Thursday 28 Oct 2021 | 18:26 | SYDNEY
People | experts Rory Medcalf
Nonresident Fellow
Lowy Institute
Areas of ExpertiseAsia-Pacific/Indo-Pacific strategic order; India and the Indian Ocean; maritime security; nuclear arms control

India: Another pillar for Rudd foreign policy

Australia’s Asia diplomacy is incomplete unless we treat the relationship with India as a first-order priority. Criticisms of the unwieldy nature of Indian democracy, the pride and prickliness of some of its diplomacy, its undoubted problems with massive infrastructure deficiencies, or indeed

When I read the words 'arms race', I reach for my pen

For a start, what does it mean? Everyone seems to have a preferred definition: in my view, the term accurately describes very specific circumstances in which countries are willing to devote ever-increasing proportions of their resources to armaments in repeated cycles of reaction to one another’

The Lowy Institute wants YOU!

The Lowy Institute is on the lookout for new talent in international security policy. We have just advertised this year’s Michael and Deborah Thawley Scholarship in International Security. If you are a student (preferably at PhD or MA level) at an Australian tertiary institution, with a strong

Multilateral or unilateral? Whatever works

In response to my post about Asia’s failure to launch a serious multilateral response to Burma’s cyclone crisis, The Interpreter’s editor asks whether I have an intrinsic preference for multilateral or unilateral action on this front. The short answer is: whatever works. If you are a

Burma: Regional multilateralism fails again

The ineffectual regional response to Burma’s humanitarian disaster confirms the continuing hollowness of Asia’s multilateral institutions. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the ASEAN-3 arrangement including China, Japan, and South Korea; the various ASEAN-1 arrangements

India disarmament drive an idea worth pursuing

India's tenth anniversary commemoration of its nuclear weapons tests was curiously low-key. In this opinion piece in The Australian, International Security Program Director Rory Medcalf argues that India's rekindled rhetoric about nuclear disarmament offers diplomatic openings for Australia and

Smith vs Varghese? Not so fast

Paul Dibb sets out in today’s Sydney Morning Herald to depict a clash of views on Australia’s strategic outlook, pitting Foreign Minister Stephen Smith against the Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese. The Minister is portrayed as elevating the importance of

Big ideals but there no budget to match

In this opinion piece in The Australian Financial Review, International Security Program Director Rory Medcalf appraises the Rudd Government's foreign and security policy ambitions, five months on. He notes the government's success in moving towards a world view that reconciles alliance commitments

Australia, monster slayer

A recent proposal for an Australian conventional flexible deterrent option, intended to cripple any major power that might threaten the country, would commit massive resources to a highly unlikely contingency, writes international security program director Rory Medcalf in this opinion piece in the

Hesitating on the brink of partnership

In this piece for the East-West Center, Washington, International Security Program Director Rory Medcalf argues that Australia and India are hesitating at the brink of real partnership in their strategic relations. It will take sustained political will on both sides over the next few years to bring

Not a fight to hedge on

In an opinion piece in The Australian, Anthony Bubalo and Rory Medcalf argue that while Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made Australia's role in Afghanistan conditional, that country is far too important to abandon.The Australian, 4 April 2008, p. 12

Rudd Afghanistan 'breakthrough' could haunt him

I somehow doubt Kevin Rudd is really claiming credit for NATO’s reported ‘breakthrough’ political statement affirming a strengthened commitment to Afghanistan, even though Dennis Shanahan’s front-page report for today’s Australian newspaper, complete with cheerleading headline, would

The Australia-India Strategic Lecture

The thorny issues in Australia’s relations with India — uranium sales and how to deal with China — received some thoughtful treatment in the second Australia-India Strategic Lecture, hosted yesterday by the Lowy Institute and the Australia-India Council. Although the lecture, presented

Reader riposte: Wrong train, right message

Responding to my recent post about how infrastructure-poor Sydney’s proposed metro seems to be modelled on Delhi’s new transit system, and in particular my comment that a Sydney Morning Herald report carried a photograph of the Delhi metro (editor's note: we can't find the photo online

Northeast Asian security dialogue: Here we go again

Ahead of Kevin Rudd’s first Prime Ministerial to the US and China, this Sydney Morning Herald report suggests that the Bush Administration is keen to enlist the Australian Prime Minister in its now desperate bid to forge some permanent regional security structure out of the Six Party Talks on

