Army Chief To Visit Australia Next Month


New Delhi: Indian Army chief will visit Australia next month to step-up bilateral defence ties and explore possibilities of joint exercises and other defence related collaborations, India’s envoy has said.

Indian High Commissioner in Australia Navdeep Suri said that for the first time, India and Australia will have a dialogue this year involving Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministries to discuss a broad range of bilateral issues including security.

In defence and security sector, India was seen as “a stable and transparent democratic nation” and thus there was a strong desire for collaboration, Suri said.

Army chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag will visit Australia in July to potentially look at joint exercises and range of other defence related collaboration with the Australian side, he said.

“For the first time this year, the two governments will have 2+2 dialogue which will involve both foreign affairs and defence ministry to discuss a broad range of security. I can say confidently that we have no irritants in our relationship at this point of time (which) enables us to move forward with positive agendas… We are therefore in this happy space.

“Last year, we had a remarkable year as 11 Australian cabinet ministers visited India that alone is an indication of the importance that Australia gives to its relationship with India,” Suri said.

He said now, there were annual structured ministerial level discussions and dialogues on several areas of interest including foreign policies, energy security and education.

Elaborating the trade ties, Suri said while the absolute numbers in terms of two way trade dipped from 15 billion Australian dollars to 12 billion, exports from India have recorded a growth of 26 per cent last year in dollar terms.

Suri said Australia has been the growth market for India. Indian exports rose despite Australian overall imports contracted. To further boost the trade links, the areas of technology and investments were also being explored.

A part of such initiative was seen when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley visited Australia early this year to woo 2.1 trillion dollar Superannuation funds sector seeking to invest in Indian infrastructure projects. Indian government was now working hard to put a very strong pipeline of investor-ready projects for the Australian investors.

“We are looking at Australia’s vast superannuation funds industry which is increasingly looking at good and stable returns. We are working on to put together a very strong pipeline of investor ready projects,” Suri said.

He said a Superannuation fund delegation was due to visit India in October this year to meet some the promoters. In education sector, there was a significant improvement with Indian students number rebounding to now to 70,000 and apart from this, there were number of Joint Phd programmes in place, he said.

Indian government is all set to unleash a four-month long ‘Festival of India’ programme in Australia in August which will showcase the rich Indian arts and culture.