CANBERRA– Harinder Sidhu, a senior career diplomat of Indian origin, was on Thursday named Australia’s new high commissioner to India.
She will replace Patrick Suckling in New Delhi and will have non-resident accreditation to Bhutan as well.
She is the third Indian-origin envoy in India, after the US and Canadian envoys and the second Indian-origin Australian high commissioner in India.
“India is one of Australia’s closest and most significant partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop stated while making the announcement.
“It is our 10th largest trading partner and our two-way investment is worth over $20 billion,” she stated.
Bishop said that Australia would continue to push for the conclusion of a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement with India, designed to take the economic relationship between the two countries to a new level.
“Australia also has strong strategic and defence ties with India, conducting our first bilateral maritime exercises in 2015. There are also over 450,000 people of Indian descent currently residing in Australia driving our strong education, cultural and tourism links,” Bishop said.
Sidhu is a senior career officer with the Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, most recently serving as first assistant secretary of the Multilateral Policy Division.
She has previously served overseas in Moscow and Damascus. Sidhu’s previous roles included first assistant secretary in the Department of Climate Change, assistant director-general in the Office of National Assessments and senior advisor in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
She holds a bachelor of laws and a bachelor of economics degree from the University of Sydney.
In a separate statement, the Australian High Commission in New Delhi said that it would welcome Sidhu to India as the Australian high commissioner-designate next week .
It quoted Sidhu as saying that she was looking forward to her new role in a dynamic country.
“India is one of the most exciting places for a diplomat to be at the moment. India’s economic prospects are bright and it is becoming a more influential and active international player,” she was quoted as saying.
“The Australia-India relationship has grown substantially over the past few years and I will dedicate myself to building that relationship further,” she said.
“At a personal level, I have always been fascinated by the country of my heritage and am keen to learn more about India – its language, culture and history – while I am there.”
Both of Sidhu’s parents are from Punjab and her father was born in India.
Sidhu was born in Singapore and settled in Australia with her family as a child.
She speaks a little Punjabi and Hindi but is looking forward to the opportunity to become more fluent, according to the high commission statement.
One of Sidhu’s first tasks in the job is likely to be hosting the Australian men’s and women’s cricket teams in India for the T20 cricket World Cup next month, it added.