Through a variety of efforts to develop soft power and infrastructure, the Morrison government is expanding Australia’s ties with India, one of Australia’s most important allies in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Morrison Government has launched three Maitri (friendship) initiatives worth nearly 20 million Australian dollars, following meetings in Melbourne between Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Marise Payne, and Minister of External Affairs, Dr S. Jaishankar. These initiatives will foster Australia-India cooperation, creativity, understanding, and exchange.
The Maitri Scholarships Program, worth $11.2 million, will encourage and support high-achieving Indian students to study at Australian universities. According to an Australian government statement, it would highlight Australia’s internationally recognised academic and research institutions, particularly in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and health.
According to the release, the Australian $3.5 million Maitri Grants and Fellowships Program will strengthen relationships between our future leaders by enabling mid-career Australian and Indian professionals to engage on strategic research and shared priorities.
The Australian-India Maitri Cultural Partnership, worth $6.1 million, will strengthen the role of creative industries in our economic and people-to-people ties. The world-class visual and performing arts, literature, cinema, television, and music industries in our two countries will benefit from this relationship, as will artistic talent and cultural exchanges.
The Government has also renewed the Australia-India Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Tourism Cooperation and created the Australia-India Infrastructure Forum following meetings between Ministers of Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan and Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal here.
The extended MoU allows tourism operators to take advantage of our international border reopening on February 21st, which will be open to all fully vaccinated qualified visa holders, including tourists and business travellers. According to the release, under the terms of the MoU, Australia and India would encourage travel between the two markets and improve collaboration on tourism policy, data exchange, training, and industry engagement.
India was Australia’s fastest-growing source of overseas visitors prior to the pandemic. In the year 2019, about 400,000 Indian tourists visited Australia, spending a total of $1.8 billion.
The Australia-India Infrastructure Forum will act as a focal point for promoting infrastructure investment in both directions. It would also serve our broader trade and investment goals as a side initiative of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, which is now under negotiation with India. This programme will be expanded to additional countries in the region thanks to a new $5.8 million Australian Bay of Bengal Connectivity Partnership.