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A new vision for Australia-India relations December 4, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Sourabh Gupta

Australia and India have not always been the best of friends. Seven Indian prime ministers from across the political spectrum and spanning three decades have come and gone without paying a state visit to Canberra, a record broken only now with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Australia following the Brisbane G20 Summit. Four unreciprocated visits were made by Australian prime ministers during the latter half of this period. Australia’s strategic discovery of a ‘shared values’ partner in India too has been a near-term development. The Coalition government under John Howard did not deem relations with New Delhi to be a significant interest, let alone a significant bilateral relationship, in its first Foreign and Trade Policy White Paper in 1997.


SAM recommends May 22, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, South Asia Masala Recommends , comments closed

David Brewster, visiting fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University, examines the geopolitics of the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, the role of India and Australia, and implications for regional cooperation in Indian Ocean maritime security.

‘The geopolitics of flight MH370′, by David Brewster. Pragati, 2 May 2014.

David Brewster is the author of a new book, India’s Ocean: the story of India’s bid for regional leadership.

New book: Re-thinking India: Perceptions from Australia January 28, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, News , comments closed

Re-thinking India: Perceptions from Australia

Edited by Lance Brennan and Auriol Weigold

New Delhi: Readworthy Publications, 2013. (Australia-India Interdisciplinary Research Series –  4)

Dating from the early nineteenth century, the ties between India and Australia were initially in trade and then, as parts of the British Empire, together playing a significant role in both World Wars. Since Indian independence there has been a developing relationship, recently expressed in the IOR-ARC (Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation) where Australia succeeded India as Chair in 2013. Cooperation continues on initiatives from security and environmental issues, to energy and education. The breadth of interests covered by the collected essays reflects the diverse concerns of Australian academics with an interest in India. The essays range from discussions of India’s diplomatic relationships and energy strategy to analyses of communalism and the strength of village elites and on to considerations of the fundamentals of Hinduism.

The contributors come from equally wide backgrounds, reflecting the complexion of Australian academia: Giovanni Arca, Jayant Bhalchandra Bapat, Mohammad Harunur Rashid Bhuyan, Tathagata Chatterji, Ian Copland, Gigi Ifergan, Christopher Kremmer, P.R. Kumaraswamy, Peter Mayer, Sanjay Ranade, Rizwana Shamshad, R.F.I. Smith, Christopher Snedden, Sneha Subhedar, Marika Vicziany, Auriol Weigold. Many of the papers in this collection, including some by postgraduate students, were first given at the Asian Studies Association of Australia’s conference held in 2012 at the University of Western Sydney. Other scholars generously contributed work on their current research. (more…)

Defence Minister Johnston and Australia’s role in Pakistan September 27, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Afghanistan, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

As we wind down in Afghanistan after a twelve-year war, new Defence Minister David Johnston reportedly says we need to keep our counter-insurgency skills honed, including for possible use in Pakistan (SMH, 21 September 2013).

Mr Johnston and his advisers need to think such statements through. Does he mean a limited role in advising Pakistan on counter-insurgency or does he envision a more robust involvement in maintaining stability? Either way, there is no useful role for Australia, either singly or in concert with its friends and allies.

Pakistan is both a supporter of the insurgency in Afghanistan and involved in counter-insurgency against groups like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) within Pakistan.

In the former role, the Pakistani military and its intelligence service, the ISI, support Afghan anti-government groups like the Haqqani network and harbour the Taliban leadership in Quetta. US intelligence believes the Haqqani network, with support from the ISI, was involved in the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008, in which 58 died. The network also allegedly killed the Karzai government’s chief peace envoy, Burhanuddin Rabbani.


Lost and at sea: the asylum-seeker debate in Australia August 14, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Roberts, Michael, Sri Lanka , comments closed

Michael Roberts

Electoral politics have swamped the debate on irregular migrants, the ‘boat-people’ that is, in Australia. There is no change of consequence in the contents of the debate, however. Rudd, Abbott, the Greens and letters to the editors of major newspapers continue to present many of the old shibboleths and oversimplifications that have skewed discussions of this issue for years. The motifs that appear again and again in most quarters also suffer from misinformation, exaggeration and fabrication, and ideological blinkers.

A self-evident fact is often glossed over: migration in modern times, whether legal, humanitarian or irregular, is a complex phenomenon. Given the diverse lands from which migrants have departed  for Australia, it follows that one must attend to regional differentiation in speaking about this topic. Yet sweeping generalizations are continuously voiced – not only by politicians and human rights lawyers, but also by concerned citizens of compassionate heart and, on the other side, by instranigent opponents to ‘illegal immigrants’.


