The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP

Media Release

FA120 - 9 August 2004

Diplomatic Appointment - High Commissioner to India

I have today announced the appointment of John McCarthy AO as Australian High Commissioner to India, with concurrent accreditation to Bhutan.

Mr McCarthy will replace Ms Penny Wensley AO who has been High Commissioner to India since November 2001 and Ambassador to Bhutan since May 2003. Mr McCarthy is expected to take up his appointment in December 2004.

Australia's relations with India have grown strongly in recent years, commensurate with India's increasing political, strategic and economic weight in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. Regular dialogue – between Australian and Indian foreign ministers, and between senior officials of the two countries – has strengthened bilateral understanding. There is an increasing convergence of views and closer cooperation on international, regional and multilateral issues. Australia and India share membership of the UN, the WTO and the Commonwealth and are partners in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation.

The bilateral relationship is underpinned by an expanding commercial partnership. In 2003, Australian merchandise exports to India grew 34 per cent to be worth $3.33 billion. India is Australia's ninth largest export market. Resources – mainly non-monetary gold, coal, copper ores and wool – dominate our exports but services are growing rapidly. Australia is the third most-preferred destination for Indians studying abroad and is increasingly popular with Indian tourists. Australian investment in India is substantial: we are the country's eighth-largest foreign investor. Indian investment in Australia is also becoming significant.

Australia is a long-standing contributor to India's development, principally through the activities of AUSAID and ACIAR. Although the bilateral development assistance program is being scaled down, Australia will remain involved in a number of key areas, notably efforts to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and in agricultural research and cooperation projects.

Australia's long-established Indian community is growing steadily, with Indians now the second-largest group in our independent skilled migration program.

Mr McCarthy is a career diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently serving as Australia's Ambassador in Tokyo. He has also served as Ambassador in Jakarta (1997-2000); Ambassador in Washington (1995-97); Ambassador in Bangkok (1992-94); Minister (Congressional and Public Affairs) in Washington (1987-89); Ambassador in Mexico (1985-87); Ambassador in Hanoi (1981-83); and held other diplomatic appointments in Baghdad, Damascus and Vientiane. He has served in a number of positions in Canberra, most recently as Deputy Secretary (1994-95).

Mr McCarthy holds a Master of Arts degree and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Cambridge University. He has two daughters.

Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 - Justin Lee (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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