BOOKS: by Sharif Shuja (reviewer)News Weekly
Non-Alignment and Peace versus Military Alignment and War
, December 4, 2004
The importance of IndiaNON-ALIGNMENT AND PEACE versus Military Alignment and War
By Nihal Henry Kuruppu
New Delhi: Academic Foundation, Hardback. Rec. price: US$39.95
(Available only from publisher: www.academicfoundation.com/n_detail/nihal.asp
)At the dawn of the new millennium, Australia is at the crossroads seeking to redefine its identity. Its traditional commitment to the Western alliance system and its growing desire to identify itself with the Asia-Pacific have placed the island continent in a bind.
Overarching these objectives are the forces of globalisation that impinge on past norms of geography and politics and prompt Australia to revise its policies and postures. At this critical juncture, Australia has yet to define its true place in the community of nations.
Australia has attracted the attention of a number of countries, including, importantly, India. In today's rapidly changing international environment, it is in India's interest to discover areas of potential engagement with countries where there are prospects of a mutually beneficial relationship.
Australia now figures importantly in India. The improvement of Indo-Australian relations dates back to when Whitlam came to power in 1972.
Dr Nihal Henry Kuruppu's book traces the development of bilateral relationship between India and Australia during the period 1947 to 1975. It examines the changing nature and character of the relationship between these two countries, and the reasons for the peaks and troughs which characterised the relationship.
The author has provided a clear, empirically-grounded study, leaving any overtly normative evaluations for the conclusion. The narrative is divided into seven chapters, and examines in detail the relationships between Menzies and Nehru, as well as between Whitlam and Mrs Indira Gandhi.
India and Australia adopted different foreign policy strategies during the Cold War. India chose non-alignment, while Australia opted for close alignment with Britain and America.
In the foreword, political commentator Max Teichmann emphasises that, "despite disagreements on the part of India and Australia on some international issues, the core relationship of amity has remained unchanged due largely to mutual goodwill and some deft political leadership, especially on the part of Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Gough Whitlam."
Dr Kuruppu argues that Australia's regional interests and strategic objectives, dictated by the Cold War imperatives of the Menzies era, largely continued until the arrival of the Whitlam Government at the end of 1972.
It then became the turning-point for the bilateral relationship (p. 332). Organisations such as the Australia-India Council, Australia-India Business Council and the Indian Ocean Centre for Peace Studies started to become more active.
The general feeling is that India would like to have closer relations with Australia. In India's view, Australia's regional pre-eminence - in size, centrality, economic potential and defence capability - is a positive factor that would help consolidate future Indo-Australia relations.
In his conclusion the author, however, states that "maintenance of a strong and sustainable bilateral relationship requires continuing focus on education and understanding on both sides, and a framework that transcends the particular political ideology of incumbent governments in Canberra and New Delhi of the future" (p. 336).
This study is important because it is a rare attempt to look systematically at the causal relationships between these two countries and because it raises many important questions in an analytical way.
It is a very useful book for students and research scholars and will make a valuable contribution to knowledge of international relations during the Cold War period. It is well written and is also relatively free of jargon.