A Shared History? Postcolonial Identity and India-Australia Relations, 1947-1955

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This article challenges the validity of recent suggestions that shared history underpins India-Australia relations through an historical analysis of little-known diplomats who worked for the Indian High Commission in Australia and the Australian High Commission in India immediately after Indian independence. Based on largely unexplored archival material from India, Australia, and Canada, it argues that Australia’s racialized identity, as expressed through the White Australia policy, thoroughly shaped Indian perceptions of Australia. While Indian policy makers never officially voiced their distaste for White Australia, Indian diplomats put their efforts into reshaping the image of India in Australia through travel and personal contacts as part of an effort to educate Australia about India. Likewise, Australia’s colonial identity led it to see India and Indian foreign policy as “irrational” due to its emphasis on racial discrimination and decolonization. It is argued that, far from underpinning the relationship, colonial histories and subsequent postcolonial identities have played an important role in fracturing India-Australia relations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)849-870
JournalPacific Affairs
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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