Australia on Thursday appointed veteran woman career diplomat Harinder Sidhu as its next high commissioner to India, the second Indian-origin official to serve as the country’s envoy to India in less than five years.
Sidhu, whose family hails from Punjab, will be the second Indian-origin Australian high commissioner in India, after the former diplomat Peter Varghese, who served in India from 2009-2012.
Sidhu said she was looking forward to her new role in a dynamic country.
“India is one of the most exciting places for a diplomat to be at the moment. India’s economic prospects are bright and it is becoming a more influential and active international player,” said Sidhu, who was born in Singapore but migrated to Australia with her family as a child.
“At a personal level, I have always been fascinated by the country of my heritage and am keen to learn more about India– its language, culture and history – while I am there,” she added.
She will replace the outgoing High Commissioner Patrick Suckling.
Sidhu, a senior career officer with the department of foreign affairs and trade, has been also serving as First
Assistant Secretary of the Multilateral Policy Division. She has previously served overseas in Russia and Syria.
“India is one of Australia’s closest and most significant partners in the Indo-Pacific region. It is our 10th largest
trading partner and our two-way investment is worth over USD 20 billion,” Australian foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop said while announcing Sidhu’s appointment as the new High Commissioner.
Bishop stressed that Australia would continue to push for the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India, designed to take “our economic relationship to a new level”.
“Sidhu will also have non-resident accreditation to Bhutan. Australia and Bhutan enjoy a warm relationship, built on strong people-to-people links,” Bishop said.
Australia also has strong strategic and defence ties with India, conducting its first bilateral maritime exercises in 2015, she said.
There are also over 450,000 people of Indian descent currently residing in Australia driving our strong education, cultural and tourism links, Bishop said.
Sidhu’s previous roles included First Assistant Secretary in the Department of Climate Change, Assistant Director-
General in the Office of National Assessments and Senior Adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
She holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Economics degrees from the University of Sydney.