Publication Details

Sharrad, P, The River is Three-quarters Empty: Some Literary Takes on Rivers and Landscapes in India and Australia, Eastern Indian Association for the Study of Australia (IASA), Kolkata, India, 22-24 January 2009. Original conference information available here

Additional Publication Information

The past decade has witnessed a steady increase in mutual awareness between Australia and India. For much of the twentieth century, the White Australia Policy considerably distanced the Indian Government from Australia and generated a sense of distrust, while after the Second World War, Australia’s gradual alignment with the US, especially during the Cold War period, and India’s alignment with the Soviet bloc and with China (prior to 1962), naturally alienated the two countries. However, since the early 1990s, and in particular following the ending of the Cold War and the liberalisation of the Indian economy, Australia and India have developed important cultural, strategic and economic relationships.


This paper takes its title from the historical novel by Ranga Rao, The River is Three-quarters Full, itself apparently borrowed from a Telugu proverb about the beneficent powers of riverine nature and the ultimate benevolence of the cosmos. The phrase is invoked repeatedly by villagers despite a major drought and connects to East India Company idealists envisaging controlled water management while their profiteering colleagues mismanage famine and pursue their own advantage.