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New CAIR headquarters launched in Parramatta

Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell do the honours as Western Sydney becomes home to major hub for driving India-Australia engagement

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Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell today inaugurated the new Centre for Australia-India Relations (CAIR) headquarters in Parramatta.

With a who’s who of the business and local community, the room was brimming with anticipation of what CAIR can bring to the Australia-India relationship.

This launch marked an important step in fostering deeper partnerships and collaboration across government, business, academia, and the cultural sectors. Supported by both the Australian and New South Wales Governments, the new CAIR headquarters will serve as a central hub for driving fresh partnership opportunities, aimed at enhancing engagement and cooperation between the two nations. The Centre was established in 2023 with Swati Dave as Chair.

Several key announcements were made at the launch event.

Maitri Scholars and Fellowships Programs

The Centre’s inaugural Maitri Scholars and Fellowships programs, and Cultural Partnerships found celebratory mention.

Scholarship and Fellowship awardees (Source: X/Senator Penny Wong)

Five Maitri Scholars from India will pursue PhDs on STEM research topics, including advanced manufacturing and clean energy solutions. Also, seven Maitri Fellows will undertake research projects on shared geostrategic and economic futures, such as maritime security, climate change response, secure supply chains, and closer regional cooperation.

Interaction with the fellowship awardees (Source: X/Senator Penny Wong)

Foreign Minister Penny Wong emphasised the importance of working closely with Indian-Australian communities, stating, “Working more closely with our Indian-Australian communities – our fastest growing diaspora – means we can better respond to a diverse and evolving India. The Centre will assist Australian business leaders to engage with India’s growth story. The Maitri Scholars and Fellows will also contribute to a broader and deeper understanding of the Australia-India relationship, our shared interests, and our shared challenges, while fostering life-long connections.”

Contemporary realities in India were however not lost on the Foreign Minister.

“When I was in India in November for the 2+2 ministerial meeting, I said that pluralism and democracy were being challenged worldwide,” she said. “These challenges have only become more acute. There is less tolerance of the very freedoms, including for media, and religious practice, that are integral to open societies. In that context, the next generation of Indians and Australians have a special responsibility to nurture and strengthen the institutions that we hold dear.”

Tim Thomas, CEO of the Centre for Australia-India Relations, expressed enthusiasm for the new headquarters in Parramatta, noting its position as a thriving innovation ecosystem and an important focal point for the vibrant Indian-Australian community. “The Centre has built strong momentum through our Maitri grants and stakeholder impact programs. The Centre will continue to galvanise Australian stakeholders to move on the tremendous opportunities that India’s growth presents.”

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey’s words echoed with many in the audience when he said, “I can’t believe I’m seeing the launch of an institution such as CAIR, and welcoming it to Western Sydney.”

CAIR Headquarter
Trade Minister Don Farrell (R) and Foreign Minister Penny Wong

Australia-India Economic Roadmap

The Australian Government will consult on a future economic roadmap with India, expanding on the 2018 India Economic Strategy to unlock potential in key sectors and advance the bilateral relationship. The ongoing negotiations for a new free trade agreement with India will also focus on greater market access in agriculture and manufacturing.

Trade Minister Don Farrell said that the government will forge new areas of cooperation beyond those set out by Peter Varghese, aiming to enhance Australia’s trade and investment relationship with India and seize net zero transition opportunities.

Minister Farrell highlighted the economic benefits of trade with India, noting that it is shaping up to be a significant win for Australia.  “Since our government implemented a new trade deal with India, Australian businesses have seen a massive boost in exports. But we think we can go even further, which is why we committed over $14m in this year’s budget to expand the Australia India Business Exchange.”

An Indo-Aus collab in the musical interlude: percussionists Bobby Singh and Ben Walsh (Source: Darshak Mehta)

An additional $14 million in funding has been allocated to expand the Australia India Business Exchange. Austrade will lead new business missions to India across various sectors, including agrifood, education, technology, and energy. The expanded program will also involve pilot business missions to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to grow trade across South Asia. CAIR headquarters

With CAIR now equipped with tens of millions of funding by the Australian and NSW governments and an advisory board hand-picked for their expertise in the India-Australia space, it is ‘all systems go’ in promoting the bilateral relationship.

Read More: Swati Dave, CAIR chair: Making contemporary India accessible

Pawan Luthra
Pawan Luthra
Pawan is the publisher of Indian Link and is one of Indian Link's founders. He writes the Editorial section.

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