Julia Gillard will elevate India to the highest priority for Australia

altJULIA Gillard will today elevate India to the highest priority for Australia saying the relationship matters just as much as that with the United States, China and Indonesia.

Admitting that past ties had been too weak despite being old friends and sharing a passion for cricket, the Prime Minister will move to step up links in a speech in New Delhi today.

“For Australia, our goal is for a partnership with India which reflects your standing along with the US, Japan, China, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea as one of the handful of countries which matter most to Australia,” she will tell a lunch of high-powered business leaders.

“Australia’s future in Asia is firmly grounded in relationships of respect with Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, Seoul and Delhi. We know India’s importance in the Asian Century.”

Ms Gillard is making a three-day state visit to boost business and cultural ties as Australia seeks to get a larger share of the booming Indian economy.

Ms Gillard said her message to business leaders was Australia was “open for business”.

Trucking boss Lindsay Fox who employs 3000 people in India “driving trucks and running warehouses” is leading a business delegation, which includes ANZ bank boss Mike Smith.

Mr Fox said India’s population of 1.2 billion people offered Australian business great potential.

“That’s a hell of a lot of tomatoes, bananas, cows, sheep or anything that we can produce in Australia,” he said.

“You look at Asia and India. they represent half of the world’s population with 3.4 billion.”

He said 3 per cent of people had annual disposable money for the first time in their life and were ready to buy things.

He said that was 100 million people a year and was five times Australia’s population every year.

“We’re in the right spot at the right time and we’ve all got to be smart enough to capitalise on it,” he said.

Mr Fox said there was “no question” the ban on Australia selling uranium to India had hurt relations.

He said lifting the ban had created a new dialogue and would lead to opportunities that had been prevented by the “barrier” of a uranium ban.

Mr Smith said it had created a spirit of co-operation and “can do”. He said Australia’s proximity to India and much lower logistical costs were a great benefit.

ANZ has 7000 employees in India in back office and IT in two centres in Bangalore.

Ms Gillard said Australia wanted to “build a partnership just as productive and enduring as the friendship our peoples have forged”.

“I believe the strong friendship between our peoples has not been matched by the strength of the connection between our Governments,” Ms Gillard will tell business leaders.

Source: news.com.au Picture: abc.net

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