India country brief
India is the world’s largest democracy and one of its fastest-growing economies. Australia cooperates with India across a range of issues and in a variety of fora. The Australian Government’s diplomatic network in India includes a High Commission in New Delhi and Consulates-General in Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata. We will soon open a Consulate-General in Bengaluru, India’s tech capital.
The Australia-India relationship was upgraded to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) on 4 June 2020. Our CSP is based on mutual understanding, trust, common interests and shared democratic heritage. Through the CSP, both countries are committed to working together across a range of areas including science and technology, maritime cooperation, economy, defence, 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.
Australia’s relationship with India is our oldest continuous formal diplomatic relationship with any Asian country. Similarly, Australia is the first country India established full diplomatic relations with. 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 Sir Iven Mackay was appointed Australia's first High Commissioner to India. India's first High Commissioner to Australia, Sir Raghunath P Paranjpe arrived in Canberra in 1945.
Links between Australian and Indian people run deep. Australia’s Indian community is our 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 of the Australian population, the second largest overseas-born group. Punjabi is our fastest growing language and Hindi continues to be one of the top ten languages used in Australian homes.
India is on track to become the world’s most populous country by 2023. It remains Australia's largest source of skilled migrants and the second largest source of international students. These trends point to the importance of our people-to-people links in supporting strong two-way economic growth.
The Australia India Leadership Dialogue and Australia India Youth Dialogue are examples of initiatives that bring our leaders and emerging leaders together to address shared challenges in the Australia-India relationship, explore areas for cooperation and build out our ties.
A new Centre for Australia-India Relations, to be launched in 2023, will deepen Australia’s understanding of contemporary India. The Centre and its programs, including the ‘Maitri’ (‘Friendship’ in Sanskrit) programs will grow our community and cultural links, work in practical ways to help businesses succeed in the Indian market, elevate policy interchange, and channel the expertise of Australia’s vibrant Indian diaspora.
Over the next 20 years, a growing India will need many of Australia's goods and services, including agriculture, education and skills training, and healthcare.
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 expects India’s GDP to grow by 6.8 per cent in 2022. Over the longer-term, India's strong fundamentals – its youthful demographics, burgeoning consumer class, steady urbanisation, unmet infrastructure investment demand, and the digitalisation and formalisation of its economy – are expected to drive sustained growth.
In 2021, India was Australia's sixth-largest two-way goods and services trading partner and fourth-largest goods and services export market.
Two-way goods and services trade with India was $34.3 billion in 2021. Australia's stock of investment in India was $19.9 billion at 2021 and India’s total investment in Australia was $27.8 billion.
Education is Australia's largest service export to India, valued at $4.2 billion in 2021. As of October 2022, almost 57,000 Indian visa holders were studying in Australia.
The Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) entered into force on 29 December, and will deepen our economic ties and provide further opportunities for Australian and Indian businesses.
Australia and India are now engaging on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) and progressing cooperation in a range of areas, including critical minerals, health, critical technology, science and agriculture.
In November 2019, India withdrew from negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), and on 15 November 2020, Leaders endorsed the Ministerial Declaration on India's participation in RCEP stating that India may commence RCEP accession negotiations at any time following the entry into force of the Agreement.
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 and 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, has launched the Australia India Business Exchange (AIBX). AIBX provides a range of services to support Australian businesses to enter and establish operations in India, 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].
The Australia-India education partnership is an important pillar of our bilateral relationship, supporting the bridge between our communities. The Australia-India Education Council (AIEC) provides a platform for ministerial engagement on policy and operational issues in education. Australia is committed to strengthening the bilateral education relationship with India by increasing institutional cooperation, exploring new and innovative delivery models, and facilitating greater research cooperation.
Australia’s defence engagement with India continues to gather momentum. Australia and India share ambitions to embed more complex habits of cooperation in our defence relationship.
Since signing our CSP, 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 better address threats to our collective security. Training exchanges also strengthen the people-to-people links that anchor our partnership. We have also reinvigorated mechanisms for closer defence industry cooperation to increase supply chain resilience.
Our defence relationship witnessed several historic firsts in 2022. We conducted two reciprocal Maritime Patrol Aircraft (P-8) deployments – an Indian P-8I to Darwin in April, followed by the reciprocal deployment of an Australia P-8A to Goa in June. The India-Australia Joint Working Group on Defence Industry, Research and Materiel met in November 2022 after being reinvigorated following Deputy Prime Minister Marles’ meeting with India’s Defence Minister Singh in June.
Bilateral architecture & high-level visits
Australia is one of only three countries that India holds annual leader-level summits with. The Prime Ministers of Australia and India also regularly interact at major international meetings, including through the G20 and East Asia Summit. In May 2022 Prime Minister Albanese and Prime Minister Modi held their first bilateral meeting on the margins of the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo.
Australian and Indian Foreign Ministers also 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 now meet biannually to discuss strategic issues in a '2+2' format, with the first Ministerial 2+2 having been held in New Delhi in September 2021.
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 17th Joint Ministerial Commission meeting was held in September 2021. These meetings are complemented by ministerial engagement in sector-focused working groups, including on energy and education.
Our growing bilateral architecture is complemented by regional groupings such as the Quad and trilateral forums, including the Australia-India-Indonesia and the Australia-India-France trilateral meetings.
In 2022, the following Indian Ministers visited Australia:
- Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs (10-13 February 2022)
- Piyush Goyal, Minister for Commerce & Industry (5-8 April 2022)
- Pralhad Joshi, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Coal and Mines (3-8 July 2022)
- R.K. Singh, Minister for Power, New and Renewable Energy (11-15 July 2022)
- Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture (7-9 August 2022)
- Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister for Education (21-24 August 2022)
- Nityanand Rai, Minister of State for Home Affairs (19-22 September 2022)
- Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister for Water (3-7 October 2022)
- Dr S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister (10-11 October 2022)
- Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport & Highways (19-22 October 2022)
In 2022, the following Australian Federal and State Ministers visited India:
- The Hon Dan Tehan MP, former Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment (9-11 February 2022)
- The Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence (20-23 June 2022)
- The Hon Roger Cook MLA, Deputy Premier of Western Australia (11‑19 July 2022)
- The Hon Dominic Perrottet MP, Premier of New South Wales (28-29 July 2022)
- The Hon Tim Watts MP, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs (14-16 and 18-19 November 2022)
The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) supports scientists in India and Australia to collaborate on leading-edge research. More information, including how to apply for AISRF grants.
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. More information, including updates on new grant rounds.
Grants administered under the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) help shape maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific to support an open, inclusive, resilient, prosperous and rules-based maritime order. Information on the latest grant round.