Australia’s Top Diplomat In India: Take It Easy Mate!


Charles de Gaulle (French general, writer and statesman, 1890-1970) once said “Diplomats are useful only in fair weather. As soon as it rains they drown in every drop.”

Australia’s High Commissioner to India John McCarthy has been a doyen among New Delhi’s diplomats for a record five years…that is until the dam burst a few weeks ago when the news of attacks on Indian students in Australia started flashing in Indian newspapers/TV channels like neon lights downtown.

McCarthy was hauled up at India’s foreign office to explain. And the media has been sniping at his heels. Finally, Australia’s top diplomat in India has decided to strike back.

He admitted that the spate of attacks on Indians in his country has “damaged” bilateral ties and expressed fears that the upcoming free trade talks may remain ‘quarantined’ among other things as a fallout.

“Blaming the Indian media, particularly the 24-hour cable news channels for the negative coverage of the attacks, Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi, John McCarthy said that the relationship between the two nations will take time to recover,” reports The Times of India.

“McCarthy, who was quoted by ‘The Weekend Australian’ in Melbourne said that because of India’s ‘voracious’ TV channels fear and outrage was being created among Indians in both countries.” More here…

I have known McCarthy for sometime now. He is a typical Australian…light-hearted, straight forward, informal, no-nonsense and warm-hearted person. The fact that with these traits he managed to survive/flourish in the world of diplomacy goes to his credit.

Surely, a top diplomat in Delhi sitting a great distance away cannot control the situation back home. I sincerely believe that the attacks on Indian students is a passing phase, and with a bit of good policing the things would return to normal soon.

(Meanwhile an Indian doctor who was viciously beaten up last year, says the recent attacks on Indian students are basically unrelated to issues of racism. He sees the assaults as symptomatic of a worrying epidemic of urban street violence affecting all people, not just Indians. See here…)

So my suggestion to McCarthy is “Take its easy Mate!”, especially because after a highly successful stint in Delhi for five years he would soon be packing his bags to return to Australia.

(The Indian government on Friday released guidelines for Indians seeking admissions in Australian educational institutions. It also reposed faith in Canberra doing all it can to stop the attacks on Indians. See here…)

Born in Washington D.C. in 1942, Mr McCarthy was educated at Cambridge University where he received a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws degree. He is a Barrister-at-law and practised in London from 1965 to 1966. He worked with the New York Law Firm of Shearman and Sterling from 1966 to 1967 and joined the then Department of External Affairs in 1968.

Mr McCarthy has served as Australia’s Ambassador to Japan (2001-2004); Indonesia (1997-2000); the United States (1995-97); Thailand (1992-94); Mexico (1985-87); and Vietnam (1981-83). He has also served in Damascus, Baghdad and Vientiane as well as having had two earlier postings in Washington.

From 1994 to 1995 Mr McCarthy was Deputy Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Mr McCarthy has two daughters.

Author: SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist

Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.) Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department's SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi. In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF's Eco-tourism policy. He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on "Development Journalism" to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years. In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India --- West Bengal and Orissa. Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia. Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there. He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation. And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.

  • robotsoul

    I think outrage, and coverage is to be expected in India. There have been 70 attacks on Indian students in the past year. That kind of directed hostility against its citizens is absolutely newsworthy, and deserves a fair portion of criticism. For more info see here: