Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.5 South and West Asia, Middle East and Africa


The department expanded its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan as part of Australia’s enhanced whole-of-government engagement. A departmental official assumed the lead of the Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team.

We built on the Strategic Partnership with India through the launch of free trade agreement negotiations in May 2011. We supported continued high level ministerial engagement with India. The department contributed to Australia’s whole-of-government strategy for engagement with Pakistan.

The department led the Government’s response to the political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa. We intensified engagement with Egypt and Tunisia including assistance to support economic development and transition to democracy. We played an active role in supporting a solution to the conflict in Libya, where a humanitarian crisis escalated, including through urgent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) action.

We broadened our relations with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in particular the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including in the defence and security sphere. The Queensland Government and the department co-hosted a major GCC Business Mission to Queensland in May 2011, which was an outcome of the inaugural Australia–GCC Foreign Ministers Strategic Dialogue in March 2011 in the UAE.

A framework of cooperation was formalised during Mr Rudd’s visit to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers Meeting in June 2011 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The department initiated an Arab–Australia Dialogue with the Arab League.

Australia now has diplomatic relations with 53 African countries following the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Bissau and Somalia during 2010–11. This reflects growing economic interests, particularly in minerals and energy, along with Australia’s commitment to a more prosperous, stable and democratic Africa, and recognition of the role the region now plays in an increasingly interdependent world.


As part of Australia’s enhanced civilian contribution to Afghanistan in 2010–11, our diplomatic presence in Kabul and southern Afghanistan expanded. The deployment of additional departmental personnel—including the civilian head of the Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team—complements and supports Australia’s substantial military, policing and aid commitments. Three dedicated detainee monitoring positions were created to visit Australian-apprehended detainees regularly and report on all such visits. To highlight the contribution of Australian civilians, the department worked closely with AusAID on a photographic exhibition on the civilian effort, opened by Mr Rudd in the presence of the Afghan Minister of Mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, in March 2011.

The department supported Mr Rudd’s visit to Uruzgan and Kabul in March 2011 and his participation in the NATO–International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Berlin in April 2011. We also supported the participation of Australia’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr Ric Smith, in the Kabul Conference in July 2010 and in meetings of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan. These multilateral meetings allowed Australia, together with its partners in the international coalition, to provide support for Afghan government planning on transition and national development. The department contributed to the October 2010 parliamentary debate on Afghanistan by providing input to ministerial speeches.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Michael Cheyne

Michael Cheyne

As First Secretary at the embassy in Kabul, Michael Cheyne helped develop the Australian Government’s detainee monitoring program and leads the monitoring teams. These teams work to ensure humane treatment for detainees, consistent with Australia’s domestic and international legal obligations. He also works with international partners and the Afghan Government to build capacity in the Afghan justice system so that all Afghans have access to fair and effective courts and policing.

Michael’s role is part of the Government’s commitment since April 2010 to increase Australia’s civilian contribution to international efforts to stabilise Afghanistan. He is one of about 50 Australian civilians who assist with reconstruction, development and diplomatic efforts around the country, including the province of Uruzgan where most Australian troops are based. Australia is working closely with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to create the conditions necessary for enduring stability.

“This is an exciting time for Afghanistan as the country prepares for transition to Afghan Government security leadership. While the security environment remains difficult, good progress is being made. It is a privilege to work with so many Afghans and the international community who have a positive vision for where the country is going and a strong commitment to making that vision a reality.”


The number of Australian staff posted to India has risen by 85 per cent since the beginning of June 2010, part of the commitment to deepen the bilateral relationship. The majority of these positions were introduced in the 2010–11 financial year, including the appointment of senior departmental staff to head the upgraded Consulates-General in Chennai and Mumbai.

The department continued to build on the Australia–India Strategic Partnership, agreed by Prime Ministers in November 2009, with the launch in May 2011 of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) negotiations by Dr Emerson and India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr Anand Sharma. The Ministers announced the Co-Chairs of the Australia–India CEO Forum, Mr Lindsay Fox AC and Mr Naveen Jindal. The inaugural forum will be held in 2011.

Provincial Reconstruction Team

Photo - See caption below for description
Australian Members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Uruzgan, February 2011
L-R (front): Mr Syed Haider, Ms Deahne Turnbull, Ms Richelle Tickle, Ms Amanda Aspden
and Senior Civilian Representative, Mr Bernard Philip
L-R (back): Mr Tony O’Dowd, Mr Peter Macfarlane, Mr John Cavanagh, Mr James O’Brien, Mr Damien Donovan,
Mr Joel McGregor.

Since August 2010, when the Netherlands withdrew from Uruzgan province, Australia has led the joint Australian/United States Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). The PRT is led by a departmental officer who is responsible for coordinating all ISAF civilian activities in Uruzgan as part of the overall ISAF civil-military campaign in Uruzgan.

