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India country brief

Overview

India is the world's largest democracy and fifth-largest economy. The Australian Government's diplomatic network in India is led by a High Commission in New Delhi with Consulates-General in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata. A new Consulate-General in Bengaluru, India's tech capital, was opened in July 2023.

The Australia-India relationship was upgraded to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in June 2020. It is based on mutual understanding, friendship and a shared vision of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. We are committed to collaborating on science and technology, maritime cooperation, trade and investment, defence ties, agriculture, education and tourism.

Read more about the new suite of initiatives Australia is implementing to bolster our economic, science, cyber, people-to-people and environmental ties with India.

Diplomatic History

Australia and India established diplomatic relations in the pre-Independence period, when the Consulate-General of India was first opened as a Trade Office in Sydney in 1941. In March 1944, Lieutenant-General Iven Mackay took up his position as Australia's first High Commissioner to India. India's first High Commissioner to Australia arrived in Canberra in 1945.

Bilateral Relationship

India and Australia have never been closer. Australia is one of only three countries with which India holds annual leader-level summits. The Prime Ministers of Australia and India regularly interact at international fora, including through the Quad, G20 and East Asia Summit.

Most recently, Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Modi met during the G20 Leaders' Summit in New Delhi, 9-10 September 2023. Previously, Prime Minister Modi visited Australia in May 2023. Prime Minister Albanese travelled to India in March 2023 for an Annual Leaders' Summit. The Prime Ministers held their first bilateral meeting in the margins of the Quad Leaders' Summit in Tokyo, May 2022.

The Australian and Indian Foreign Ministers come together annually for the Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue. The Dialogue is an important forum for advancing our ambitious bilateral agenda. In addition, Australian and Indian Foreign and Defence Ministers meet every second year to discuss strategic issues in a '2+2' format. In November 2023, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Marles and Foreign Minister Wong met their counterparts in New Delhi for the second 2+2. The Joint Statement articulates our bilateral priorities for 2024 and beyond.

Since 1989, the Australia–India Joint Ministerial Commission meetings have provided a forum for Australian and Indian Trade Ministers to identify opportunities and address challenges in the economic relationship. The 18th Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was held in March 2023, with additional ministerial engagement in sector-focused working groups, such as energy and education.

Our strong bilateral architecture is complemented by cooperation in the Quad and trilaterals with Indonesia and France respectively.

In February 2024, Australia hosted the seventh Indian Ocean Conference in Perth, our Indian Ocean capital. This 1.5 track dialogue was attended by one head of state, 17 ministers, secretaries-general and almost 450 delegates from 34 countries. The Foreign Minister, the Assistant Foreign Minister and the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister represented the Government.

The Conference demonstrated Australia is a reliable and cooperative member of the Indian Ocean community. Minister Wong delivered a keynote address on strategic competition, Australia’s commitment to resilience and sovereignty for all Indian Ocean states, and the practical benefits which the Australia-India relationship brings to the region.

On the margins of the Conference, Ministers met with their counterparts to cooperate on shared solutions to the shared challenges facing the region.

Recent Ministerial Visits

Since May 2022, there have been 23 Australian Ministerial visits to India and 15 Indian Ministerial visits to Australia.

Australian Ministerial visits to India since May 2022:

  • The Hon Matthew Keogh MP, Minister for Veteran Affairs (21-23 February 2024)
  • The Hon Minister Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence (19-21 November 2023)
  • Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs (19-21 November 2023)
  • The Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education (5-7 November 2023)
  • The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister (9-10 September 2023)
  • Senator the Hon Tim Ayres, Assistant Trade Minister (24-25 August 2023)
  • The Hon Minister Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care (17-19 August 2023)
  • The Hon Minister Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy (28 July 2023)
  • The Hon Minister Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Climate Change and Energy (22 July 2023)
  • The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP, Minister for Skills and Training (20-22 July 2023)
  • The Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP, Treasurer (16-18 July 2023)
  • The Hon Murray Watt MP, Minister for Agriculture (3-5 July 2023)
  • The Hon Pat Conroy MP, Minister for Defence Industry, Minister for International Development and the Pacific (10-12 June 2023)
  • The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs (18 May 2023)
  • The Hon Anthony Albanese MP, Prime Minister (8-11 March 2023)
  • The Hon Madeleine King MP, Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia (8-11 March 2023)
  • The Hon Don Farrell MP, Minister for Trade and Tourism (8-11 March 2023)
  • Senator the Hon Penny Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs (28 February - 3 March 2023)
  • The Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education (28 February - 3 March 2023)
  • The Hon Dr Jim Chalmers MP, Treasurer (24-25 February 2023)
  • The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs (18-19 November 2022)
  • The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs (14-16 November 2022)
  • The Hon Minister Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence (20-23 June 2022)

Indian Ministerial visits to Australia since May 2022:

