India key to Australia's future plan: Minister

Australia has described India as the "key" in its ambitious plan of engaging with the booming Asian region.

Melbourne: Australia has described India as the "key" in its ambitious plan of engaging with the booming Asian region.

Australia has clearly underlined a roadmap for the future under five key areas including a strong economy, a world class education system, an engaged economy, enhanced people-to- people links and the sustained security of the region.

"India is key to this plan for the future," Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Sport Kate Lundy said while delivering the keynote address at Australia India Business Council - ACT chapter in Canberra yesterday.

The Indian-Australians have made a growing and invaluable contribution to Australia and India is now its largest source of permanent migrants, she said.

"We are strengthened through multiculturalism, it is our greatest strength and advantage, and with this we look forward to the exciting opportunities heralded through the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, and even closer links with countries such as India," Lundy added.

"Our cultural diversity opens up valuable cultural and business opportunities and relationships, and ensures we are more connected with the rest of the world. It comes with a series of quantifiable economic outcomes that contribute to our prosperity, whether through innovation, small and medium enterprises or education," she said.

"Our interests are converging like never before. This is being driven by trade and investment, common strategic outlook and closer multilateral cooperation. It is also driven by significant business relationships, rich people-to-people links and a common heritage that will continue to bring our two countries closer together," she further commented.

Her comments assumes significance as it comes in the wake of the release of the Asian Century White Paper by Julia Gillard-led government in late October which identified India as a major partner.

Lundy also cited Prime Minister Gillard's recent visit to India which she said resulted in some significant steps forward in Australia's relationship with India.

"India and Australia are now on track to develop the bilateral relationship into the strategic partnership that was envisaged in 2009. Our current trade and investment relationship with India is strong, with two-way trade valued at ASD 20 billion in 2011 and Indian investment in Australia reaching ASD 11 billion," she said.

She said that people to people links were also growing and migration was a key element in the successful ties.

"It benefits both countries, and is essential to harnessing the potential of economic, social and demographic transformations we are both experiencing," she said.