PRTs operate throughout Afghanistan. Their principal role is to work with provincial governments to support reconstruction and development and to help improve governance. As part of the transition process, PRTs are working to prepare for their roles to be assumed by Afghan authorities by the end of 2014.

Within the Uruzgan PRT, the principal role of departmental officers and their civilian partners from other agencies, as well as the United States and the Netherlands, is to build relationships with local officials and local leaders to deliver improved development and governance to underpin the security efforts of ISAF and Afghan forces. The Director of the PRT also has a significant role in delivering Australia’s whole-of-government effort on the ground.

Meeting regularly and building relationships with a wide range of Afghan Government representatives and community leaders throughout the province gives members of the PRT important insights into Uruzgan’s political, economic and social landscape. By developing their knowledge of the province’s complex tribal and political structures, departmental officers within the PRT are able to make a substantial contribution to reconstruction and development in Uruzgan.

AusAID development advisers live and work alongside their DFAT colleagues, with a particular focus on assisting the Afghan authorities to plan and manage development efforts in the province.

The activities of the civilian officers within the PRT would not be possible without the support provided by the Australian Defence Force, which provides force protection to enable departmental staff and others to move outside their base in Tarin Kowt.

Photo - See caption below for description
Joint Ministerial Commission Press Conference on 12 May 2011 announcing the Australia-India CEO Forum.
L-R: Mr Naveen Jindal, CEO Jindal Group; Mr Anand Sharma, Minister for Commerce and Industry, India; Dr Emerson, Minister for Trade; and Mr Lindsay Fox AC, Chairman, Linfox.

The department organised the Framework Dialogue between Mr Rudd and Minister of External Affairs, Mr S M Krishna, in Melbourne in January 2011. The talks covered bilateral as well as regional and global issues, and served to expand and deepen the dialogue between India and Australia on strategic matters. These talks built on senior officials-level discussions at the seventh annual Strategic Dialogue in New Delhi in December 2010 led by the Secretary.

The department provided security and consular planning advice to help support Australian participation in the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games and 2011 Cricket World Cup in India. We also assisted Australian companies to follow-up on contractual issues following the conclusion of the Games.

The commercial relationship between Australia and India has grown steadily in recent years and has the potential to increase considerably as India’s economic expansion continues. Two-way goods and services trade totalled $22.2 billion in 2010.

India is Australia’s fourth largest merchandise export destination and Indian investment in Australia has picked up in recent years. We supported negotiations led by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on a Social Security Agreement and the Treasury on a Double Taxation Agreement. Along with the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, these agreements will provide a stronger legal basis and greater confidence for bilateral trade and investment.

In recognition of concerns for Indian student safety in Australia in 2009–10 and the damage to Australia’s image in India, the department worked with other Commonwealth agencies and state and territory governments on measures to promote international student safety and welfare.

In India, the department led a substantial public diplomacy program to deepen understanding of Australia. We coordinated the visits of Indian journalists under the International Media Visits Program and visits by two Congress Party MPs under the Special Visits Program, helping to build enduring links to current and future Indian opinion makers. Planning continued for a major Australian promotion in India in 2012.

FIGURE 12. Australia’s Trade in Goods and Services with India(a)

FIGURE 12. Australia’s Trade in Goods and Services with India(a)

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.


  Exports Exports   Imports Imports  
Goods and services 2009 2010 Trend growth
2009 2010 Trend growth
  $m $m % $m $m %
India 18,127 19,579 20.1 2,692 2,634 13.2
Bangladesh (b) 409 582 22.8 148 143 34.2
Pakistan (b) 528 540 6.6 163 163 3.3
Other South Asia (b) 287 275 7.7 111 126 6.3
Total South Asia 19,351 20,976 19.4 3,114 3,066 12.8
United Arab Emirates (b) 2,108 2,147 9.7 2,147 2,230 34.2
Saudi Arabia (b) 1,724 1,564 -4.2 631 406 -20.5
Kuwait (b) 489 507 0.3 354 366 12.9
Oman (b) 375 477 16.6 97 35 111.9
Qatar (b) 182 287 11.2 443 501 12.0
Bahrain (b) (c) 143 175 8.2 84 47 -13.9
Total GCC (b) 5,020 5,157 3.6 3,756 3,584 7.9

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.
(c) Excludes exports of alumina (aluminium oxide) to Bahrain which are confidential in ABS trade statistics.
Figures may not add due to rounding.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.


