Is Australia's Indo-Pacific strategy an illusion?

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    33 Citations (Scopus)


    Australia has been among the most prominent advocates of the increasingly popular Indo-Pacific concept. This article argues that Canberra's enthusiasm for the concept stems from its appeal to the two dominant traditions of Australian foreign policy-a 'dependent ally' tradition and a 'middle power' approach. While these two traditions are typically seen as being in tension, the Indo-Pacific concept provides a rare point of convergence between them. The article begins by outlining the appeal of the Indo-Pacific concept to each of these traditions. Using a case-study of recent Australian policy toward the South China Sea disputes, however, the article then demonstrates that Australia has in practice implemented its stated Indo-Pacific strategy far less consistently than its very vocal support would appear to suggest. This disjuncture is attributed to the growing influence of a third, generally understudied, 'pragmatic' Australian foreign policy tradition. Because Australia has been such a prominent champion of the Indo-Pacific concept, the article concludes that this divergence between the rhetoric and the reality of Australia's Indo-Pacific strategy threatens to have a negative impact on the concept's broader international appeal and sustainability, particularly among Australia's south-east Asian neighbours.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)95-109
    Number of pages15
    JournalInternational Affairs
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020


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