last year the United States concluded an agreement with Portugal for the use of the full facilities of these bases in peace and war. The agreement also provided that the same facilities should be extended to Great Britain in the case of war, and that American officers should train Portuguese personnel at the Lajens air base.
With the threat to world peace coming from the East, all of Portugal's vast overseas Empire assumes importance. Her overseas possessions--East and West--cover some 2,170,276 square kilometers. Their coastlines, not including those of the adjacent islands, stretch along 5,534 kilometers of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans or of other Asiatic seaboard. They vary in size from the vast 1,246,700 square kilometer tract of Angola in Africa to tiny Macao, 16 kilometers square, on the coast of China.
The strategic significance of the Azores hardly needs emphasis. The Cape Verde Islands, which hold the key to the southern part of the Atlantic, are no less important as bases, lying as they do off the French West African coast, and on the air route to the South Americas. The large airport on Sal Island is already the nucleus of what may become a strategic wartime base.
Angola and Guinea, with 1,816 kilometers of coastline on the Atlantic, may be regarded as an integral part of Atlantic defense. They also offer a vital outlet to the inland territories of Africa. Angola is an important source of foodstuffs and raw materials, producing sugar, cotton, rice, coffee, maize, sisal and vegetable oils, among other crops, as well as asphalt, copper, commercial and other diamonds, mica and manganese. Although not a natural market for the United States, wartime needs and the tremendous development undertaken by Portugal since 1945 have raised America's trade with Angola from 396,000 escudos in 1930 to 139,316,000 escudos in 1951.
The E.C.A. has allocated $663,000 for a refrigerated storage plant to aid cattle-raising in Angola, and a Mutual Security Agency survey has recommended a further appropriation of $178,000, with an additional $42,000 in local currency, for technical assistance in engineering and agriculture. The research would be done in conjunction with Portuguese experts, on the lines of surveys already undertaken in various other territories. Private American capital has also gone into intensive prospecting for petroleum.
Angola is bounded on the north by French Equatorial Africa and the Belgian Congo, on the east by the Congo and Northern Rhodesia, on the south by the mandated territory of South-West Africa. Its Atlantic coastline offers at least three splendid natural harbors--Luanda, Lobito and Mossâmedes. These ports are terminals of railway networks which provide vital outlets for the raw materials of the inland territories--from the Belgian Congo via the River Congo, and from the Rhodesias.
E.C.A. has also granted $1,037,000 for the development and equipment of airports in Angola, and the most important one, Luanda, is being prepared to handle the biggest four-engined planes. In order to prepare Angola for efficient help in time of war, however, more aid is needed. The Malange railway needs to be carried to a junction with the Belgian Congo line, so that there will be direct rail transit from the Belgian Congo to the Atlantic coast. The Mossâmedes Railway to Rhodesia also needs to be extended and the ports of Luanda, Lobito and Mossâmedes should be enlarged. A recommendation has been made by the Mutual Security Agency commission for improving Mossâmedes, and a scheme for developing Lobito is under study. It must be borne in mind, however, that such surveys--into which the United States has put $1,300,000--are a matter of long-term development, and their results cannot be seen for eight or ten years. It is, therefore, the policy of the Portuguese Government to concentrate on carrying out the plans already adopted, while awaiting the general reports.
In the east, Portugal has four blocks of overseas territory--Mozambique, the largest, with more than 771,000 square kilometers on the east coast of Africa; Timor, off the northern coast of Australia; the two small enclaves of Portuguese India on the Indian continent; and Macao, facing Hong Kong, on the Chinese coast.
