Chandigarh, July 25 (IANS) Australia has placed India at the forefront of its international relationships and both are working together more closely than ever on security cooperation, Australian High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu said here on Monday.
She also announced to equip India’s workforce to meet the demands of the expanding economy.
“Australia and India are working together more closely than ever on security cooperation,” she told reporters.
“We had our first joint naval exercise last year (2015), and we think the bilateral security relationship will go a long way. Our civil nuclear cooperation agreement has entered into force, enabling the export of uranium to India,” Sidhu, who is on her first visit to Punjab, the state from where her family has its roots, said.
Given the strategic alignment, the envoy said: “India and Australia are well placed to work together on challenges in the Indian Ocean region.”
She said the two-way Prime Ministerial visit in 2014 was a milestone, setting out an ambitious forward agenda.
“Last year we saw new or expanded maritime, cyber, terrorism and transnational crime dialogues between our nations.”
“It will be important to build and strengthen institutions and norms in the region which can help manage tensions. From Australia’s strategic perspective, the East Asia Summit is the regional institution which has the highest priority and the most potential to promote consultation to resolve regional issues peacefully.”
The economic front is on a solid footing, she said.
“In 2015, two-way trade between Australia and India was valued at AUD 20 billion. India is now Australia’s ninth largest trading partner and fifth largest export market. And trade is growing steadily.”
She said: “Equipping Indians with the skills to participate in the economy underpins so many of the Modi government’s flagship policies, from ‘Make in India’ and ‘Start-Up India’ to the Smart Cities initiative.”
“We see ourselves as a natural partner for India as it seeks to meet its challenges across the education sector, whether this is in schools, higher or vocational education, or research.”
In higher education, Sidhu said Australia has some of the world’s best institutions and academics. “Already, we are sharing teaching and learning expertise between India and Australia.”
“Beyond this, we are starting to expand our work on delivering vocational and skills training to equip India’s workforce to meet the demands of the expanding economy. This training is in fields as diverse as welding, plumbing, fitness, health and aged care.”
The envoy, who felt that Chandigarh looks just like her hometown Canberra, said Punjab and Haryana send a significant number of students to Australia, especially in vocational training.
“We are also looking at centres of excellence and training within Punjab and Haryana, for example in training for excellence in sports.”
To strengthen India’s rural economy, Sidhu, who was born in Singapore but migrated to Australia with her family as a child, said using advances in technology, genetics and farming practices, an Australian cow produces on average five times as much milk as an Indian cow.
“Australia is hosting International Dairy Week in January 2017. It will focus on every aspect of dairy farming: Cattle genetics, services and technologies,” she said, adding, India is the world’s largest dairy producer in terms of high number of cows.
On Smart Cities, she said her country could make contributions on road safety.
An Australian company UraP International is working on a World Bank-funded project in Punjab to assist the government with road safety audits on state highways, she said.
It’s an important project aimed at saving lives and reducing the risk of road injury — one of the top 10 killers in India, said Sidhu, whose parents are of Punjabi origin.