Melbourne | President Ram Nath Kovind arrived in Australia on Wednesday on a three-day visit, becoming the first-ever Indian head of state to visit the country.
Kovind, who landed in Sydney from Vietnam along with his wife Savita Kovind on their second leg of two nation visit, will hold talks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and discuss bilateral issues. He received a warm welcome on his arrival at Sydney, Kovind’s official Twitter handle said in a tweet. Kovind is the first-ever President of India to pay a state visit to Australia, it said in another tweet.
During his three-day visit, he will attend the unveiling ceremony of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Sydney’s Parramatta suburb on Thursday to mark his 150th birth anniversary. He will also address the Indian diaspora and business community.
In Melbourne on Friday, he will meet Victoria’s governor Linda Dessau and leader of the opposition Bill Shorten. Kovind is also expected to oversee the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Austrade and Invest India, apart from a mining research agreement and two university collaborations, according media reports.
On Tuesday, India’s High Commissioner to Australia Ajay Gondane told Australian Financial Review newspaper that the President’s visit shows that the relationship between two countries was on an upward trajectory and it was likely to give it a positive momentum.
“Every relationship needs a boost from time to time,” he said, adding that it was important for Australia to realise while China was a dragon, India was no longer an elephant and more like a deer. “We are running and soon we will be galloping. India’s economy has been expanding at a rate of 6 to 7 per cent and even 8 per cent. With this expansion of the Indian economy, we hope that Australians will now catch on and be a willing partner,” Gondane said.
The relationship was progressing and the two sides have held bilateral military exercises and the multilateral co-operation would increase over time,” he said. “The exchanges between the two countries have been at a very high level,” the envoy said.
On export and investment targets, Gondane said it was achievable and that he expected Australia to achieve its India export and investment growth targets, set out in the recently launched Indian economic strategy report before 2035.
“It is achievable. By 2025, you will see a lot of Australian investments. Trade will increase. Once it is realised in Australia that you can invest in India and take a lot of profit, that will accelerate,” Gondane said.
Gondane also hoped that investments by Indian companies in Australia will expand, stating that projects like the Adani Carmichael mine would be a test case. “The company has invested so much of its money in the project. Let’s hope this comes to fruition so that it sends a very good signal,” he said.
Recently, Australia announced that it was formally referring India to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over its sugar subsidies.
Australian trade minister Simon Birmingham said Australia would engage in formal discussions with India and other WTO members regarding this issue at the upcoming WTO Committee of Agriculture meeting later this month.
“Despite our concerns on sugar subsidies, our relationship with India is far stronger than this one particular issue and I’m confident that Australia and India will build on their already vibrant economic and strategic relationship well into the future,” Birmingham said.