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India – Australia bilateral relations


Australia and India share a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership rooted in a historical connection that dates back to their time as British colonies. This partnership encompasses a wide range of ties, including political, economic, security, linguistic, and sporting bonds. This article delves into the diplomatic and economic facets of the relationship between these two nations, highlighting key developments and challenges.

Diplomatic Relations

Historical Ties: India’s establishment of a Trade Office in Sydney in 1941 marked the beginning of formal diplomatic relations between the two nations. Today, India is represented by a High Commissioner in Canberra, with Consulate Generals in Sydney, Perth, and Melbourne. Australia reciprocates with a High Commission in New Delhi and Consulates in Mumbai and Chennai.

Growing Presence: In a bid to strengthen business relations, Australia announced the establishment of a Consulate-General in Kolkata, primarily focused on India’s burgeoning mining sector.

International Affiliations: Both Australia and India are founding members of the United Nations, members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and active participants in regional organizations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Territorial Disputes: Australia has traditionally supported India’s stance on Arunachal Pradesh, which remains a subject of diplomatic tension between India and the People’s Republic of China.

Security Cooperation: While the Cold War era witnessed divergent strategic perspectives, recent years have seen a significant strengthening of security relations, culminating in a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in 2009.

High-Level Visits: The relationship has been advanced through high-level visits, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Australia in 2014, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit in 2017, and numerous virtual summits aimed at expanding the strategic partnership. These interactions have also emphasized the importance of strengthening the military alliance between the two nations.

Challenges: Several factors, such as the Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978 and the recent tensions with China, have at times challenged the Australia-India relationship. However, the nations have consistently sought to overcome these challenges through dialogue and cooperation.

Pandemic Impact: The outbreak of COVID-19 disrupted diplomatic plans, including Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s scheduled visit to New Delhi in 2020. Nevertheless, the leaders of both countries continued to foster relations through virtual summits and discussions on mutual interests.

Economic Relations

Historical Trade: Historical trade links date back to the 18th and 19th centuries when India was Australia’s first significant trading partner. Commodities such as coal from Sydney and horses from New South Wales were among the early exports to India.

Bilateral Trade Growth: Bilateral trade has grown substantially, totaling A$21.9 billion as of 2016, compared to A$4.3 billion in 2003.

Trade Imbalance: Notably, trade between the two nations is skewed towards Australia, which primarily exports coal, education services, vegetables, gold, and copper ores. In contrast, India’s chief exports to Australia consist of refined petroleum, professional services like outsourcing, medicaments, pearls, gems, and jewelry.

Education Export: Australia has attracted over 97,000 Indian students in 2008, contributing A$2 billion to the education export sector. The 2016 Australian Census underscores the increasing presence of migrants from Asia, emphasizing the growing people-to-people ties.

Recent Trade Figures: In the year 2015-16, the total value of trade between Australia and India reached A$19.4 billion, with Australian exports comprising coal, vegetables, and gold, and Indian exports featuring refined petroleum, medicines, and business services.


The Australia-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership encompasses a diverse range of diplomatic and economic ties, reflecting the historical connections, mutual interests, and shared challenges between the two nations. Despite occasional hurdles, both countries continue to work towards strengthening their partnership, with an eye on the future of this vital relationship.

To know more about bilateral relations between India and Australia, please download our booklet.

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