The India Economic Strategy: an ambitious blueprint to raise India into our top three export markets by 2035

The report to the government, An India Economic Strategy To 2035 by Mr Peter Varghese AO, Chancellor of the University of Queensland and former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade marks a great step forward in a relationship that has fallen in and out of interest to many Australian governments over past decades. Whilst the potential economic and social gains from improved relations has never been questioned, the practicalities of engaging the world’s second most populous country have often proved elusive.

This unilateral report strives to set forth a path down which Australian governments, businesses and individuals may engage Indian counterparts with a greater understanding of the common interests and competitive advantages. This can be leveraged into a more productive relationship with a clear focus on trade & investment.

The recommendations are developed on the basis of three key pillars (economics, geopolitics and people to people ties), has a deliberate focus on opportunities in India across 10 sectors (where Australia has competitive advantages) and 10 states. The report puts forward 90 recommendations to help take the relationship to new heights.

It also highlights the reality that despite the different economic strengths and weakness of each Indian state, there is common cultural and social connection driven by the 700,000 strong Indian diaspora in Australia. It is to our advantage to harness this connection to drive trade and investment over the next twenty years.

With the goal to raise India into our top three export markets by 2035, Australia will need to draw from these people to people connections to develop relationships in existing and emerging sectors of our economies. This connection has enabled education to become the flagship sector for the India Economic Strategy.

Australia is already the second most popular destination for Indian students after the US, but has not yet returned to its peak share of Indian students achieved in 2009-10. With an estimated 120 million additional skilled workers required in India by 2022, the demand for Australia’s high quality university qualifications will only rise.

With this said, we must also think outside the box to capture the enormous economic potential of India’s re-skilling and up-skilling requirements and opportunities for further research collaboration, including tapping into sources of Indian research funding and PhD student talents

The report’s three lead sectors: agribusiness, resources & mining and tourism leverage Australia’s natural endowment and strengths. The capability, skills and technology that underpin Australian agribusinesses, mining, fisheries, water management and renewables may be commoditised as an education export (at scale) to bolster the Australian economy in the way that coal, wheat and wool have done in the past.

Whilst this new report has been produced unilaterally, it tells a broader story than that of economic gain through traditional exports. It shows that the bilateral connection that begins with Australia’s Indian diaspora can be drawn upon to extend all kinds of cultural imports and exports from food to film to sport. These may not drive significant economic exchange but they do build momentum in a relationship that has had too many false starts. By building a strategy from the individual up, rather than from the macroeconomics down, it becomes easier to form a more practical blueprint for engaging in a meaningful way.

KPMG welcomes this important and exciting initiative. From here it is important the government continues to press forward for more bilateral progress to consolidate this momentum, whilst businesses must look to engage with the report’s deep sector information and insights and seek the right partners and advisors to capitalise on new opportunities arising from India’s growth.

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