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.
Australia has placed India at the forefront of its international partnerships. With the relationship elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2020, leaders’ meetings are now annual fixtures in the bilateral relationship, with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visiting Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi in March 2023. India is Australia's sixth-largest trading partner and our fourth-largest export market.
Ministerial level engagement is also on the rise, with a significant number of bilateral visits made each year on both sides. 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 their Indian counterpart. Australian and Indian Defence Ministers meet regularly, and Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers also meet annually as part of a 2+2 arrangement. Learn more about the Australia-India relationship.
Prime Minister Modi and then Australian Prime Minister Morrison held a virtual India-Australia Leaders’ Summit in June 2020. As an outcome, Australia and India upgraded our bilateral relationship from a ‘Strategic Partnership’, which had been agreed in 2009, to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP). That Summit also delivered landmark agreements in fields including Maritime Cooperation in Indo-Pacific, Defence, Cyber Security, Education, Mining and Water Resource Management. In March 2022, we launched of the Update to Australia’s India Economic Strategy. Alongside this the Australian Government committed funding to advance the relationship, linked to new initiatives in technology, space, critical minerals, strategic research and people-to-people links. Shortly after this our free trade agreement, the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI-ECTA) was signed on 2 April 2022.
On 29 December 2022, the Australia-India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) entered into force, eliminating tariffs on over 85 per cent of Australia's goods exports to India by value, rising to 90 per cent after five years. More information is available on Australia-India ECTA outcomes. The Government is now progressing pursuing further competitive advantages to expand this trade relationship through an ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to further expand our trade relationship. Find more information on CECA.
Centre for Australia-India Relations
The new Centre for Australia-India Relations will open soon in Australia. It will facilitate greater collaboration and engagement between our two countries. The Centre will work across the Australian government, business, academia and community to build greater understanding of the bilateral relationship and the opportunities flowing from it.
The Centre will also administer the Maitri grants, fellowships, cultural partnerships and scholarship programs. For more information on the Centre and the Maitri initiatives, visit the Centre for Australia-India Relations website.
The Australia-India education partnership is important in driving engagement, collaboration and building links between our communities. Unique among India’s education partners, Australia has a ministerial-led policy forum, the Australia India Education Council (AIEC), which provides a platform for engagement on policy and operational issues across education. The AIEC is co-chaired by education ministers from both countries and includes representatives from government, academia and industry.
For information on studying and living in Australia, visit the official Australian Government website for international students, Study in Australia. More information on international student data can be located on the Australian Government's Department of Education website.
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 growing contemporary defence relationship. India is a top-tier security partner for Australia, and we are working together to boost ties under the defence and security pillar of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Under that Partnership, two landmark defence arrangements were recently concluded: the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement and the Defence Science and Technology Implementing Arrangement.
Our Defence relationship is focused on bolstering maritime security cooperation, information sharing, defence industry and military education and training. The Australia-India defence relationship encompasses almost every major area of military partnership, namely:
- strategic dialogues, coordination and information sharing;
- military exercises involving ground, air, and maritime forces that deepen our interoperability;
- military-to-military exchanges and training; and
- defence industrial and technological cooperation.
For more detail on the Australia-India defence relationship, 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.
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.
Through the Direct Aid Program (DAP), the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and Australian Consulates-General in Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru support small-scale, sustainable grassroots development projects in India and Bhutan. For more information, click here.
The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research bilateral program with India was initiated in 1982 and the South Asia office was set up in India in 1997. Our projects are mostly bilateral, although occasionally we do undertake multilateral projects. For more information, visit the ACIAR website.