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 have been followed by regular leaders' meetings. Prime Minister Turnbull visited New Delhi and Mumbai in April 2017, and President Kovind visited Australia in November 2018.
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) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
India is Australia’s fifth-largest trading partner. Two-way goods and services trade between Australia and India totalled $29.1 billion in 2017-18, up from $18 billion in 2014-15. Major Australian exports to India in 2017-18 included coal ($9.9 billion), education-related travel
($3.8 billion) and copper ores and concentrates ($852 million). Major Australian imports from India in 2017-18 were refined petroleum ($1.6 billion), personal travel services ($1.1 billion) and business services ($609 million). For more information, click here.
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. In recent years our 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 2015 in Australia) and the annual 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, with the Indian Chief of Naval Staff visiting Australia in October 2015. The services also engage regularly through Navy, Army and Air Force Staff Talks.
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, with our first formal bilateral naval exercise (AUSINDEX) held off the coast of Visakhapatnam in 2015. In September 2015, our defence ministers committed to holding AUSINDEX biennially, and the next iteration will take place in Australia in 2017. In February 2016, Australia’s Chief of Navy, a Royal Australian Navy ship and a detachment of the RAN Band visited Visakhapatnam to participate in the Indian Navy’s International Fleet Review. In August 2016, the Royal Australian Navy’s combat logistics ship HMAS Success’ visited Chennai and engaged in meetings, exchange visits and passage exercises with the Indian Navy ship, INS Sumithra and the Indian Coast Guard.
The Australia-India Council (AIC) established on 21 May 1992 advances Australia's interests concerning India by initiating and supporting activities designed to enhance awareness and understanding between the peoples and institutions of Australia and India. The Council initiates or supports a range of activities designed to promote a greater awareness of Australia in India and a greater awareness of India in Australia, including visits and exchanges between the two countries, development of institutional links, and support of studies in each country of the other. The Council offers support, in the form of funding, for projects likely to contribute to the development of the relationship, within the context of AIC objectives and guidelines. For more information, click here.
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 available 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:
- 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)
- Increased regional connectivity through trade facilitation and infrastructure connectivity