Australia has placed India at the forefront of its international partnerships. Both governments recognise there is significant potential for further cooperation across a broad range of areas. Two-way Prime Ministerial visits in 2014 built significant momentum in the relationship and affirmed the Strategic Partnership agreed to in 2009.
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. India's first High Commissioner to Australia arrived in Canberra in 1945. In March 1944, Lieutenant-General Iven Mackay was appointed Australia's first High Commissioner to India.
Australian and Indian Foreign Ministers meet annually for the Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue (FMFD) alternately held in Australia and India. Similarly, Australian and Indian Trade Ministers meet annually for the Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) and Education Ministers meet for the India-Australia Ministerial Dialogue on Education Cooperation. Australia’s Industry Minister also holds an annual Energy Security Dialogue with his or her Indian counterpart. Australian and Indian Defence Ministers meet regularly.
Economic and trade relations
The Australia-India economic relationship has grown significantly in recent years. Australia's strength in exporting primary products, particularly minerals and energy, as well as services such as education, positions us well to supply growing Indian industrial and consumer demand. We are seeking to further deepen trade and investment links through the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).
India is Australia’s tenth-largest trading partner and our fifth-largest export market. Two-way goods and services trade between Australia and India totalled $18 billion in 2014-15. Major Australian exports to India in 2014-15 included coal ($5.5 billion), education-related travel
($2.1 billion) and gold ($903 million). Major Australian imports from India in 2014-15 were refined petroleum ($910 million), personal travel services ($561 million) and business services ($481 million).
The Department of Education and Training office at the Australian High Commission leads strategic policy, regulation and government-to-government engagement in international education and research across India and the region (Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives). The office works in partnership with Austrade, which is responsible for the international marketing and promotion of Australian education and training. For more information, click here.
Under the New Colombo Plan, 900 Australian undergraduates are studying and completing internships in India during 2015-16.
Building on a long history of cooperation - including our shared experience in the trenches of World War I in Gallipoli and along the Western Front - Australia and India have a positive defence relationship, underpinned by the 2006 Memorandum on Defence Cooperation and the 2009 Joint Declaration on Security Co-operation. Following the agreement in 2014 of a bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation the defence relationship has grown to include a range of forums for strategic dialogue, as well as regular interactions between our respective services through senior visits, staff talks, and training exchanges.
Key platforms for strategic dialogue include the annual Defence Policy Talks (hosted most recently in 2016 in India ) and 1.5 Track Defence Strategic Dialogue. Senior visits also occur on a regular basis. In September 2015 the then Australian Minister of Defence visited India, resulting in agreement to deepen our defence cooperation ties, including through establishing a Joint Working Group on Defence Research and Materiel Cooperation. Service chiefs from both countries regularly exchange security perspectives and gain an understanding of each other’s structures and capabilities through visits. The Australian Chiefs of Army and Navy visited India in 2016. Annual staff talks between our Army, Navy and Air Forces are resulting in open dialogue and we are seeing regular unit-level visits between all three services.
Australia and India build robust people-to-people links between our defence forces through regular personnel and training exchanges, such as short specialist courses and longer-term positions. Every year, Australia sends two officers to attend Indian military educational institutions: one officer attends India’s Defence Services Staff College, while another attends its National Defence College. India also sends two officers to study in Australia annually, with one attending Australia’s Command and Staff College and the other attending the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. In 2015, an Australian officer also attended the Indian Navy’s Long Hydrography course in Goa.
Australia and India are committed to working together to enhance maritime cooperation and in 2015 established a bilateral naval exercise (AUSINDEX), the second iteration of which was held off the coast of Australia in June 2017. We are also looking forward to expanding cooperation between land forces and planning is underway for a bilateral Army-to-Army exercise to take place in 2018.
The Australian Government’s overseas aid program advances Australia’s national interest by assisting developing countries to reduce poverty and achieve economic development. While Australia does not have a bilateral development cooperation program with India, we provide support through our global and regional aid investments and technical assistance activities. Information about Australia’s development program is here.
South Asia Regional Aid Program
The South Asia Regional program seeks to underpin Australia’s economic engagement in the region by addressing key region-wide barriers to sustainable economic growth. Gender equality is a focus in all our investments under the regional program. The South Asia Regional program focuses on two inter-related objectives:
1: Increased water, food and energy security in South Asia to facilitate economic growth and improve the livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable (particularly women and girls)
2: Increased regional connectivity through trade facilitation and infrastructure connectivity
Direct Aid Program
Through DAP, the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and Australian Consulates in Chennai and Mumbai support small-scale, sustainable grassroots development projects in India and Bhutan. For more information, click here.
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
ACIAR is an Australian Government statutory authority that operates as part of Australia's aid program within the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It was established in 1982 to assist and encourage Australia's agricultural scientists to use their skills for the benefit of developing countries but also to work to resolve Australia's own agricultural problems. Australia has an exceptionally strong capacity in agricultural research and development, and is also unique amongst developed countries in possessing large agricultural areas in the tropics and subtropics.
ACIAR's bilateral program with India was initiated in 1982 and the South Asia office was set up in India in 1997. The South Asia region comprises India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. Our region accounts for less than 15 per cent of ACIAR's bilateral program. Our projects are mostly bilateral, although occasionally we do undertake multilateral projects. For more information, click here.