The quad: China might have overdone it

It is difficult to disagree with Raoul Heinrichs’ recent assessment that the evaporation of the US-Japan-Australia-India quadrilateral dialogue demonstrates China’s growing influence and willingness to wield it.  Much depends, of course, on whether the quadrilateral ‘Chinese ghost

Voltaire in Canberra

For a footnote-rich survey of the global strategic landscape (and incidentally a handy primer for those new to the field of international relations), Senator Russell Trood’s new Lowy paper has garnered an impressive amount of media interest. Of course, the story was all about the fact that

Sydney metro: Delhi leads the way

Whatever else you can say about the NSW Government, at least it seems someone there reads The Interpreter. Today’s Sydney Morning Herald ran a headline to inspire every downcast Sydney commuter: a plan, at last, for a modern ‘European-style’ metro system to relieve the city’s public

A new nuclear restraint initiative for Asia

Australia should combine its Asia diplomacy and its nuclear arms control diplomacy: this was a key theme of the lecture I gave yesterday at the Lowy Institute. I presented a case for a new kind of nuclear arms control initiative by Australia, and a way for the Rudd Government to fulfil its

Delhi: Mind the 500-year gap

One of the less-trumpeted achievements of today’s India is its invention of time-travel. On the Delhi Metro, you can now be transported from 21st century New Delhi to the medieval back-lanes of Old Delhi in about twelve effortless minutes. For their part, Old Delhi’s old-fashioned bazaar-

Don't panic about our India relations

Quite a beat-up today from The Australian’s man in New Delhi. Relying on a sample size of precisely one opinion piece by one member of India’s vast pantheon of foreign affairs commentators, along with one quote from an anonymous Indian official, Bruce Loudon implies that Australia-India

Nuclear arms control: Good news from Oslo

Message to the Australian Government: spending cuts and saving the world do not go together. I was reminded of this point at a nuclear disarmament conference in Norway this week. This event, supported by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, featured such important figures in the new movement for nuclear

I'm confused by Paul Kennedy

A truly odd argument by eminent historian Paul Kennedy in a recent International Herald Tribune. Ever since his Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which I and my fellow international relations undergraduates endured in the early 1990s, I have been a little wary of his grand theories and

What the NY Phil should have played in Pyongyang

No doubt the emotion-laden performance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Pyongyang this week was a powerful step towards détente in US-North Korea relations. It must have been quite the diplomatic juggling act: choosing a program of music that conceded enough to the propaganda imperatives

Nuclear disarmament: Eyes on Oslo

I am in Oslo this week to join a global non-government conference on nuclear disarmament. This event, hosted by the Norwegian Government in cooperation with the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Hoover Institution, aims to seize the momentum started by two important public statements on the

India ocean: By invitation only

Any aspiring maritime power derives a nice sense of entitlement when it finds its name already affixed to a decent body of water. India is lucky enough to have its stamp on an entire ocean. Earlier this month, New Delhi sent out some curious signals on who is welcome there and who is not.

Quadrilateral dialogue

The quadrilateral dialogue among the US, Japan, Australia and India was never as substantial as its champions or its detractors claimed it to be, argues international security program director Rory Medcalf in this article in the February-March edition of The Diplomat. China saw menace in a phantom

India need not worry too much about our China 'tilt'

‘The Australian decision to tilt openly towards Beijing will have inevitable consequences in New Delhi,’ warn the paranoid and nameless sources of this article in today’s Times of India. They were referring to Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s comments this week that Australia ‘would not

India should play its part

In this article in new Indian publication Pragati ('Progress'), International Security Program Director Rory Medcalf argues that Australia alone cannot do all the running in building a strategic partnership with India

Pragati: It Hindi for 'progress'

India has to do its share of the lifting in taking Australia-India relations to a new level, I suggest in this month’s issue of Pragati, a new Indian current affairs magazine.  In recent months I have proposed a series of steps the new Australian Government can take to follow through on its

Fitzgibbon has a point

Sam Roggeveen might well find Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon’s comments about Generation Y’s alleged case of collective attention-deficit disorder to be a bit too grandfatherly for his liking. But Mr Fitzgibbon has a point. New approaches are needed to ensure that defence forces in developed

NATO nuke threat leaves world aquiver

The authors of a major new report on global strategy have tainted their many good ideas by mixing them with a rotten one: the notion that the threat of first-use of nuclear weapons deserves a future. Towards a Grand Strategy for an Uncertain World is meant to be a wake-up call to a complacent

Nuclear weapons: India can be part of the solution

India’s 1998 nuclear tests and the current controversy over the US-India nuclear deal have obscured one important strand of Indian thinking on nuclear weapons. New Delhi championed a nuclear weapon-free world long before the cause was taken up by the likes of Kissinger, Schultz, Perry and Nunn.

