As India’s relations with Australia move to the next high-growth phase, Canberra has announced the appointment of Indian-origin diplomat Harinder Sidhu as the country’s next High Commissioner to India. It’s fitting that an Indian-origin diplomat is being sent to New Delhi to shepherd burgeoning bilateral ties when the two countries are in the process of implementing an ambitious multi-pronged agenda laid down during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia in November 2014.
Ms. Sidhu’s resume is an impressive one — a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she has served in key capitals, including Moscow and Damascus, and is currently First Assistant Secretary of the Multilateral Policy Division in Australia. Ms Sidhu, who carved a niche as Australia’s climate negotiator, will succeed the outgoing High Commissioner Patrick Suckling.
The appointment of Ms Sidhu as Australia’s envoy in New Delhi has sent ripples of excitement among the 450,000-strong Indian community in Australia. Ms Sidhu had migrated to Australia as a child with her family from Singapore.
Underlining the importance Canberra attaches to developing relations with the world’s fastest growing economy, Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop announced Ms Sidhu’s appointment. “India is one of Australia’s closest and most significant partners in the Indo-Pacific region. It is our 10th largest trading partner and our two-way investment is worth over $20 billion,” said Ms Bishop.
Ms Bishop placed expanding economic ties at the heart of the relationship and said that Australia would continue to push for the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India, which will take “our economic relationship to a new level.”
“Sidhu will also have non-resident accreditation to Bhutan. Australia and Bhutan enjoy a warm relationship, built on strong people-to-people links and growing cooperation on international education,” Julie said.
There are also over 450,000 people of Indian descent currently residing in Australia driving our strong education, cultural and tourism links, Ms Bishop said.
Ms Sidhu’s appointment comes at a time when the India-Australia relations have been decisively transformed by the signing of a landmark civil nuclear deal and an increasing convergence of perspectives on the security of the Asia-Pacific region.