Mozambique is a rich land, with excellent ports facing the Indian Ocean and, across the Mozambique Channel, the island of Madagascar. It is bounded on the north by Tanganyika, on the west by the British Protectorate of Nyasaland, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, the province of Transvaal of the Union of South Africa, and the British Protectorate of Swaziland. To the south lies the South African province of Natal. Like Angola, it has both agricultural and mineral resources. Recent surveys made by the Mutual Security Agency technicians in conjunction with Portuguese experts have shown that the soil can be immensely improved with the help of irrigation schemes made possible by hydraulic power stations, whose financing has been recommended by the American mission. The colony's minerals include iron, coal, mica, graphite and beryllium, an important metal for hardening alloys used at high temperature in jet engines and now being exported to Great Britain. There is also uranium.
The interest of E.C.A. in Mozambique's potentialities resulted in a grant of $24,000 for agricultural machinery for the sugar industry, and another grant for electrical equipment for three large airports. Other Marshall Aid has gone into the reëquipment and reconstruction of installations at the important port of Beira, which the Portuguese Government purchased from British owners in 1948. The Beira Railway and port form the only outlet to the eastern coast for the Rhodesias at present. The E.C.A. has granted $950,000 and 4,250,000 florins for immediate use in the improvement of the port and purchase of rolling stock for the railway. Work already done had raised the international traffic turnover of the port to 1,292,335 tons in 1949 and 2,230,048 in 1951. The port of Lourenço Marques is also one of the important outlets for the inland territories, and in 1950 exported more than 2,000,000 tons of South African goods. If access to the Suez Canal were denied the Western Powers in another world war, as is possible in view of the situation in the Near East, and sea traffic had to be diverted around Africa, the Mozambique Channel would assume a new importance. The Mozambique ports of Beira, Lourenço Marques and Nacala would be invaluable bases for the protection of convoys, and for combating submarine warfare waged from southern Asia.
The chief political uncertainty in Mozambique stems from the growing strength of Islamism there. The population is predominantly Roman Catholic, but there also are some 800,000 native Moslems. The Archbishop of Lourenço Marques, Cardinal Dom Teodosio Clemente de Gouveia, recently called attention to the increasing number of natives who were embracing the Moslem faith, which is both a political and religious doctrine. He pointed out that both Indian and Arabian Moslem propagandists teach Swahili to the natives, this forming a common language all along the east coast of Africa. One of the factors feared by the Portuguese as disruptive is the return of large numbers of natives who have worked in the mines on territories under other sovereignties. These they suspect of contact with ideologies opposed to those of the Portuguese regime. There is, however, no color problem, in the customary sense, in Mozambique or other Portuguese colonies. In the Portuguese overseas territories the natives live and work side by side with the whites as Portuguese citizens, absorbing Western culture gradually and without being hurried toward an independence for which their government does not consider them yet to be fitted. Native education is largely in the hands of the Catholic Church. Four years ago, however, a decree was promulgated by which state schools were established in Angola and Mozambique to teach senior pupils the rudiments of hygiene, agriculture and administration, and to prepare them to undertake responsibility side by side with the whites. The decree stressed that the social evolution of the native populations should be "without violence or shock." In so far as possible the "jazz age" is being kept out of Portuguese Africa. No such racial situation as exists in the neighboring Union of South Africa, for instance, is conceivable in Mozambique, and there is little or no Communism.
Problems in Portuguese India and Macao are reflections of the geographical positions of these territories, contiguous to India and China. Portuguese India consists of Goa, the first colony conquered in India, in 1510, and several very small islands and adjacent enclaves, of which Diu and Damao are the best known. Together they occupy a total area of 3,983 square kilometers, and of this area Goa itself, with its capital city of Panjim on the Gulf of Cambay, accounts for all but a few hundred. Portuguese India has no airfield, but plans are under way to build and equip one capable of taking the largest modern transport planes, thus enabling travelers to Bombay, some 300 miles distant, to avoid a 24-hour train trip or 20-day journey by sea. Mormugão, the only port, is small but is in a strategic position on the Indian Ocean. Goa's garrison is 4,000 men, equipped with modern weapons, under white officers. Under Portuguese sovereignty every Goanese is a Portuguese citizen, and the small community, unified by its prevailing Roman Catholicism--it is the seat of the Patriarchate of the Indies, under a white Head of the Church--seems indeed a peaceful oasis in the vast and agitated continent of India (as it was described recently by the Portuguese Overseas Minister, Commander Sarmento Rodrigues). Although the balance of imports over exports is computed at about five to two, the little colony is prosperous. The production of manganese is nearing 100,000 tons a year, all of which is sought by Japan, along with Goa's output of iron. The colony is also now in a position to export rice to India. Though there is always a possibility of the spread of Communism across the frontier, Portuguese administrators do not feel that there is much likelihood that it can take root, partly because of the flourishing condition of the country and also because of the pride of the inhabitants in their Portuguese citizenship.
