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Australia’s High Commissioner to India

Ms Harinder Sidhu

During my first year as High Commissioner in New Delhi I have been struck by the extent of Australia's shared history with India.

Indians fought alongside Australian forces at Gallipoli during the First World War; in 1944 Australia became one of the first countries to establish a diplomatic presence; and since 1949 we have worked together as members of the Commonwealth. Our shared history is underpinned by, among other things, our systems of parliamentary democracy, our love of cricket and our secular societies.

This shared history provides a solid foundation to deepen our relationship throughout the twenty-first century.

Since it began to open its economy in the early 1990s India's development trajectory has been impressive, and continues to change in fast and exciting ways.

The Indian Government, lead by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has placed a high priority on economic reforms to build business confidence, increase foreign investment and provide incentives for state governments to institute business-friendly reforms.

The pace of reform is helped by the demands of a growing middle class and India's relatively young demographic profile. We are seeing the emergence of a skilled, educated and tech savvy youth. By 2025 around 20 per cent of the world's working-age population will live in India.

For Australia, these trends have driven dramatic increases in export revenues from service sectors such as education and tourism. India now represents the second highest source of international students to Australia, with more than 60,000 last year. It is also our ninth largest inbound market for visitor arrivals to Australia. A record 260,000 Indians visited Australia over the past year. And demand continues to rise with double-digit year-on-year growth in this sector.

As India develops, its energy requirements will grow. Australia is a natural partner for India's energy needs. We have vast reserves of coal and liquefied natural gas and are world leaders in areas such as mining services, technology and mining safety. There are opportunities in solar power generation to support the Indian Government's ambitious goal for renewables to reach 175GW of electricity generation by 2022.

I see tremendous scope to diversify the relationship by expanding cooperation in sectors such as technology, agriculture, water management and sports. In turn, driven by greater collaboration and
a focus on knowledge partnerships, innovative applications of technology are likely to other sectors of the economy.

As in any developing economy, doing business in India can be challenging. It requires perseverance and a commitment to the market. It also requires an understanding of how India works. Relationships matter and are critical to success. So it is worth investing in them and taking the time to understand market nuances. Australian business built successes across North Asia doing just that. Now it's time to do the same in India.

When I was asked why I wanted to come to India as High Commissioner, my answer was simple. India now sits at the top tier of countries of importance to Australia. Yet, despite our long history together, there is still great scope to advance the relationship and to shape it. I write at a moment when India is undergoing a significant transformation and its potential becoming realised. I look forward to working to take up the many opportunities India presents and taking the Australia–India business relationship forward.

Last Updated: 3 April 2017
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