RISING POWER AND CHANGING PEOPLE: The Australian High Commission in India.

Date01 July 2023
AuthorJessep, Suzannah

RISING POWER AND CHANGING PEOPLE: The Australian High Commission in India

Editors: David Lowe and Eric Meadows Published by: Australian National University Press, Canberra, 2022, 266pp, open access press.

India is a country that has often confounded Western observers. There is a familiarity, for countries such as Australia and New Zealand, borne out of our shared histories as British colonies, use of the English language, democratic systems, membership of the Commonwealth and close social connections forged by the many thousands of Indians who have migrated to the Antipodes and call it home.

At the same time, post-independence India--through its non-aligned movement and protective trade stance--has appeared to eschew opportunities for the kind of deeper strategic alignment and economic integration that countries such as Australia and New Zealand have sought with partners across Asia. For this reason, understanding the drivers of Indian foreign policy and why India has taken the road it has has largely been the preserve of diplomats and a small handful of committed academics. Rising Power and Changing People: The Australian High Commission in India opens the door to this world and provides a fascinating and very readable account of the sporadic and complex but nonetheless prodigious rise of the Australia-India relationship from pre-independence India in the 1940s through to the 2020s and elevation of the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Drawing on diplomatic reporting archives, books, diary entries, speeches, interviews and personal anecdotes, Rising Power and Changing People charts the deployment and progress made by various Australian high commissioners and their staff stationed in India, examining the different skills, attributes and interests each brought to the role and the ways they sought to progress relations--sometimes with ease, but for the most part trying to bridge different worldviews and, at times, navigate opposing policy from Canberra.

Written by academics, diplomats and former politicians, the book teaches us how India and Australia each balance the demands and ambitions of their capitals against the ground realities of a new and fiercely independent India and an Australia still working to shake off its colonial past and position itself as a valuable and influential middle power in Asia.

In the first chapter, titled 'Creating the Diplomatic Relationship', Eric Meadows recounts how Australia's first ever...

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