Back in 1967, the Australian National University held a conference on the theme, India, Japan, Australia: Partners in Asia? It was an interesting time to host such a gathering. That year witnessed a series of events with long-lasting consequences. In the throes of the Cultural Revolution, China was stoking tension with the Soviets, upping aid to North Vietnam, and flexing muscle with a hydrogen bomb test. The United States was ratcheting up military action in Indochina. The United Kingdom began closing bases East of Suez and the Soviets were preparing for their first naval foray into the Indian Ocean. Japan replaced Britain as Australia’s biggest trading partner, Suharto came to power in Jakarta, and ASEAN was founded in Bangkok.
Back in Canberra, the conference delegates agreed on the challenges their countries faced. ‘Most participants’, their host J. D. B. Miller observed, thought ‘the future in would be determined by how China behaved, and how others behaved towards China’. They were also concerned about Washington’s actions in the region and about how to secure lasting economic growth.
The delegates differed, however, in their worldviews, which shaped their perceptions of how to tackle those challenges. Among the nonaligned Indians, suspicion of the West and sympathy for socialism was clear, distancing them from the Australians and Japanese. Among the Japanese, pacifism loomed large, as did the promise of using its growing economic power to pacify the region. And among the Australians, wrestling with the legacy of Menzies, shifting views were evident, as the groundwork was laid for the major changes to foreign and defence policy in the early 1970s.
Read the full “The Australia–India–Japan trilateral: converging interests… and converging perceptions?” article by Griffith Asia Institute Acting Director and Centre for Governance and Public Policy Professor, Ian Hall, in The Strategist (ASPI).