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Remarks by EAM at the Inauguration of Consulate General of India, Perth

October 26, 2011

Hon'ble Defence Minister Stephen Smith,
Minister for Mines, Petroleum and Fisheries in Western Australia, Hon. Norman Moore
The Hon'ble Dr. Mike Nahan representing the Premier of Western Australia
Mr. Brendan Grylls, Mr. John Castrilli
The Hon'ble Liz Behjat heading the Western Australia Parliament Friends of India Group
High Commissioner Sujatha Singh, Consul General Subbarayadu,
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen

I would like to thank all of you, and especially Minister Stephen Smith and Premier Colin Barnett for making the time to be with us here today and honoring us your presence. This is notwithstanding the hectic schedule of Commonwealth-related meetings.

The state of Western Australia has a special role to play in the growth of strategic partnership between India and Australia. The opening of a Consulate General of India in Perth is testimony to the importance we attach to the relationship with Australia, and within Australia, to a state on an Ocean whose shores we share.

Today marks yet another important milestone in India-Australia bilateral relations. The inauguration of the new Indian Consulate in the vibrant city of Perth, on the eve of the CHOGM, is truly historic. This also marks the establishment of a second Indian Consulate in Australia in the space of five years.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

India-Australia relations have been expanding rapidly in recent years in all areas – in trade, in investment, in energy and resources, in education, in science and technology, in defence, and in people-to-people contacts.

Australia is India's 8th largest trading partner today; Indian investment into Australia has been growing substantially in recent months. I understand seventeen IT companies are present in Australia for several years, operating 13 software development centres. There is now growing interest among Indian companies in Australia's minerals resources. I am particularly glad to note that a significant portion of this investment has come to Western Australia.

We have commenced negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Australia. The recently-constituted India-Australia CEOs Forum will help increase contacts between private sectors in our two countries.

Under the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, one of the largest that we have with any country, we are undertaking collaborative research in the "Grand Challenges” that face us – energy security, food security, health, sustainable development, innovative projects in renewable energy and the marine sciences.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In a few weeks time, India assumes the Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC). Australia takes over as the Vice Chair. I shall have the privilege of welcoming the Foreign Minister of Australia in Bengaluru next month for the 11th IOR-ARC Council of Ministers Meeting.

India and Australia view the Indian Ocean as a potential area for greater cooperation among the countries of the region. We have to work closely together to realize the potential of IOR-ARC and also to transform it into an active and vibrant forum.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith once pointed out "It is under-appreciated that Perth and Chennai are closer to each other than Sydney is to Seoul, Shanghai, or to Tokyo.” This statement focuses on an aspect of the geo-strategic realities of this region that is often overlooked. Our setting up this Consulate in Perth flows naturally from the geography and also from the importance we attach to the Indian Ocean region.

We are conscious of the strength, strategic importance and potential of Western Australia. Western Australia accounted for 56% of total exports from Australia to India in 2009-10, of which more than 85% are minerals. As I noted earlier, Indian companies have been investing in Western Australia in various sectors. India seeks to further accelerate the pace of economic and commercial engagement with Western Australia.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Western Australia is also home to a substantial section of the Indian community in Australia. I understand these numbers are rapidly increasing. I am happy to note that the Indian community has adapted well and is contributing to the economic and social life of Western Australia.

Before I conclude, I would like to place on record my deep appreciation to the Government of Australia as well as the Perth City Council for opening of this Consulate General.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a day of celebration in India, where people all over the country celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. On this auspicious occasion, permit me to convey our greetings and good cheer to all of you. The inauguration of the Indian Consulate on such a festive occasion and on the eve of CHOGM augurs well for our bilateral engagement.

Thank you.

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