Australia-India Roundtable increases hopes of revived relations between countries
After months of hampered ties between India and Australia, there has been a year-end flash of bipartisanship by Australia's two major parties in New Delhi.
Labor and Liberal MPs have enthusiastically endorsed burgeoning ties between Australia and India at the Australia-India Roundtable, a meeting of more than 50 parliamentarians, diplomats, government officials, academics, business figures and journalists from both the countries.
Australia's first federal parliamentarian of Indian origin, the Labor senator Lisa Singh, and a Liberal MP, Josh Frydenberg, who were at the meeting, both said there was a sense of optimism about the future of the relationship, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Until recently Indo-Australian ties had been hampered by a Labor moratorium on uranium exports to India and the spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia during 2009 and early 2010, the report said.
But Labor's decision to drop its uranium export ban and promising the safety of foreign students has removed the two major irritants and paved the way for new levels of political trust.
According to the report, C. Raja Mohan, an Indian foreign policy analyst and co-chairman of the Roundtable, said the India-Australia relationship had momentum for ''the first time since the independence of India''.
His co-chairman, Rory Medcalf, from Sydney's Lowy Institute, said it was as if the nations were starting their relationship anew, without old problems and misunderstandings.
''The pressure is now on for us to come up creative and practical ideas to advance the partnership,'' he said.
Trade and investment between the two nations has grown rapidly and India is now Australia's fourth-largest export market and a major source of investment, the report said.
India's energy security and mushrooming demand for Australian energy resources was a key theme of the meeting, it added.
However, the federal Energy Minister, Martin Ferguson, who attended the Roundtable, said there were ''frustrations in the relationship' and that the investment plans of some Australians were being thwarted by restrictions in India's minerals and energy sector.
''This is a new phase in our engagement and energy security has jumped up as one of the priority issues,'' he said.
''Australia is a strong economy because we've welcomed foreign investment. We've got companies that are frustrated in their desire to invest in India, so we've all got our challenges,'' he added.