CHENNAI: Underscoring the need to strengthen trade relations between the two countries, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop today said her country wants to be the partner of choice for India's future energy needs. "Given that India's economy is set to grow at eight per cent, making it one of the most dynamic and fastest growing economies in the world, we recognise that India will have significant ongoing energy needs." "Australia is a reliable supplier of energy, coal and gas. We would like to be a partner of choice for India's energy needs in future. Across so many areas, we have so much to offer to each other", she said at a function here. Stating that India and Australia are natural "partners" and natural "friends", Bishop said she has detected a sea change in Australia-India relations.
"My visit to India in the past three days is to build on the momentum achieved by historic visits of Prime Minister (Tony) Abbott to India and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi visit to India. Both visits in one year... that is unprecedented". "I think a new era or relationship comes at a time when our interests are converging in a way we have not seen before. So with political will and momentum, I believe the best days for Australia and India lie ahead of us," she said.
Referring to the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to be signed between the two nations, she said she was very excited to say it would take place at some point this year. "Again an ambitious time frame set forth by our respective Prime Ministers. I believe that CECA once concluded will provide immense opportunities and mutual benefits for both the countries."
Referring to Indian students studying in Australian universities, she said 63,000 had enrolled last year, next in number to China and that her country wished to see more Indian students coming to Australia.
She said Australia has announced a 'New Colombo Plan' by partnering 38 countries, including India, giving students opportunities to study in Australia and gain qualification and vice-versa. Bishop said her country felt it was high time Australian undergraduates learnt more about the countries in the region through this plan.
"India is a partner country in our new Colombo plan and 340 Australian students will be studying here this year. There is no better investment in the future of respective countries than investing in young people," she said. Bishop said the two countries are working closely in various fields, including defence, skilled training, sports and water management. "In so many other fields, whether it be defence, whether it be skilled training or whether it be sports or water management, Australia and India are working closely together. I feel there is so much more we can achieve together", she said.