Australia appoints Ms Harinder Sidhu as its high commissioner to India

Sydney, NSW

11th Feb, 2016

Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced the appointment of Ms Harinder Sidhu as Australia’s new High Commissioner to India on 11th February, 2016.

Mr Peter Varghese, who too has Indian heritage, held this position in 2009 to 2012, before taking up the position of Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. There is a mini, and pleasant, trend in the Western world to appoint their nationals of Indian heritage in positions in, or related to, India. Ambassador Rich Rahul Verma is currently the United States of America’s Ambassador to India.

Ms Sidhu is of Indian heritage. In an interview, she disclosed that her family from both sides are of Indian background. Her father was born in Punjab, India. She was born in Singapore and migrated with her parents when she was a child. She has degrees in Commerce and Law from Sydney University.

Ms Sidhu was the head of Multilateral Policy division of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) until recently, and had previously held senior positions in Climate Change Department, Office of National Assessment (ONA) and Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet. He has held diplomatic positions in Moscow and Damascus previously.

This appointment is significant in multiple ways.

  • With her Climate Change expertise, she will be of immense help in fostering deeper relations including trade between Australia & India in the field of renewable energy sector. India’s Minister for Energy and Renewable Energy was In Australia until 11th Feb looking at Australian Renewable Energy sector and exploring the possibilities for mutual co-operation,
  • With her background in Climate Change, her posting in New Delhi takes an additional significance because India is key to achieving Carbon reduction commitments, set in Paris Climate Change Conference last year
India-Australia bilateral trade is worth more than $20 million AUD and there are approx. 450,000 people of Indian heritage in Australia, with numbers to grow further due to the fact that Indians are number one component of Australia’s migration intake. Trade between Australia and India is likely to grow due to India’s energy needs and India’s “Make in India” policy. Only a few days ago, 6 Metro Coaches were shipped from India to Australia, with remaining coaches out of the total 450 coming in due course.
India is the 10th largest trading partner of Australia, with whom Australia has increasingly strong economic and defence relationships. India is an important nation in Indo-Pacific region and is the fastest growing economy in the world.
It would not be out of place to mention that Ms Harinder Kaur’s appojntment is 3rd high profile appointment of women under the leadership of Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop.  Jan Adams was appointed as Australia’s Ambassador to China and Frances Adamson was appointed as the Forign Affairs advisor to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently.
India and Australia are working on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). It is hoped that the process will be accelerated and FTA will be signed into a Treaty by the end of 2016.
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Dr Yadu Singh

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