Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Patrick Suckling, was in Bhopal on Monday ahead of the Global Investors’ Summit.
Australia is a partner state in the upcoming meet. HT spoke to the High Commissioner on an array of issues, including the bilateral trade relations between the two countries. Excerpts:
What brings you to Madhya Pradesh?
Australia has a strong relationship with India. The Australian PM was in India earlier this month at PM Narendra Modi’s invitation. There is a strong commitment between countries to partner in the economic sphere.
Australia has strengths and with relations between India and Australia being strong, we now want to work closely with states as well. MP has a strong and stable government that has been working well.
Any specific sector in which Australia and India, and MP in particular, can partner?
There are five major sectors we have identified where Australia and MP can partner. Agricultural business, irrigation, dry land farming, food processing along with dairy in which the MP chief minister is very keen that we work in increasing productivity.
Secondly, mining, and we already have a big investment by Rio Tinto in the state which, once takes off, will be one of the biggest diamond mines in the world. The CM is also keen to utilise resources so that employment can be generated. Third is energy and resources.
Similarly, infrastructure which includes housing, energy efficient buildings and education and skill development are most important sectors. Eight Australian universities are among the top 100 varsities in the world and 19 out of the top 40 varsities in Australia have a link in India.
Indian students, about 55,000, are the second largest group in Australia. Sports is another sector in which we can partner MP which is now setting up sports academies.
What is the present status of trade between India and Australia and what are the major items covered under trade?
The total volume of trade between India and Australia is about $15 billion while Australia’s trade with China is about $150 billion. This suggests there is a huge scope for growth in trade between India and Australia.
Have racial attacks on Indian students affected arrival of students?
The racial attack incidents took place in 2009 and to put things in perspective, there were four lakh foreign students in Australia and the number of attacks was very meagre. However, the government has taken a number of steps to stop the racial attacks. About 15% of education providers were closed down because they were not doing a good job.