New Delhi: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, had a packed schedule in Sydney today (November 22, 2018) on the second day of his visit to Australia. The President held talks with Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and Prime Minister Scott Morrison; was accorded a ceremonial reception and hosted at a luncheon banquet by the Governor-General at Admiralty House; and unveiled, along with the Australian Prime Minister, a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Jubilee Park in Parramatta, near Sydney. The President also delivered two major addresses – at the Australian Financial Review India Business Summit; and at the Australia-India Business Council dinner event hosted in his honour.
As part of President Kovind’s visit, five agreements have been concluded between India and Australia. These are:
An agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Australia for cooperation in the area of disability and to deliver services to the differently-abled
An agreement between Invest India and Austrade to facilitate bilateral investment
An agreement between the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute, based in Ranchi, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation, based in Canberra, to foster scientific collaboration and innovation
An agreement between the Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University, Guntur, and the University of Western Australia, Perth, for cooperation in agricultural research and education
A Joint PhD agreement between the Indraprashta Institute of Information Technology, Delhi, and the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
President Kovind and Prime Minister Morrison were together on three separate occasions today, including during their morning round of talks. Several issues came up in their wide-ranging discussions, including trade and investment, the need to expand the trade basket from simply a few commodities, and the strong connections forged by the Indian diaspora.
In the afternoon, speaking at the Australian Financial Review India Business Summit, at which Prime Minister Morrison was also present, President Kovind said that in recent years India has renewed its commitment to a liberal, transparent and globalised economy. In terms of openness to foreign capital and international investors, India is in the top league. Business sector after business sector, from aviation to mining to defence production, has had doors thrown open to global players and investors. Several measures – fiscal and regulatory, infrastructure promotion and investment policy – have been taken to make India even more of a hub for new, exciting and global businesses.
The President said that the international business community has responded to India’s achievements with appreciable investment. In financial year 2017-18, India drew almost US$ 62 billion in FDI. This was an acknowledgement of India’s honest and reformist efforts – and of its high GDP growth.
The President noted that the big country and big friend that we not seeing as much of in the India investment story is Australia. This is a gap we need to address. Australia and India have too much at stake in each other to not up their game. We can collaborate and benefit from each other’s expertise in fintech and logistics, in industrial design and biotech, in the capital markets and in farm-to-fork management of the food chain – even in space tech and satellite launch services. India’s longstanding space programme, the President said, will be happy to support the new Australian Space Agency.
The President said that Australian super-funds or pension funds have a reputation for careful, calibrated investment decisions. They will find the Indian infrastructure space worth their while – with long-term investments, steady to high returns, confidence in growing consumption, and security in contractual adherence.
Ending his speech on a lighter note, the President urged Australian businesspersons and investors looking to India to borrow from the methods of their cricketers. The most successful Australian batsmen in India, he said, have been those who have shown patience, read the conditions carefully, settled down for the long innings, nurtured dependable partnerships – and not fallen for spin!
In his final engagement of the day, at the Australia-India Business Council event, the President praised the Council as a key driver of Australia-India business and investment. He expressed confidence that the Council’s members would further bilateral trade and engagement.