On Thursday 12 September, the Perth USAsia Centre partnered with the Department Foreign Affairs and Trade to host Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu for an insightful presentation and a fireside chat with the University of Western Australia’s Public Policy Institute’s Director, Professor Shamit Saggar.
High Commissioner Sidhu highlighted the ongoing shift of power from west to east, with the relationship between Australia and India continuing to strengthen. This is evidenced by the growing number of defence engagements Australia has undertaken with India over recent years. While these engagements used to total 4 or 5 in a year, in 2014 there were 11, and last year this number rose to 38.
This year represented the largest contingent of Australian military forces travelling to India to undertake a number of exercises with the execution of AUSINDEX.
High Commissioner Sidhu highlighted that a stronger partnership on the military front between the two countries represents an enhanced level of trust, and strategic cooperation.
India is also showing signs of reaching out and engaging more with the world according to High Commissioner Sidhu. There has been much more engagement with ASEAN over recent years, with countries such as Indonesia. India is moving on from informal talks to actually doing things together. Examples include the annual strategic dialogue and defense cooperation agreement
, as well as the ASEAN-India Summit. With Indonesia being our nation’s closest neighbour, this is very positive news for Australia.
High Commissioner Sidhu also highlighted economic development and reform as the likely priority for the Modi Government during the second term. High Commissioner Sidhu indicated that focus must be placed on the bilateral economic relationship for it to develop during the term. This will be supported by the India Economic Strategy and the Australia Economic Strategy report.
The fireside chat between High Commissioner Sidhu and Professor Shamit Saggar, Director of UWA’s Public Policy Institute delved into comments made by the High Commissioner during the presentation and also discussed current issues for the country.
The conversation turned to how India is steadying itself, on the precipice of a global leadership role moving forward.
Indian households spend a disproportionate amount of education, and the New Education Plan sees India becoming a more inclusive country, and for the first time contemplating foreign universities.
While High Commissioner Sidhu indicated that India prefers smaller groupings when it comes to developing relationships, the country is continuing its foreign policy of strategic autonomy.
In closing, High Commission Sidhu said that there was a long way to go when it comes to gender equity in India, especially at an elite level.