Patrick Suckling – An interview

Patrick Suckling

Australian High Commissioner to India,  Patrick Suckling

He exudes a certain sense of calm. His humble candour and unassuming smile is infectious. His vision and enthusiasm for Indo-Oz relations is endearing and his love for India is further fuelled by the fact that he  holds a post-graduate diploma in Hindi from the University of Sydney. He is Australian High Commissioner to India,  Patrick Suckling. A father of three children agrees that he is in India at an important time of his children’s life who will carry a life-long impression of what India is as a country while he handles the busy schedule of carrying out diplomatic duties in strengthening relations between Australia and India.

In a talk with  Neena Badhwar,  Editor and  Ritu Ghai, Delhi reporter  at the High Commission in New Delhi, he shares his take on  various topics that can lead to a great future for both the countries.

Excerpts from the interview”¦

India is important”¦.
Australia is keen to foster the relations with India. India holds a prominent place in our thinking.  The 2013 Australian Defence White Paper outlines the profound economic, strategic and strategic changes occurring and the shared interest of India and Australia to address these changes. Australia holds its relationship with Australia in high regard and is committed to further strengthening the bilateral relations in many sectors.

Setting Trends”¦
Australia and India are on a fast track for talks to foster relations between India and Australia. Post the Tony Abbot Government coming into power, many changes are being made to cement the relationship amidst both the countries. Australia, one of the world’s largest uranium reserves holder is already into series of negotiations that will enable uranium sales for India’s nuclear power plants, on the key condition that  India will utilize the uranium for peaceful purposes. We are committed to stronger trade and investment ties with India and seeking cooperation in areas of Education, Biotech, Infrastructure, Pharmaceutical Agribusiness, and IT sectors.

Bilateral trade is on the upswing, and India  is Australia’s fourth largest export partner and the eighth largest trading partner. There is a lot of positive growth looking up at the next level. Investments in renewable energy (solar and wind power), bio-technology, urban design and water in on the agenda. Since India has a water crisis, we are chipping in with the technology for water management.  India is a significant investor, the largest source of skilled migrants to Australia and the second largest source of international students.

Working with the dynamic country of India is destined to result in continued prosperity for both the nations.

”˜Young ones’”¦
The future of Australia-India relations rests in the hands of the youth armed with dynamism and an openness of spirit. The Australia India Youth Dialogue (AIYD) sows the seeds for a strong relationship among the nations. Australians like Hayley Bolding, who at the age of 23 set up Atma, an NGO in India and Jennifer Star who runs Tara.Ed, an NGO training teachers in India are a part of AIYD.

Already a growing number of young people in Australia are taking a keen interest in India – in its tremendous social, political, cultural and economic problems and potential. India has been Australia’s largest source of immigrants and students. The youth can play a key role in helping to shift old attitudes and find new avenues for collaboration and partnership. This engagement between the youth in Australia and India is bound to see positive bilateral relationship with deeper appreciation of Australia’s political, economic, strategic and social concerns.

In ”˜defence’ of a great future”¦
We also want to improve defence cooperation with India. The year 2015 will see the bilateral navy-to-navy exercises,  stepped up military exchanges and regular defence dialogues to maritime security and a joint naval combat exercise in 2015. Both countries need to have regular ministerial level meetings, professional military exchanges and naval exchanges to continue to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and to promote cooperation in the  Indian Ocean  region (IOR).

Investments and interests in Australia”¦
Tatas have been here for a long time.   Infosys is equally active in Australia. State Bank of India ATMs operate on Australian technology. There are more than 30 Indian IT companies in Australia. There is a lot happening in this front. Similarly Australian companies have also established their hold in India. Toll, a huge logistics company has its headquarters in Chennai. The largest employer is Australia New Zealand Bank with 6,000 employees in Bangalore. Mining companies such as Thiess and BHP are involved in India. Australia is strong in education, mining, vocational sectors especially agriculture, water management and logistics.

Students’ safety at Australian universities”¦
Australia has taken strong law enforcement initiatives to insure that past incidents against Indian students do not happen. More policing and mentoring services to international students and criminal prosecution of offenders have done away with such incidents. We want international students including the ones from India to feel safe in the country and in their campuses.

In conclusion”¦
Australia and India have always looked at strengthening ties with each other  whether it is curry, cricket or Commonwealth. Very recently ten Indian teachers travelled to  Australia  as participants in the  Australia-India School Leaders’ Professional Learning Program, organised by the Asia Education Foundation (AEF) with support from  Australian  Education International (AEI), under a popular teacher exchange program. Such programmes will help build enduring ties between the two school systems, and also between the two countries.

Also the Australian  Government will provide  â‚¹2.53 billion (AUD 47 million) over four years for the  AsiaBound  program with  â‚¹584 million (AUD 10.6 million) for the program’s first year of operation.

Jointly announced by the  Australian  Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Minister for Higher Education and Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, the first group of  AsiaBound  student grants will allow 3700  Australian students to study in Asia, from which more than 400  Australian  students have been offered subsidies to study in India.

For Australian  students, a study experience in India is an invaluable way to broaden their understanding of India’s rich culture. This program will boost essential people-to-people links between our two nations, forging deeper partnerships.

Under the new Government, robust Indo-Australian ties are predicted in the years to come. Australia and India are also working on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which would facilitate increased trade between two Indian Ocean Rim countries. India is also turning out to be a significant investor in various mega projects in Australia.

Threats to the democratic setup in both the countries like terrorism and transnational crime are also on the discussion table.


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