  • The Hon Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs (9-10 February 2024)
  • The Hon Raosaheb Danve, Minister of State (31 October - 2 November 2023)
  • The Hon Narendra Modi, Prime Minister (23-24 May 2023)
  • The Hon Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs (23-24 May 2023)
  • The Hon Ajit Doval KC, National Security Advisor (23-24 May 2023)
  • The Hon V. Muraleedharan, Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs (18-21 February 2023)
  • The Hon Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs (18 February 2023)
  • The Hon Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road, Transport and Highways (19-22 October 2022)
  • The Hon Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs (10-11 October 2022)
  • The Hon Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister for Water (3-7 October 2022)
  • The Hon Nityanand Rai, Minister of State for Home Affairs (19-22 September 2022)
  • The Hon Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister for Education (21-24 August 2022)
  • The Hon Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture (7-9 August 2022)
  • The Hon R.K. Singh, Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy (11-15 July 2022)
  • The Hon Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines (3-8 July 2022)

People-to-people links

Australia's Indian diaspora communities form the living bridge between our countries. The Indian community is Australia's second-largest, and fastest-growing, overseas-born group. In the 2021 Census, the number of people reporting Indian heritage was 976,000. Of these, there were 673,000 Indian-born Australians, representing 2.6 per cent Australia’s population. Punjabi is our fastest-growing language, and Hindi continues to be one of the top-ten languages in Australian homes.

India became the world's most-populous country in 2023. It remains Australia's largest source of skilled migrants and the second-largest source of international students. In May 2023, Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Modi signed the Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement to promote two-way mobility between our countries in the education and business sectors. The Partnership will also enhance cooperation on irregular migration and people smuggling.

The Centre for Australia-India Relations, launched in May 2023 by Prime Minister Albanese, supports and facilitates greater engagement and collaboration with India. The Centre and its programs, including the Maitri (friendship) programs, are growing our cultural exchange, assisting Australian businesses to engage Indian markets, elevating policy dialogue and channelling the expertise of Australia's vibrant Indian diaspora communities.

The Australia India Leadership Dialogue and Australia India Youth Dialogue bring our leaders and emerging leaders together to address shared challenges in the Australia-India relationship, explore areas for cooperation and expand our ties.

Economic relationship

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), India is the world's fifth-largest economy in nominal terms and third-largest by Purchasing Power Parity. The IMF, in its World Economic Outlook Update (January 2023), said India’s growth projections were 6.5 percent for 2024 and 2025, an upgrade of 0.2 percentage points for both years, reflecting resilience in domestic demand. Over the longer-term, India's strong fundamentals – its youthful demographics, burgeoning consumer class, steady urbanisation, infrastructure investment demands, and the digitalisation and formalisation of its economy – are expected to drive sustained growth.

In financial year 2022-23, India was our fifth-largest export market and our two-way trade totalled $45 billion.

Australia's exports to India totalled $32.4 billion and imports from India totalled $12.6 billion in 2022-23. At the end of 2022, Australia's stock of investment in India was $17.6 billion at 2022 and India's total investment in Australia was $34.5 billion.

India's growth creates opportunities for Australia's goods and services, including agricultural products, minerals, resources, education and skills training. It also affords new two-way investment pathways, such as renewable energy.

After entering into force in December 2022, the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) has deepened our economic ties and furthered opportunities for Australian and Indian businesses.

In the first 12 months since ECTA entered into force, exports to India (excluding coal) increased 35 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022, with agriculture exports up 60 percent and industrial exports (excluding coal) up 30 per cent. Total imports under ECTA (excluding diesel) increased modestly, driven by a 15 per cent increase in agriculture goods and a 2 per cent increase in non-diesel industrial products.

Australia and India are now negotiating a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). We are progressing cooperation in a range of areas, including critical minerals, health, critical technology, science and agriculture.

In March 2022, the Australian Government released the Update to the India Economic Strategy (IES), a five-year action plan that builds on the landmark 2018 India Economic Strategy. The Update responds to evolving opportunities for both countries, changed global circumstances, the growing strength of the bilateral relationship and key economic reforms in India.

To support more Australian and Indian business partnerships, the Australian Government, through Austrade, launched the Australia India Business Exchange (AIBX). AIBX supports Australian businesses to enter, and establish operations, in India. It offers a range of services from industry specific insights to guidance on doing business with India and entering India's online retail market.

Austrade provides tailored advice on doing business in India. The quarterly Business Envoy publication offers perspectives and insights on the economic and market impacts of geopolitical events and trends from Australia's global diplomatic network.

See the latest economic facts on our economic relationship with India [PDF].

Renewable energy and resources

Australia and India have joined forces to accelerate the production and deployment of renewable energy technologies that will create new economic opportunities, diversify global clean energy supply chains and help reduce global emissions.

During Prime Minister Modi's visit to Sydney in May 2023, Australia and India agreed on Terms of Reference for the Australia-India Green Hydrogen Taskforce. The Taskforce will be comprised of Australian and Indian experts in green hydrogen production and deployment.

The Hydrogen Taskforce complements the work of the India-Australia Solar Taskforce, welcomed by the Prime Ministers of Australia and India in March 2023. The Solar Taskforce will provide advice on opportunities to accelerate solar PV deployment and enhance their supply chains.

The Australia-India Green Steel Partnership is helping India meet growing steel requirements while supporting commercialisation of innovative technologies that improve efficiencies and environmental outcomes in steel production.

