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India - Australia Relations

In recent years, the bilateral relationship between India and Australia has evolved into a strategic alliance, progressing in a favourable direction.

Both the countries share many principles, including pluralistic Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, increased economic ties, and increasing high-level connection. Long-standing people-to-people contacts, an increasing number of Indian students travelling to Australia for higher education, and growing tourist and sporting ties have all contributed to the two nations' bilateral relations strengthening.

History and Background

The historical ties between India and Australia began as soon as Europeans arrived in Australia in 1788. The British East India Company controlled all trade to and from the convict colony of New South Wales through Kolkata.

In 1941, the creation of the India Trade Office in Sydney, India and Australia established diplomatic connections prior to independence.

In 1991, the end of the Cold War coincided with India's decision to embark on massive economic reforms, marking the first step toward the development of tighter connections between the two countries. With the passage of time, the relationship progressed toward a strategic partnership, in addition to the existing commercial ties.

Bilateral Relationship

The bilateral relationship between India and Australia was upgraded to a “Strategic Partnership”, by a joint declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009.

A variety of institutional mechanisms have been put in place throughout the years to encourage bilateral cooperation.

  • High-level visits, Prime Ministers' Annual Meetings, Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue, Joint Trade & Commerce Ministerial Commission, India-Australia '2+2' Foreign Secretaries and Defence Secretaries Dialogue, Defence Policy Talks, Australia-India Education Council, Defence Services Staff Talks, Energy Security Dialogue, JWGs on various issues, and so on are examples of bilateral mechanisms.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne visited India on 08-09 January 2019 and again on 15-16 January 2020 to participate in the Raisina Dialogue.

Economic Relationship

In recent years, the economic link between India and Australia has increased dramatically.

As part of its efforts to build a strong economic relationship with India, Australia accepted some of the recommendations of the India Economic Strategy, which was prepared by an Australian think tank to define a path for Australia to take advantage of the opportunities presented by Indian economic growth.

The strategy intends to provide a clear picture of the kind of relationship Australia should strive for with India in the years ahead, up to 2035.

On July 12, 2018, the study was published. The paper identifies ten key sectors:

  • Education (flagship sector)

  • Agriculture

  • Resources

  • Tourism as lead sectors

  • Energy

  • Health

  • Financial services

  • Infrastructure

  • Sports

  • Science

  • Innovation (promising sector)

The paper also includes Ten Indian states (Andhra Pradesh, Delhi NCR, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, UP, and West Bengal) where Australia should concentrate its efforts.

In 2018, the Australian government's response was announced towards the IES Report, pledging in-principle support for the Strategy's 20 priority recommendations and agreeing to an initial set of measures under an ongoing implementation plan.

The Indian government has also tasked the CII with preparing an Australia Economic Strategy Paper (AES), which would be released in 2020.

Bilateral Trade

India is Australia's fifth-largest trading partner, accounting for A$ 29 billion in goods and services trade in 2017-18, accounting for 3.6 per cent of total Australian trade, with exports of A$ 8 billion and imports of A$ 21 billion.

Overall trade increased by 13.1% on a year-over-year basis. Imports increased by 9.7% year over year, while exports soared by 23.3 per cent, though from a lower base.

Major Trade: Coal, copper ores and concentrates, gold, vegetables, wool and other animal hair, fruits and nuts, lentils, and education-related services are among India's main exports to Australia, while our main imports are coal, copper ores and concentrate, gold, pearls and gems, jewellery, and made-up textile articles.

The two countries are also discussing a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).

Cultural Relations

Education Sector: The Joint Working Group on Education between the two countries has identified several key areas for cooperation, including collaborative research in education policy, student exchange programmes, capacity building in vocational education and distance learning in higher education.

Colombo Plan: Under the New Colombo Plan of the Australian government, Australian undergraduates have studied and completed internships in India.

Australia has also agreed to help in establishing a world-class Sports University in India.

Defence Cooperation

In September 2015, the first-ever Bilateral Maritime Exercise, AUSINDEX 15, was held in Visakhapatnam (the Bay of Bengal).

Three Indian Naval Ships took part in the second bilateral maritime exercise, AUSINDEX 2017, which took place off the coast of Freemantle, Australia, from the 17th to the 19th of June 2017.

AUSINDEX 2019 was held in April 2019 in the Bay of Bengal. From July 27 to August 17, 2018, the Indian Air Force took part in the Exercise Pitch Black in Australia for the first time.

The INS Sahyadri took part in Kakadu, the Australian Navy's biennial exercise, which took place from August 30 to September 15, 2018, and was attended by 27 nations.

In September 2019, the 4th edition of AUSTRAHIND (Special Forces of Army Exercise) took place.

2+2 Dialogue

In 2015, India and Australia decided to convene yearly meetings of their Foreign and Defence Secretaries (2+2) to improve foreign policy and security cooperation; the 3rd Dialogue took place on December 9, 2019, in New Delhi.

India - Australia - Japan Trilateral Dialogue

In June 2015, India, Australia, and Japan had their first Secretary-level trilateral talks in New Delhi.

The second trilateral talks at the level of Foreign Secretaries took place in Tokyo on February 26, 2016, while the third took place in Canberra on April 29, 2017.

On December 13, 2017, New Delhi hosted the 4th India - Australia - Japan Trilateral Dialogue.

Indian Community

With a population of nearly half a million people, the Indian community in Australia continues to increase in size and influence. India is one of Australia's most important sources of skilled immigrants.

There is a steady influx of Indian students and tourists. The number of Indian students studying at Australian universities continues to rise, with approximately 90,000 students now enrolled. After the United Kingdom and New Zealand, India is now the third largest source of immigrants to Australia, as well as the greatest supply of trained professionals.

The increasing importance of the community is evident in Australia's large-scale celebrations of Indian festivals, particularly Deepawali.


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