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Harinder Sidhu is the first Indian-origin woman appointed to a senior diplomatic position
Harinder Sidhu has been announced today as Australia’s next High Commissioner to India by the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Ms Sidhu becomes the second person of Indian origin, and the first Indian woman, to be appointed to this post. Peter Varghese held the position from 2009 to 2012. Ms Sidhu’s family hails from Singapore but moved to Australia when she was a child.
The appointment is seen as significant for the increasing the role of women in top diplomatic positions. As well, the fact that Ms Sidhu is a senior climate change official, is seen as significant given India’s position on the issue.
“India is one of the most exciting places for a diplomat to be at the moment. India’s economic prospects are bright and it is becoming a more influential and active international player,” Ms Sidhu was quoted by the Tribune News Service.“The Australia-India relationship has grown substantially over the past few years and I will dedicate myself to building that relationship further. “At personal level, I have always been fascinated by the country of my heritage and am keen to learn more about India — its language, culture and history — while I am there.“Both sides of my family are from the Punjab — my father was born in India,” she said.
Ms Sidhu is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, most recently serving as First Assistant Secretary of the Multilateral Policy Division. She has previously served overseas in Moscow and Damascus. Ms Sidhu’s previous roles included First Assistant Secretary in the Department of Climate Change, Assistant Director-General in the Office of National Assessments and Senior Adviser in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. She holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Economics degree from the University of Sydney.
Ms Sidhu will also have non-resident accreditation to Bhutan.
She takes over from Patrick Suckling who has been posted in India since 2013.
Making the announcement, Ms Bishop said, “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. The Government will continue to push for the conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India, designed to take our economic relationship to a new level. Australia also has strong strategic and defence ties with India, conducting our first bilateral maritime exercises in 2015. There are also over 450,000 people of Indian descent currently residing in Australia driving our strong education, cultural and tourism links.”