I am honoured to be here today as Indians all over the world prepare to celebrate their Independence Day.
I know that it is a day of utmost importance for the people everywhere, not least for the Indian-born community in Australia.
To mark this occasion, I want to say a few words about the warmth and importance of relations between Australia and India, and the growing possibilities for our future ties.
It is wonderful news for Australia that our two countries are growing ever closer.
The number of Indian-born Australians has tripled over the past decade.
Almost half a million people in Australia are of Indian origin.
Punjabi is now the fastest growing language in Australia; Hinduism is the fastest growing religion.
Over 50,000 Indian students are studying in Australia today, and five times that number of Indians visited Australia last year.
Nearly a third of all Indian-born Australians live in New South Wales.
And migrants from India are the third largest population group in Sydney, with many living here in Parramatta.
I celebrate the strong contribution of the Indian community in Australia, and especially in New South Wales.
We also want more Australians to know India.
Under the New Colombo Plan, around 900 young Australians have studied in India since 2015.
Our scientists have a strong record of collaboration, including through the ongoing thirteen-year Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, to which we have contributed $84 million with matching Indian funding.
Australia is ready to seize the opportunity to forge an even closer relationship with India.
And there is so much more we can do together.
Today, India is the world’s fastest growing major economy and has become one of the world’s economic powerhouses.
When India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, visited Sydney in March this year, he noted that Australia’s expertise and investment could help India achieve its goals.
India’s appetite for energy, its ambition to upskill half a billion people and its rapidly growing middle class present huge opportunities for us to work together.
Australian companies have much to contribute in areas such as water management, healthcare, resources and renewables.
Australia remains committed to concluding a quality, commercially meaningful Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with India.
A high quality agreement would deliver substantial benefit to both countries.
Our partnership is also an important factor in the security of our region.
We are both maritime nations and see much of our common future in the Indo-Pacific region.
We both want effective and strong regional architecture that can encourage conversation between states and pre-empt problems before they become significant.
Last year we held our first joint maritime naval exercises to better understand how we could work together in times of need.
This was a major event – with over 400 Australian service personnel involved.
Finally, I am pleased to see ever closer cultural links between our countries.
From August to November this year, the Indian government, with support from Australia, will run Confluence: Festival of India in Australia.
Over the course of twelve weeks, the Festival will bring some of the finest examples of India’s rich culture and civilisation to many cities across our country.
In Sydney, we will be able to see dance performances from the Indian state of Odisha, experience Sufi music, and view a fashion show based on traditional Indian cloth, as well as many other events.
In conclusion, I would like to reflect on the historic speech given by India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in the first hours of India’s independence in 1947.
He said that greater triumphs and achievements await India.
His words have never been more true.
And Australia stands by India to be a partner in its success.
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