Indian energy major Adani’s controversial 21 billion dollar Carmichael Coal and Mine project in central Queensland remained in news throughout the year, facing legal challenges from traditional owners to environmentalists.
The project this year managed to receive final approvals from Australian government and ‘critical infrastructure’ status is expected to kick-start next year. Adani Group has also announced its plan to become the biggest solar operator in Australia, where it aims to develop 1.5GW of renewables projects within five years.
According to Sheba Nandkeolyar, the National Chair of Australia India Business Council, the year 2016 had certainly shown more bilateral business and trade engagement even though the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) discussions were slower than anticipated.
“There have a lot more delegations coming in from India at very senior levels. This is unprecedented, and shows a definite interest in the bilateral trade relationship. The Adani project go-ahead is a big plus factor in the relationship,” she commented.
Nandkeolyar said that the new year looked good with the Vibrant Gujarat Summit kicking off next year where an Australia-India Business Council delegation is due to participate.
On the cultural front, the year 2016 was a bonding year for the two sides. The Indian government launched a 10-week- long ‘Confluence: festival of India’ programme across seven Australian cities which showcased rich and diverse Indian arts and culture.
The programme was billed as an important way to foster collaboration and generate a reservoir of goodwill between the two sides. Nandkeolyar, also a member of the Australia-India Council, a high-level Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade board, said that 2016 has been an excellent year in the history of the Australia – India relationship.
People-to-people linkages also improved with student enrollments from India to Australian universities and educational institutions recording an increase. India remained the second largest source of international students and eighth largest source of tourists for Australia.
However, the tragic killing of 29-year-old Indian-origin bus driver Manmeet Alisher, also a popular singer of Punjabi community, in Brisbane made headlines across the two nations.