Recent commentary on India–Australia relations has defined the relationship as ‘natural’ and based on ‘shared values’ and ‘shared history’. The relationship has simultaneously been considered ‘neglected’. The paradoxical juxtaposition of a natural/neglected partnership is yet to be adequately explained. We consider the historical construction of liberalism in both states as a facet of state identity to argue that, far from creating a natural relationship, differing liberal identities have served to keep these two states apart. This is illustrated through case studies of divergent opinions over the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and the rise of China.