The repeated demand that Goa be integrated in the Republic of India is, of course, a serious matter to Portugal, even though the Indian Government has affirmed that it has no desire to enforce this wish by other than peaceful methods. That an economic blockade of Goa might be included under the head of "peaceful" persuasion is a contingency which Portugal does not overlook; but the policy of her government is to entertain as friendly relations as possible with India, and to "wait and see." Any direct attack by armed force against Portuguese India might set into motion the provision under the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance by which Britain promises to aid Portugal in case of any attack against her sovereignty, as well as the machinery of the United Nations.
The position of the little colony of Macao, on the edge of Communist China, is somewhat similar to that of Portuguese India, but much more precarious. Although Macao does not recognize the Communist Government of China, it depends upon Red China for its food supplies. An Overseas Ministry spokesman has described the Macao Government as a "diplomatic corps" striving to maintain the present peaceful relations with its turbulent neighbor. Yet Macao is under an anti-Communist régime, and the overwhelming might of Red China is an immediate threat to it. Indeed, a series of border clashes took place at the end of July 1952, with casualties. Whether or not it will be overrun probably depends simply upon whether Red China calculates that such aggression would accrue to its advantage.
Macao has retained its integrity through four centuries. It was to this colony that early Christians fled from persecution in the East. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries foreign traders from Canton made their homes there, and Protestant missionaries studied and worked in peace in Macao while knocking on China's door with their message. When China was invaded by Japan in 1937, tens of thousands of refugees swept into neutral Macao from the stricken land; the hungry were fed, the wounded cared for, the orphans housed. During the last world war, Macao was the only Far Eastern territory that was not overrun by the Japanese, and it continued its traditional task of tending the needy; during the years from 1941 to 1945, the population was swollen from 200,000 to some 500,000.
From the military point of view, Macao has little value. Its only port cannot admit vessels of more than 2,000 tons, and its garrison is for policing purposes only. In case of conflict it would constitute an observation post as in the past: but the chances that Macao would retain freedom from Communist domination in any future world conflict do not seem great.
Finally, more than half of the island of Timor, 350 kilometers from the continent of Australia, is among Portugal's Far Eastern territories. The smaller part of the island, which was formerly under Dutch rule, has been under the sovereignty of Indonesia since December 1949. Overrun by the Japanese, who planned to use it as a jumping-off base for the conquest of Australia, Timor was a devastated and ruined land at the end of the war. The Portuguese Government immediately set to work to reclaim its area, and the work of reconstruction and development, carried on entirely without E.C.A. aid, has given the colony a new lease of life. The port of Dili has been equipped for the bunkering of naval units, and the airport of Bancau on the eastern side of the territory can already be used by four-engined planes. Other airports dotted over the area furnish landing fields for smaller planes. Timor's usefulness to Australia in the event of air attack is apparent.
Even so brief a survey as this of Portugal's Empire will have made plain the strategic value to the West of the defense rampart formed by these farflung lines. A primary characteristic of the present world situation is that whatever promises to make Communist aggression unrewarding helps to maintain peace. Given peace, these territories can, in addition, prove an increasing source of welcome supplies of food and industrial material for the commerce of the world.