The Chairman's task in the Australia–India Council's Annual Report is to sum up the Council's strategies, activities and outcomes during the course of the year that has passed, and to look to what the Council seeks to achieve in the coming year.
I believe that the Council has again achieved a healthy balance between innovation and continuity in its activities over the year.
In making expenditure decisions on funding support for new projects, the Council's focus has continued to be the capacity of each activity to foster mutual knowledge and understanding between Australia and India, and to promote appreciation in India of Australian capabilities and attributes.
|The Hon Jaswant Singh, Indias Minister for External Affairs, made the first bilateral visit to Australia by an Indian Minister for External Affairs from 19 to 24 June 2001 to participate in the inaugural Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue between Australia and India. While in Adelaide, Mr Singh (right) met (from left) Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs the Hon Alexander Downer MP and Australia–India Council Chairman Michael Abbott QC.|
Given the finite nature of the Council's resources, it is important for the Council to ensure that these are allocated and directed as effectively as possible to promote the Council's fundamental objectives of advancing the bilateral relationship in general and promoting an understanding of Australia–India relations in particular.
It is also important for the Council to recognise and seek to complement the work of the many other organisations and individuals involved in the multi-faceted Australia–India relationship.
The AIC has continued to seek an appropriate balance between support for projects initiated by the Council itself and projects initiated by others. While Council members encompass an impressive range of professional expertise on Australia–India relations, the Council does not presume to hold a monopoly of worthwhile ideas or of understanding of the bilateral relationship. The Council seeks to draw as far as practicable on the knowledge and expertise of the broader Australian and Indian communities.
The highlight of the Council's activities during 2000–01 was the Australia–India Disaster Management Symposium held in New Delhi in November 2000. The symposium was proposed during the AIC's visit to India in November 1999 and was co-funded and managed by the Council in partnership with Emergency Management Australia (EMA) and the Confederation of Indian Industry. It brought together, for the first time, Australian and Indian emergency management specialists from national and state government and non-government organisations to discuss how each country deals with disasters, and to identify procedures with common benefits for affected communities.
I would particularly like to record the Council's appreciation of EMA's key role in the project, which exemplified resourcefulness and organisational capability.
A wide range of other Council projects during 2000–01, as set out in more detail in the Activities section of the report, promoted priority AIC program areas, particularly in the arts, education, and health and social issues. The Council generally sought to achieve a balance between support for new areas of activity, such as disaster management, and for substantial continuing activities in more traditional areas, such as the Australia–India teacher exchange program and business exchange program.
The Council continued to enjoy active and enthusiastic support from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi. As Chairman, I particularly appreciated the close involvement in many Council activities of High Commissioner Rob Laurie and his wife Diana, and many Council- supported visitors to India also expressed their appreciation for the Lauries' unstinting support.
I believe that 2000–01 was another highly effective and exciting year in the Council's work. I would again like to thank my colleagues on the Council, and the members of the AIC Secretariat, for their vital contribution to the Council's work.