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Media Release

8 June, 2009

Diplomatic Appointment - High Commissioner to India

Mr Peter Varghese is to be Australia's next High Commissioner to India, with concurrent accreditation to Bhutan. He succeeds Mr John McCarthy AO, who has served with distinction as High Commissioner since 2004. Mr Varghese is expected to take up his appointment in August 2009.

Australia's engagement with India is expanding rapidly in recognition of India's growing economic and strategic importance and influence.

Australia is committed to taking its relationship with India to the front rank of Australia's bilateral partnerships.

India is Australia's fastest growing export market, with energy and minerals resources the main drivers behind this growth. In 2007-08, India was Australia's eleventh-largest trading partner, with total trade standing at almost $14 billion. In 2008, India was our fourth-biggest merchandise export market.

The current Joint Australia-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Study is exploring the scope for building an even stronger bilateral trade and economic relationship through an FTA. Traditional strengths in the trade relationship are being complemented by new areas, most notably services such as education.

Australia and India also engage closely on strategic and defence matters. Our defence forces engage in joint exercises, particularly, but not only, maritime exercises. Military engagement occurs across the full range of activities, including ship visits, service-to-service level talks, professional exchanges, and research and development collaboration.

In 2008 Australia and India decided to step up strategic cooperation by holding annual talks between the chiefs of our defence forces, and by strengthening intelligence and counter-terrorism cooperation.

The relationship is gaining depth in many other areas. An Economic Policy Dialogue has been established, and Australia and India have good bilateral engagement on climate change issues, in particular through the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

Australia and India share interests in the stability and economic development of the Asia-Pacific region, and in multilateral cooperation through regional groupings such as the East Asia Summit, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, the World Trade Organisation, the Commonwealth and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation.

The Government's renewed engagement with India is demonstrated by the increased tempo of Ministerial visits and is underpinned by a series of annual, high-level dialogues and Joint Working Groups on a range of issues that complement the broader policy dialogues.

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, Australia's largest bilateral scientific research fund, has fostered increasingly close collaboration between Australian and Indian scientists.

Mr Varghese is currently Director-General of the Office of National Assessments. Prior to taking up this appointment he was the Senior Adviser (International) to the Prime Minister. From 2002 until July 2003, Mr Varghese was a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

From 2000 until 2002 Mr Varghese was Australia's High Commissioner to Malaysia. He has also served in Australian missions in Vienna (1980-83), Washington (1986-88) and Tokyo (1994).

Mr Varghese served as First Assistant Secretary of the International Security Division in 1997 before being seconded in February 1998, to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as First Assistant Secretary of the International Division.

His other positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have included Assistant Secretary, Staffing (1991-92), First Assistant Secretary, Public Affairs Division (1994-96) and Head of the White Paper Secretariat (1996-97).

Mr Varghese is a graduate in history from the University of Queensland and is married with one adult son.

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