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The upcoming Festival of India will showcase Indian arts in a major way, says High Commissioner Navdeep Suri
Australia-India relations are currently at their best ever according to Mr Navdeep Suri, High Commissioner of India in Australia.
During his visit to Melbourne recently the High Commissioner addressed members of the Indian media at the Indian Consulate in St. Kilda.
The India-Oz relationship
“We are now in a relatively trouble-free relationship,” said the High Commissioner. “We have none of the big issues – which had bedeviled the relationships in the past – looming at this point in time. The fact that there are presently no irritants in our relationships enables us to move forward with a positive agenda rather than doing damage control or fire-fighting.”
In his speech, the High Commissioner provided an overview of India-Australia relations in different dimensions. He touched upon issues that are important to the Indian community from the consular side and gave a teaser of the upcoming Festival of India in Australia.
According to the High Commissioner, last year was remarkable, politically, as 11 Australian Cabinet Ministers visited India, indicating the importance that Australia gives to this relationship. There are substantive, structured ministerial level dialogues concerning several important sectors every year, and similar engagements in the political space are likely to ramp up again post elections.
Economically, he asked to look beyond the statistics that currently state that trade figures might be down from $15 billion to $12 billion. India’s exports to Australia, however, are up by a significant 26 per cent in comparison to other world markets, making Australia one of the growth markets for Indian exports. Australian exports to India have plunged not so much in volume as in value.
“There are ongoing efforts in place to boost trade and our endeavour is to see in which area Australia has world leading technology and how we can encourage them to participate in India,” said the High Commissioner. He touched on investment opportunities like Australian superannuation funds and mentioned how work is in progress in that sector to attract Australian investment by building a strong pipeline of investor-ready projects.
With reference to Defence and Security, he said that Australia and India are planning a range of collaborations. The situation in the South China Sea is causing anxiety amongst neighboring countries where India is increasingly seen as a large, democratic, stable country with a strong naval capacity. As a result, the desire for Australia to collaborate with India is much stronger today than it has ever been.
Mr Suri continued to touch on topics like education and joint programs in research, with a view to reflecting the ‘happy space’ and positive agenda that is being pursued in terms of the Australia-India strategic engagement.
The High Commissioner was positive that the links, commercial and otherwise, between India and Australia could continue to be of greater depth and greater expansion in the years ahead.
High Commissioner Suri also focused on the merger and subsequent transition from the PIO (Persons of Indian Origin) to OCI (Overseas Citizens of India) cards. He encouraged people to submit the required paperwork to ensure the switch is completed. He recognised that there was initial confusion related to the documentation but maintained that the process has now been streamlined. The timeline to submit the documentation has been extended to 31 December this year.
Mr Suri expressed his concern on the number of scam calls that are being made by criminals impersonating consular staff calling to say there are issues with important documentations and fleecing people for money. He said that investigations are currently underway with Australian Federal Police to locate these scammers, and asked people to be cautious if they receive such calls.
Handwritten passports are no longer being recognised in many parts of the world and Mr Suri urged people to acquire new machine-readable passports. “Biometric-driven visa processes are becoming the norm globally and it is in people’s interest to get their passports changed so they do not have issues whilst travelling overseas. This may involve a degree of inconvenience, initially, but it only needs to be done once and then it becomes part of our records. I encourage people to do this so we can phase them out quickly.”
Festival of India
The final part of his address focused on the upcoming Festival of India in Australia preparations for which are currently underway. Confluence, as the festival will be called, is slated for the months of September and October this year where art and culture lovers in Australia can savour extraordinary performances from India. Teamworks Arts, a versatile and reputed entertainment company, has been commissioned to present the festival in major cities in Australia.
The teaser that was displayed on the occasion outlined an exciting concept where the finest of Indian artists and performers will showcase the depth of the arts of India, unrivalled in their diversity and mystery. A combination of ticketed and free events will see artists from prestigious institutes like Nrityagram and Kalakshetra, theatre productions like Pia Behrupia (innovative Hindi translation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night) and several collaborative events with local and Indian artists among the fantastic lineup.
Media had the opportunity to ask questions and also hear from Indian Consul in Melbourne Ms Manika Jain, followed by coffee and an informal chitchat with the High Commissioner.