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289 Minute from Shaw to Arnott

Canberra, 24 December 1954

Mr. B.K. Rank, who will leave to do a Colombo Plan job in plastic surgery in India and Ceylon on 24th January would like some general information material. Would you send him please, as soon as possible, such things as our statement on how we answer queries about the 'White Australia Policy', our latest report on the Australian effort under the Colombo Plan, any information pamphlets we may have on general conditions in India and Ceylon.

In addition, would you please have drafted outlines for talks Rank may give to local civilian bodies on the subject of Australia and India, Australian aid to South and South East Asia, etc. The bare outlines for two 20 minutes' talks should help him.



Some points which might be introduced into talks to students or other lay audiences.

1. Mutual interest and knowledge between India and Australia have grown greatly in recent years. Even before independence, Australians were gradually awakening to the coming importance of India in the world. The greatest single factor in projecting India to the world, including Australia, was undoubtedly Mahatma Gandhi.1

2. Australia demonstrated her awareness of 'the shape of things to come' by establishing a High Commission in New Delhi in 1944–three years before independence. Australia was the first overseas country to establish diplomatic relations with India, with the exception of China, whose wartime mission was retained.

3. When the Indian Constitution was being formulated, its makers looked to other countries, to study their constitutions and to draw on their experience. Australia was among these countries, and was proud in this way to be one of the 'contributors' to the Constitution of independent India.

4. Since independence, Australia has been glad to give what assistance she can, and to co-operate with India. Most notable means is the Colombo Plan–the means by which I personally have been enabled to contribute something to your country, your doctors and your people. I am grateful that the Colombo Plan has afforded me this most welcome opportunity, which otherwise I could never have hoped for.

5. The relationship between our countries is demonstrated also by the sending of relief, in both directions, in times of national disaster–earthquakes and floods. Such assistance is necessarily on a small, symbolic scale, but it shows the development of a good neighbourly feeling.

6. Apart from the Colombo Plan, the growing number of Indian students coming to Australia is tending to draw us closer together, and there is a noticeable increase in mutual knowledge. Indians have, by circumstances of history, a much greater knowledge and appreciation of our Western culture than we have of yours. But already Australians are beginning to show a marked curiosity in this sphere. I predict that within a few years the study of Indian and other Asian cultures will be established on quite a firm footing in Australian universities.

7. Despite the differences in our cultural and religious heritages, the Australian visitor to India immediately finds himself surrounded by so much that is familiar. Firstly, there is the great and widespread command of the English language. There are Indian daily papers of as high a standard as any in the English-speaking world. There are great numbers of Indian authors and scholars writing fine English literature–which in no sense runs counter to the proper aim of nurturing your indigenous languages and literatures. Indeed, we Australians (whatever criticism may be levelled against us) may regard Indians as ranged alongside the Americans and ourselves in contributing much to the vitality and the universality of the English language today.

8. Your principles and practices of government, your rule of law, your respect for freedom of belief and speech and for the democratic processes–all these things strike the visiting Australian with a heart-warming familiarity. Finally, the warm personal friendship extended to me–and evidently to so many of my fellow-Australians–by the Indian people convinces me that the contact developing between our countries is not merely one of academic interest or expediency. It is a genuine friendship of good neighbours, based on a common acceptance of certain aims and principles, even though our views on all individual matters do not necessarily have to coincide.

9. We have also certain problems in common. Both our countries have to overcome vast distances by modern forms of communication. There are problems of irrigation, flood-control, erosion, soil fertility. These we must attack scientifically, and we can learn from one another. We can learn much from your irrigation works and your great multi-purpose projects. But there is one admittedly limiting factor–our lack of water in Australia. Australian rivers, compared with those of India, are insignificant–though ironically enough, even they, in some areas, are subject to disastrous flooding. Much as we may progress, and we are progressing, in water conservation and irrigation, there is unfortunately a limit to our water resources, and large areas of country must remain incapable of supporting life and cultivation.

10. I am impressed by the splendid scientific institutes which you have erected, particularly in the few years since independence, and by your great array of distinguished scientists (such as Sir C.V. Raman2 and the late Sir Shanti Bhatnagar3). You appear to have a great many gifted planners and administrators. At the other end of the scale you have enormous supplies of manpower. In between, it seems to me, there may be some want of group leadership–a shortage of tradesmen skilled in the industrial techniques, a shortage of foremen experienced and responsible. Perhaps this is a way in which the Colombo Plan will prove to be of help.

11. For historic, social and economic reasons, it has long been the custom for many men in this country to avoid manual work. But in the context of present day conditions, and the building of your nation, I believe many of you are prepared to change your view on this matter. Many Indian students in Australia have learned from us the dignity of labour. They recognise now that there is no shame in a lowly task, or in working alongside the labouring man. In the years ahead, I hope that the most priceless asset of your country–the gentle, patient and conscientious working man of India–will be accorded his full dignity and respect. Your scientists and your planners are indeed essential–but no less essential is the man who tills the soil, tends the cattle, carries the stones and lays the bricks.

[NAA: A1838, 555/6/4 part 3]

1 Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi, Indian nationalist leader.

2 Sir C.V. Raman, Indian physicist.

3 Sir S.S. Bhatnagar, Indian chemist.

Last Updated: 10 January 2017
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