India's goal to lower carbon emissions and boost electric vehicle production present great opportunities for Australia's critical minerals sector. We are deepening cooperation under the Australia-India Critical Minerals Investment Partnership. Investments under the Partnership will seek to build new supply chains underpinned by critical minerals processed in Australia that will help India's plans to lower emissions from its electricity network and become a global manufacturing hub.

The India-Australia Minerals Scholar Network, is developing an ecosystem of technical talent across both nations, with expertise in green steel and critical minerals. The Network would support India's emergence as a renewable technology manufacturing powerhouse and Australia's goal of becoming a renewable energy superpower.

Education ties

Education is Australia's largest service export to India, valued at $4.4 billion in 2022. As of January 2024, there were 97,152 Indian student enrolments with Australian providers, which makes up approximately 17 per cent of Australia's international student enrolments.

The Australia-India education partnership is an important pillar of our bilateral relationship, supporting the bridge between our communities, building future-ready workforces and driving economic growth. Australia is committed to strengthening the bilateral education relationship with India by increasing institutional cooperation, exploring innovative delivery models and facilitating greater research cooperation.

The Australia-India Education and Skills Council (AIESC) is the primary bilateral education dialogue between the Australian and Indian Governments on strategic policy issues in education, skills and research. AIESC replaces the Australia-India Education Council.

In November 2023, the Australian Minister for Education, Australian Minister for Skills and Training and the Indian Minister of Education co-chaired the inaugural AIESC in Gandhinagar, India. At this meeting, the Australian Government announced A Partnership for the Future – Australia's Education Strategy for India. The strategy builds on An India Economic Strategy to 2035 and presents ways to deliver mutual benefits through education, strengthen institutional and research partnerships and enhance people-to-people links, mobility and employability. Further outcomes from the meeting are outlined in the Joint Communique for the 1st AIESC meeting.

Australia and India's Education Ministers signed the first ever Mechanism for the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications between Australia and India, in New Delhi in March 2023. The mechanism supports the recognition of qualifications in Australia and India to facilitate access to higher education in both countries.

Prime Minister Albanese announced during his visit to India in March 2023 that Deakin University would be the first university in the world approved to open an international teaching campus in India. The University of Wollongong has subsequently also received approval to establish a campus in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City).

Defence engagement

Australia's defence engagement with India gathered significant momentum after we became Comprehensive Strategic Partners in 2020 and signed a Mutual Logistics Support Agreement in 2021. These arrangements have enabled Australia and India to build more complex habits of cooperation in our defence relationship. We have established a regular pattern of defence exercises, strategic dialogues and training exchanges. By exercising together, both bilaterally and alongside other partners, we aim to increase interoperability to address threats to our collective security.

2023 was a year of firsts in our defence ties: Australia hosted Exercise Malabar – a Navy-led exercise with India, the US and Japan; an Indian submarine visited Perth; Australia and India conducted a trilateral sail with Indonesia; and India's Navy made a ground-breaking visit to Australia's Cocos (Keeling) Islands.

At the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in November 2023, Australia and India announced our defence engagement would continue to build in 2024 through maritime domain awareness activities, an expanded range of joint exercises, further science and technology collaboration, increased information sharing and strengthened links between institutions.

Grant opportunities

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) supports scientists in India and Australia to collaborate on leading-edge research.

Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership (AICCTP) grants support Australian and Indian organisations to collaborate to contribute to the global development of ethical standards around critical and emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), next generation telecommunications (5G/6G), Internet of Things (IoT), quantum computing, synthetic biology, blockchain and big data.

The International Space Investments grants program enables Australian businesses and research organisations to conduct joint projects and build closer relationships with India's space sector.

Grants administered under the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) help shape maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to support a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.

The Australian Alumni Grants Scheme (AGGS) supports India-based Australian University alumni to share their knowledge and experience in support of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Maitri Cultural Partnerships support greater exchange and collaboration between Australian and Indian creative industries. The inaugural grant round funded a range of creative activities with Australian cultural organisations and community groups (including First Nations).

Maitri Fellowships support leading Indian policy thinkers to undertake secondments with prominent Australian thinktanks and Australian policy thinkers to go to India. The program will enhance public discourse on economic and geostrategic issues of interest to Australia and India and build links and academic capacity in both countries.

The Maitri Scholars Program will support India’s top students to study at Australia’s world class universities. They aim to deepen educational links, and connect scholars and alumni with Australian businesses to support greater economic ties between Australia and India. The scholarships prioritise students undertaking postgraduate studies in STEM-related disciplines. 

Maitri Research Grants will support research activities to build business capability and create opportunities for greater collaboration between Australia and India. Funding will support research into new avenues for industry collaboration and opportunities to commercialise Australia's technical capabilities with India.

The Direct Aid Program (DAP) is a small grants program funded by the Australian Government and managed through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It supports projects that have a strong development focus, contribute to poverty reduction, and strengthen communities in India. The Australian High Commission in New Delhi and Consulates-General in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata all manage separate DAP grants programs.

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