The great Hindi debate May 23, 2013

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Alexandra Hansen

A public call for submissions into the Government’s Australia in the Asian Century country strategies turned into a debate on whether a focus on Asian languages was necessary for improving relations between Australia and our five priority Asian partners. Constituents from the Higher Education sector called for a focus on key Asian languages; Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Indonesian, and Korean, saying it’s impossible to do business with Asia or understand their culture if we don’t speak the same language.


Cricket is all that matters: symbolism in the Australia-India relationship November 9, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : India, Patil, Tejaswini , comments closed

Tejaswini Patil

The decision by Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her recent visit to India to award the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) to Sachin Tendulkar can be traced to the historical and cultural underpinnings of colonialism. The decision has been met with cautious scepticism in various quarters of the Australian media. Indian newspapers basked in the glory and pointedly noted Australian newspapers had criticised the award. Prime Minister Gillard had three underlying themes: extending economic cooperation between Australia and India, changing the military partnership with the selling of uranium to India, and employing cricket to unite the ties between the countries. Clearly, the decision to grant a cricket icon an OAM is worthy in and of itself, but does the Gillard government seriously think that Sachin Tendulkar has contributed to the fostering of better understanding between the two democracies?

Cricket, a game of colonial legacy, acts as a common thread that connects the social and political histories of Australia and India. The game provides an interesting metaphor for the way the recent relationship between the two countries has evolved.


The right way forward August 13, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Amitabh Mattoo and Ashok Malik

As flanking States in the eastern Indian Ocean, India and Australia are critical to this emerging arena of geopolitics. Fellow democracies with shared values, concerns and interests, they should have strong synergies. Yet, somehow the strategic outcomes have been sub-optimal. To examine why – and make appropriate recommendations – the Australia India Institute (AII), University of Melbourne, put together a six-member bilateral Taskforce on Perceptions nine months ago. Its report, titled ‘Beyond the Lost Decade’, was released by the Indian high commissioner in Sydney recently, and points to a piquant paradox. Australia and India have more in common than many other countries – but these commonalities themselves tend to inhibit how the two societies see each other.

Cricket, the Commonwealth and the English language, the report says, have proved both a blessing and a bane. In its own way, each framework has hindered either country’s perception. In admiring Australia’s cricket team, Indians are exposed to its sporting ethic, but also to the one national institution that is perhaps least reflective of the multiculturalism and ethnic diversity of contemporary Australia. This leaves many Indians innocent of just how integrated Australia is with Southeast Asia today. To extend the analogy, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) is itself unsure as to where Australia fits in with the Asian strategic calculus.


Australia’s view of modern India ‘outdated’ April 23, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Guest authors, India , comments closed

Richard Iles, Griffith University

Indian life becomes a sluggish stream, living in the past, moving slowly through the accumulation of dead centuries—Pandit Nehru, The discovery of India (1946).

Australia needs to better understand Indian business thinking. Outdated and narrow images of India abound. However, in the world of economic thought and business practice India is dynamic, hard-edged and likely to be the source of renewed economic thought.

However, Australian business and social views of India are sluggish, not having deepened for several decades. This neglect represents decay in real terms. India has developed rapidly over the past two decades, with many other developed countries strongly investing in their relationship with India during this time.

Department of Business Management, University of Calcutta

Australian research activity focused on India, as surveyed by the Australia–India Institute (University of Melbourne), has declined steadily over several decades. The knowledge base from which the Australian business community, students and the wider community can draw to assist their investment in India has withered.


India and Australia: The end of estrangement? April 4, 2012

Posted by nishankmotwani in : India, Kumar, Vikas , comments closed

Vikas Kumar

Reprinted from Clingendael Asia Forum at the Clingendael Asia Studies, 9 December 2011. Read the full story.

On the eve of the visit of US President Barack Obama, Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard declared that Australia is willing to reconsider its ban on uranium exports to India. The ban is widely believed to be a major obstacle to a stronger India—Australia relationship, which has so far remained weak despite numerous, and shared maritime security concerns. While estrangement during the Cold War was understandable, Australia’s and India’s subsequent inability to forge a closer relationship is not. Gillard’s latest move is being seen as a game changer that will end strategic discrimination against India and signal Australia’s willingness to shed its Cold War blinkers and come to terms with the end of India’s nuclear isolation. It is unfair, however, to expect a dramatic improvement in the India-Australia relationship as a consequence of lifting the ban.