Our First Two Months

Centre CEO Tim Thomas
Author Tim Thomas
Date 8 June 23

I am honoured to be the inaugural CEO of the Centre for Australia-India Relations, launched by the Prime Minister on 23 May 2023.

There is no better time to be working on the burgeoning Australia-India relationship. India is a vitally important Indo-Pacific partner for Australia and we have seen an unprecedented lift in engagement between our governments. Across the breadth of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, there is renewed determination to take cooperation with India further – including in defence and security, education, science and technology.

The pace has been unrelenting. Since the Australian Government took office, our prime ministers have met six times.

In 2022, Australia was only the second country in ten years to sign a free trade agreement with India (the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement), and negotiations are now underway for a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

While our strategic relationship is at a high point, there is significant room to expand trade and investment with India. India was Australia’s sixth-largest trading partner and fourth-largest export market in 2021-22.

The Centre for Australia-India Relations is a key initiative to buttress these economic ties. It’s a landmark expansion of the architecture that sits around our relationship to position Australia to take up new opportunities.

The Centre will act as a national centre of gravity, working closely with a wide range of stakeholders to amplify existing work and foster new partnerships:

  • it will work with business leaders to develop understanding of new growth opportunities in the Indian market, but also opportunities to partner with India in seizing global market opportunities
  • it will support the expertise and networks of Indian Australians, numbering nearly a million, as a national asset to help unlock the relationship’s full potential
  • it will elevate informed public debate about India and why it matters to Australia’s future prosperity; and
  • reinforcing each of these areas, the Centre will invest in stronger cultural connections and understanding.   

The Centre’s brand symbolises two nations coming together in partnership. The flame is a powerful symbol in many Indian cultures and in First Nations and Western traditions. For me, the colours evoke not only those of Holi, but also the pink rock orchid and purple coral pea native flowers of the Australian bush, and our shared ochre landscapes. 

As the Centre’s inaugural CEO, I am passionate about driving outcomes for the relationship. My personal story will be familiar to many Indian Australians. My family immigrated to Australia in the 1960s for Australia’s quality education and lifestyle. I have worked in corporate roles across insurance and consulting for over 20 years in Australia, India and the broader Asia-Pacific region. Throughout my career, I have remained plugged into India’s economic transformation and continue to be motivated by the tremendous promise for Australia in helping India realise its ambitions for its young workforce and expanding consumer base, its appetite for infrastructure development, its clean energy transition and ongoing reform journey.

I took up this leadership role to contribute to what I believe will be a defining relationship for Australia. I aim to leverage my experience in business to reshape our commercial diplomacy with India. I want to lead a Centre that is seen as a trusted partner in navigating and de-risking Indian opportunities and building long-term sustainable relationships that can withstand challenges.

Welcome to the Centre for Australia-India Relations’ website. As the Centre’s work grows, so will our website. Please visit our News page regularly to stay up-to-date on the Centre’s activities. I look forward to joining with you on this journey.