Defence and DFAT funding compared

My recent post criticising cuts to the DFAT budget has drawn fire. This reader agrees with my comments about the negative impact of reducing Australia’s diplomatic resources, but strongly objects to my asides that this is happening at a time when ‘Defence is being looked after nicely’ and

DFAT: Plus ca change

In foreign affairs, as in all things, some change is good and some is bad. One change that Australia's new government has made this week has been to chop tens of millions of dollars and 19 overseas positions from DFAT's capacity to pursue Australian objectives. Not only is this an unwelcome

Time to lift our game and engage India

In this opinion piece in The Age, international security program director Rory Medcalf argues that recent progress in China-India relations is a reminder that Australia needs to invest more seriously in its India diplomacy. The Age, 17 January 2008, p. 15

On the superiority of Asian multilateralism

There were harsh words about Europe today at a conference I am attending in Singapore on the prospects for Asian regional community and co-operation. At the Sentosa Roundtable on Asian Security, the eminent Kishore Mahbubani did not mince words in trying to turn the tables on the conventional

Lifting our game in India

I argue in today's Melbourne Age that Australia needs to lift its diplomatic game and take India at least as seriously as the Chinese now do.  If news reports and informed analysis are anything to go by, China is moving closer to India's position on matters that are close to New Delhi&#

Australia-India: Nuclear ideals versus national interests

The Australian media saw whaling and cricket as the two big take-outs (horrible word, I resolve not to use it again in 2008) from Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s press conference on 7 January. Which is a pity, since even a skim of the transcript suggests that Mr Smith (who had just emerged

Cricket no substitute for India diplomacy

The ugly aftermath of the second Test in Sydney challenges the facile claim that Australia and India have some sort of natural diplomatic synergy because both countries play cricket. I have never found this assertion especially convincing, though it has long peppered the feel-good speeches of

Australia role in Pakistan

I argue in today's Sydney Morning Herald that Australia can and should do considerably more than it is accustomed to in supporting a more democratic and secure order in Pakistan.  The Bhutto assassination confirms that allowing an increasingly unstable Musharraf-managed status quo to continue

Pakistan: Recommended reading

The International Crisis Group has a new report on Pakistan, about what to do post Bhutto's death. It was prepared in record time, and is very good. I also recommend strongly a long piece by Frederic Grare on the Carnegie website, called Rethinking Western Strategies Towards Pakistan, from

Australia relations with India

From: Rory Medcalf, International Security Program Director, Lowy Institute for International Policy To: Hon. Stephen Smith, Minister for Foreign Affairs Your Government needs to seize the moment with Asia’s other waking giant, India.  I was struck by your attention to India as a priority for

How Australia can help Pakistan

In this opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald, international security program director Rory Medcalf identifies the steps Australia can and should take to pursue its declared support for a more democratic and secure order in Pakistan, following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.Sydney Morning

Lowy staff talk about the year in books (part 3)

I’ve just finished Christopher Koch’s new novel The Memory Room.  It is a powerful story, with surprisingly evocative descriptions of Canberra’s (not to mention pre-prosperity Beijing’s) peculiar charms. But what makes this book even more special is its sustained, if sometimes slightly

Little scope for Rudd radicalism

Some clarification is warranted on my apparent suggestion (Sam's original post here; Bill Bowtell's follow-up here) that the Rudd Government’s foreign policy might seem more ‘radical’ than it actually is.  To keep the discussion more analytical than normative, I’ll start by

Democracy: Australia has a right to be proud

Voting in today’s Australian Federal election is finishing. Something that sets Australia apart from its US ally — far more than most Americans realise — is that  Australians are typically far from boastful about the merits of democracy or the special qualities of their own. Yet we have

More on Imran Khan

In reply to my earlier post about the virtual irrelevance of Imran Khan in Pakistani politics, a reader writes: Right on... a British journalist once told me of the time he was sitting in an Islamabad hotel with a locally-based colleague when Imran walked past. 'Hey, that's