Photo - See caption below for description
L–R: Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Mr Timothy George, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and Pakistan military officials after flying over the flood devastated region of Pakistan.
Photo: Department of Defence

In close cooperation with AusAID and the Department of Defence, the department helped develop and deliver the Government’s significant humanitarian response to Pakistan’s devastating 2010 floods. We supported Mr Rudd’s visit to Australia’s medical facility at Kot Addu in Punjab province, followed by participation in the High-Level Meeting on Pakistan Flooding in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. The department supported Mr Rudd’s participation in the October 2010 Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting in Brussels, the premier forum for international policy dialogue with Pakistan. The department coordinated inter-agency efforts on a range of practical initiatives including defence training, law enforcement and counter-terrorism capacity building, strategic dialogue and development assistance.

Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka

The department advanced trade and economic links with Bangladesh, including assisting Australian companies in the energy and agricultural sectors to advance their commercial interests in Bangladesh. The department supported the Australian cricket team by providing advice on security ahead of its tour of Bangladesh in April 2011.

The department consolidated links with Bhutan, including by supporting an Australian Parliamentary delegation visit in July 2010 and a return visit by Bhutan in February 2011.

Our embassy closely monitored the post-conflict transition in Nepal and we supported efforts to urge political parties to keep the peace process on track, address human rights concerns, and create conditions favourable to development, including through Australia’s growing aid program.

In Sri Lanka, post-conflict stabilisation support included targeted humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for civilians displaced by conflict. The department monitored political and reconciliation developments in Sri Lanka and supported human rights and political reconciliation through sustained high-level advocacy. To support a political resolution of minority grievances, our High Commission hosted two discussions in Colombo for parliamentarians on language policy and bicameral parliaments. In Australia, two dialogues were hosted with Tamil community representatives, with Mr Rudd attending the second dialogue in June 2011.

The department supported democracy in South Asia through a visit by election commission officials from Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka for the Australian Electoral Commission’s 2010 Federal Election Visit Program. We arranged a visit to Australia under the Special Visits Program by the Secretary of Pakistan’s Election Commission, Ishtiak Khan, which focused on electoral issues including reform.

Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation

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The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, with Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), and Mr Ahmed Fahour, Australian Special Envoy to the OIC, at the 38th session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Astana, Kazakhstan on 29 June 2011.

The department worked closely with the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) on cooperation in the Indian Ocean region and hosted a Senior Officials’ Meeting in Canberra in March 2011. Australia provided funding to the IOR-ARC Secretariat in Mauritius to establish the association’s website ( and will assume the role of Chair of the organisation in late 2013.

Middle East and North Africa

The department led the Government’s response to political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa. In line with Australia’s national interest in fostering a stable and democratic region, the Government was swift to demonstrate support for democratic reform and transition and urged leaders across the region to avoid violence, and respect the right to peaceful protest. The department coordinated the Government’s intensified engagement with Egypt and Tunisia, including support for economic development and democratisation. To support international efforts to solve the conflict in Libya and address a deepening humanitarian crisis, the department provided advice on United Nations Security Council action, participated in the Libya Contact Group and imposed autonomous targeted sanctions. We worked closely with AusAID on the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people, with Australia the fourth-largest donor globally as of late June 2011. We coordinated the Government’s policy response to violent repression in Syria and unrest in other parts of the region, including Bahrain and Yemen.

The department supported the visit by the Governor-General to Kuwait for its 50th National Day, 20th anniversary of Liberation Day and 5th anniversary of the Emir’s rule in February 2011.

Personal Profile:

Erny Wah

Erny Wah is gaining lots of experience in her first posting as Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Cairo. The embassy covers relations with the African countries of Egypt, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Tunisia, as well as the Arab League. She reports on political developments in Egypt and Tunisia, helps coordinate official visits, and manages two small grants programs and the embassy’s public diplomacy program.

Prior to this posting, Erny had worked in sections responsible for the Middle East and North Africa, human rights and people smuggling since joining the department as a graduate trainee in 2008.

“This is my first posting, and I can’t really have asked for more. In the last five months we’ve monitored the toppling of two regimes, two mass uprisings and a civil war. I feel privileged to witness these historic events and to be involved in Australia’s positive engagement with the region, including our strong support for democratic values.”


The department coordinated Mr Rudd’s four visits to the Gulf region, three visits to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories as well as the first visit ever by an Australian Government Minister to Tunisia. These visits reflected the strategic importance of the region, our continuing support for the Middle East Peace Process and underlined to both sides the importance Australia places on the early resumption of negotiations on a two-state solution.

The department continued to lead whole-of-government efforts on Iran, working with the international community to persuade Iran to comply with relevant UNSC resolutions on its nuclear program. This included further targeted sanctions. The Government dealt with Iran on regional issues of mutual concern including Afghanistan and people smuggling.

