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.
"These people-to-people connections overcome many of the barriers relating to trade including particularly the exchange of information, confidence and familiarity with the culture. India has also become Australia`s biggest source of migrants for the first time, with permanent migration from India reaching 15.7 percent (29,018) of the total programme in 2011-12," Lundy described.
"India is now consistently one of the top three source countries for skilled permanent migration and temporary skilled workers, and it is envisaged that India, a country with 500 million people under 25, will continue to be a strong source of skilled migration to Australia into the future," she said.
"For the past decade India has also been one of the top ten source countries for student visa applications and is currently the second highest source country of international students for Australia. Education presents one of the most valuable opportunities for both countries to lay the foundation for an enduring partnership.
"It opens up enormous opportunities to deepen collaboration between institutions across the education and training sectors, business and industry, and our governments," she added.
Lundy also mentioned that there were wide range of discussions being held with the Indian government and industry representatives and that the two sides had agreed that there were great opportunities based on respective strengths.
The key strategy is to link innovative Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to Indian multinationals with global reach and domestic scale.
Not only is India a large and expanding market, but also Indian firms are building and participating in global supply chains around the world, especially in North America and Europe, she said.
Indian industry has also expressed an interest in linking to Australian SMEs and researchers working on innovative systems, products and services.
"Together, there is an opportunity to create new markets through innovative products by increasing Indian access to Australian research and development, incubation, commercialisation and collaborative projects," she said.
"This trend is already under way, with many Indian firms investing in Australia, which they see as one of the few expanding markets in the post GFC (Global Financial Crisis) world, as well as being a source of innovative ideas," she noted.