July 2015 \ Diaspora News \ Diaspora-Diplomacy in Australia
Up swinging Relations

By Kul Bhushan and S. K. Gupta
  • HE Mr Navdeep Suri

The Indian Diaspora leaders in Melbourne welcomed the newly appointed High Commissioner to Australia, Mr Navdeep Suri, at a gala dinner in June.

During his address, Mr Suri said, “Ever since the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Australia, I and my staff have been extremely busy in following up all the different issues of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.” In fact, the mission has been very busy ever since PM Modi took over; he added giving the reason for not interaction more with the community.

The event was hosted by Mr Vasan Srinivasan, Founder Chair, Confederation of Indian Australian Associations Inc. and member of Australian Multicultural Council who invited the Indian community leaders. “After Prime Minister Modi’s visit, our relations with Australia have really grown and we are struggling to cope with it. We have a large bilateral agenda.” he said. The bilateral relations have increased and intensified in many areas. A major visit by the Indian Navy with the Chief of Eastern Command took place recently, discussions are going on to hold a joint naval warship exercise in the Bay of Bengal, a defence policy dialogue is coming up, talks on countering terrorism in Sydney with experts from India are scheduled, a meeting of a Joint Working Group on Resources and Minerals chaired by a federal cabinet minister Ian Macfarlane is coming up, among other engagements such as an Australia Leadership Forum. Thus he and all his staff are hard pressed. In the last two rounds of the Joint Free Trade Agreement, we have made progress and agreed on 1800 line items, he added.

Mr Srinivasan added that he was happy that the first-generation Indians have done well here. He explained the cases of UK and USA where second and third generation NRIs built upon the platform created by the first generation.

The dinner started with a cultural programme of traditional Indian music and dance. Commenting on this performance, he said that after watching cultural performances he is confident that future generations will be well connected to India. He was drawing on his experience as an Indian envoy in Cairo, Damascus, Washington, Dar es Salaam and London and as India’s Consul General in Johannesburg. A number of Australian leaders, including an Australian MP Mr Hong Lim spoke about the cordial bilateral relations between the two countries enhanced by Mr Modi’s visit and multi-culturalism.

Indian community leaders were invited to present their views. One of them, Mr Dinesh Parikh, who migrated to Melbourne about 50 years ago, has established a huge museum on India art and artefacts. He spoke about his struggle and how set up the museum of his vast and valuable collection to promote Indian heritage. A second year student, Mr Charan Naidoo, spoke of the disconnect between the Indian and the Australian youth which needs attention by the Indian mission.

Mr Suri was accompanied by his wife Mani who has a degree in economics and is now an accomplished graphic designer and potter. They have two daughters, a journalist and an avid environmentalist. Mr Suri’s innovative use of social media in public diplomacy has received extensive recognition and two prestigious awards. Born in Amritsar, he belongs to a very literary family as his grandfather Mr Nanak Singh who wrote many novels including Pavitra Paapi, later made into a film with Balraj Sahni.