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, with Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union, Mr Jean Ping at UN Headquarters, New York on 23 September 2010.
Photo: Trevor Collens

We worked closely with the Government of Iraq to broaden the bilateral relationship, including hosting the second Senior Officials’ meeting in Canberra in November 2010. We pursued a rapidly growing bilateral agenda with the UAE, a strategic partner in the Gulf region, including by commencing negotiation of a bilateral nuclear safeguards agreement. We furthered security-related cooperation with Saudi Arabia, a country of major global and regional importance. Our relations with Oman broadened through hosting a senior foreign affairs official under the Special Visits Program. We supported a high-level business mission from Qatar.

We stepped up our engagement with Middle East regional organisations through agreement on establishing an Arab–Australia Dialogue with the Arab League in December 2010 and through the launch in Abu Dhabi in March 2011 of a regular Australia–Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue. This is a high-level forum on issues of common interest and complements our bilateral relations with member states. The May 2011 GCC business mission to Queensland was a significant outcome and supported commercial ties. Australia’s two-way trade and investment ties with GCC members in calendar year 2010 totalled $8.75 billion with a small increase in Australian exports.

We continued to build relations with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) comprising 56 member states (plus the Palestinian Territories), representing the collective voice of the Muslim world. Mr Rudd attended the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers in Kazakhstan in June 2011 where he announced the appointment of Ahmed Fahour, Chair of the Council for Australian–Arab Relations (CAAR), as Australia’s Special Envoy to the OIC, along with the Government’s intention to establish a formal framework of cooperation with the organisation.


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Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mr Paul Foley, and Uruzgan Deputy Governor, Mr Khoday Rahim, at the Governor’s compound in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan.

Australia re-established an embassy in Addis Ababa, which was opened by Mr Rudd in January 2011. The embassy is accredited to both Ethiopia and the African Union (AU). The department arranged Mr Rudd’s visit, including calls on Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Foreign Minister Hailemariam Desalegn where they discussed development cooperation, including a major contribution of $45 million over five years through AusAID for maternal and child health in Ethiopia.

Mr Rudd signed a memorandum of understanding with the AU Chairperson, Dr Jean Ping, in September 2010 on cooperation in security and development activity that involves a range of Australian agencies. Supported by the department, Mr Rudd attended high-level AU meetings in January and June 2011. His discussions with ministers from the region at these meetings underpinned subsequent productive Australian engagement on bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual importance such as the security situation in Sudan and the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa.

The department facilitated the visits of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Dr Martin Uhomoibhi, and the Secretary General of the African National Congress of South Africa, Gwede Mantashe. To address the ongoing crisis in Sudan, the department worked with regional countries and the broader international community to support the referendum on independence for South Sudan, which included facilitating the participation of over 9200 people in Australia who were eligible to vote. (As of 9 July 2011, Australia recognised the 54th African state of South Sudan and subsequently established diplomatic relations). The department continued to lead Australia’s response to the evolving political situation in Zimbabwe by advocating with other donors and the Southern African Development Community for full implementation of the Global Political Agreement, which supports Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and encourages respect for human rights and the rule of law. The department helped mining investors in Africa by participating in two key industry conferences, Mining Indaba in Cape Town in February 2011 and Africa Down Under in Perth in September 2010. Six African mining ministers attended Africa Down Under which was opened by the department’s Secretary. The department established a partnership with the newly created Australia Africa Mining Industry Group whose existence highlights the priority Australian industry places on the region.


We will maintain a particular focus on planning and preparation for transition of lead responsibility to Afghan security forces, while continuing to support Australia’s whole-of-government mission.

The department will commence the first round of negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India, and prepare for the inaugural CEO Forum. We will continue to support ministerial and other high-level visits to and from India as we seek to build and consolidate a range of initiatives.

We will continue to consolidate Australia’s relations with Pakistan, including through Australia’s membership of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan.

The department will continue to work with Indian Ocean countries on regional cooperation, taking practical steps in areas that deliver real advantages, such as science cooperation, fisheries management and trade facilitation.

We will work with the international community to persuade Iran to comply with relevant UNSC resolutions on its nuclear program.

We will continue work to support the transitions to democracy in Egypt and Tunisia. The department will work with others in the international community, including through the Libya Contact Group, to find a solution to the conflict in Libya and contribute to efforts to ensure the humanitarian situation is addressed and human rights protected.

The department will work with the international community to find ways to maintain pressure against the violent suppression of political protest in Syria.

The department will continue to urge the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to negotiate a two-state solution to allow a secure Israel to live side-by-side with a future Palestinian state. A priority will be expanding engagement with the Gulf, a region of major strategic importance to Australia’s national security interests.

With diplomatic representation in the region enhanced by the new embassy in Addis Ababa, the department will work to strengthen relations with African countries, regional organisations and the African Union. It will promote trade and investment, especially in the mining sector, and strengthen cooperation on political, development and peace and security issues through bilateral and multilateral cooperation and high-level contact.

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