Melbourne: Australia India Institute (AII) inaugural director Amitabh Mattoo and Victorian Tourism Minister Louise Asher have been conferred with the Ashoka Award for their contributions to India-Australia relationship.
The award, one of the highest honour of Australia-India Business Council (Victoria), was presented to them last night at a glittering function attended by Victorian governor Alex Chernov and several Australian and Indian dignitaries.
Mattoo is the first Indian-origin person to receive the award which was incepted by the AIBC Victoria three years ago.
Receiving the award from Indian High Commissioner Biren Nanda, Asher said the state government has been working on a four-point engagement programme for building ties with India which included enhancing understanding between the two sides through cultural and student exchange programmes and also building strategic, trade and investment relations.
Asher said that since 2011, she has been on trade missions to India six times from which "the reported exports were recorded at over USD 653 million dollars".
Mattoo, while thanking the council for the award, said though relations between Australia and India have improved and grown over past few years, there was still a big scope to further strengthen it.
Last year`s awardee former Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu, presented the award to Mattoo.
Speaking on the occasion, the Indian High Commissioner said the new Indian government has been assertive about trade and investment which Australia should see as a unique opportunity to build future relations.
"Already FDI in defence sector has been announced by the new government and there would be more announcements of these sorts in future. So this is a unique opportunity for Australia to explore new opportunities as the new government sets its policy agenda," Nanda said.
"We are committed to strong economic, business and investment ties with Australia...We are really keen on strategic partnership that will be very important for political and security dimensions of our relationship," he said.
Ashoka Award, the first of the kind of honour instituted by the AIBC Vic, has been named after Emperor Ashoka who ruled India in the period 304-232 BC and made huge contributions to humanity and development of a secular society.