By ARVEEN SHARMA
On May 31, invited guests and dignitaries gathered at the office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Australia India Council (AIC).
AIC was established on 21 May 1992, in response to a recommendation by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, following an inquiry into Australia’s relations with India.
The purpose of the AIC is to broaden the relationship between Australia and India by encouraging and supporting contacts and increasing levels of knowledge and understanding between residents and institutions of the two countries. AIC promotes a range of activities designed to achieve a greater awareness of Australia in India, and vice versa. This objective is achieved via visits and exchanges between the two countries, development of institutional links, and mutual support of studies of both. The Council also provides funding for projects that are likely to contribute to the development of the relationship
AIC has played a respected role in promoting the relationship between Australia and India and has advanced the Government’s foreign policy and trade objectives. Some of the Council’s current priority strategies are to:
encourage Australians to take a greater interest in developments in India and to broaden community knowledge and understanding of India in Australia;
publicise important developments in the various areas of the relationship between India and Australia;
encourage young Australians to develop a life-long interest and involvement in Australia-India relations; and
expand projects through corporate sponsorship or other partnership arrangements to establish new areas of contact between Australia and India.
In commemoration of its 20th anniversary, an exhibition called Kindness/Udarta Australia-India Cultural Exchange was unveiled, including a publication called Kindness/Udarta, which provided a tangible record of 20 years of the AIC-supported cultural exchange program. The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Bob Carr and His Excellency Mr Biren Nanda, Indian High Commissioner, spoke at the reception to launch the exhibition in Canberra on May 31. This exhibition was also launched at the Visual Arts Gallery in New Delhi in March 2012.
At the anniversary celebration, Senator Carr addressed the audience and reflected on his initial experience of India as Premier of NSW. The Senator referred to Indians as great conversationalists and acknowledged his appreciation of the Indian accent. Ms Suzanne Davis, Board Member AIC, talked about the exhibition, which had earlier travelled to India and was now back in Australia. This exhibition attracted artistic input from 117 artists for the purpose of celebration of 20 years of AIC.
Mr Nanda congratulated AIC on its achievements in the past two decades and acknowledged the Council’s contribution to India in areas such as science and technology, education and medicine. Said Mr Nanda, “On behalf of the Government of India, I honour the work of AIC, which has ensured that the Indo-Australia relationship has developed considerably.”
Mr Deepak Raj-Gupta, President of Australia India Business Council, commented on the hospitable, yet professional relationship shared by Australia and India. Mr Raj-Gupta, who has been actively involved in promoting the Government’s various initiatives, acknowledged the fact that besides common interest such as cricket, India relies on Australia’s industrial knowledge and Australia appreciates that professionals of Indian origin make worthwhile citizens here.