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INDIA-AUSTRALIA RELATIONS

Introduction:

India and Australia have several commonalities, which serve as a foundation for closer cooperation and multifaceted interaction. Both are strong, vibrant, secular and multicultural democracies. They both have a free press and an independent judicial system; the English language is an important link. Cricket is a significant element in awareness at the popular level.

Historical Contacts:

India and Australia have commercial ties dating back to the 18th century, when India played a central role in nourishing the young colony and trade with Australia came to be an important element in the operations of the East India Company in Bengal. In 1792, in only the fourth year of the infant penal colony, when the supply ship Guardian sank leaving the inhabitants close to starvation, it was to Calcutta that the Governor looked for help, dispatching the 'Atlantic' to bring back all the food and stores it could carry. The 'Atlantic' returned on a winter's day that same year, with a cargo of rice, wheat and lentils.

Australia's first shipments of coal were to Bengal in 1799, from Newcastle.

For the next half century, Australia's most immediate and direct links were with India rather than London, as bureaucrats, merchants, chaplains, judges, moved between the two colonies. By 1840 a ship was leaving Sydney for India roughly every four days, and merchants in Calcutta grew rich from supplying the new outpost.

India was an important source of food and provisions for Australia; it was also a source of retired 'colonials', bringing Anglo-Indian furniture and architectural styles and a taste for spicy food. At the beginning of the 19th century, several British colonial families from India made a life for themselves in the new Australian colonies.

The Consulate General of India in Sydney was first opened as a Trade Office in 1941 and the first High Commissioner arrived in Canberra in 1945.

Visits:

There have been several visits at Head of Government and Head of State level. Prime Minister R.G. Menzies visited India in 1950. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Australia in May 1968. Australia's Governor General Sir John Kerr visited India in February-March 1975.

Prime Minister Morarji Desai visited Australia for a CHOGM summit in February 1978. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was Chief Guest at Republic Day in January 1979. He also paid a transit visit in August 1981. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Australia again in October 1981 for a CHOGM summit.

Prime Minister Bob Hawke visited India in 1983 for a CHOGM summit. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Australia in 1986 on a bilateral visit. Prime Minister Bob Hawke visited India in February 1989 for a bilateral visit. Prime Minister John Howard visited India in July 2000 and again in March 2006.

There have been a steady exchange of ministerial level visits in the past few years, especially at the level of Foreign Minister. EAM Mr. Pranab Mukherjee visited Australia in June 2008 for the Foreign Minister's Framework Dialogue. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith visited India in September 2008, when it was agreed to take relations to its next level and work towards a strategic partnership.

EAM Mr. S.M. Krishna visited Cairns in connection with the Pacific Island Forum's - Post Forum Dialogue which took place on 7 August 2009. While in Cairns, he had bilateral interactions with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith. Earlier on 06 August, Mr. Krishna visited Sydney and had held meetings with Premier Nathan Rees of New South Wales, prominent Indians and Indian students. From Cairns, Mr. Krishna visited Melbourne on 8-9 August, where, apart from his interactions with Indian community and students, he held meetings with Premier John Brumby of Victoria, and the Victorian Minister of Education, Jacinta Allan.

The regular exchange of high-level Ministerial visits has been important in taking the relationship forward.Several MoUs and Agreements have been signed.