Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Australia has been treating its relations with India like a Twenty20 game with bursts of initiative every now and then. Now, it wants to take it to the next level with a comprehensive engagement on a variety of issues, like a Test match, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said on Tuesday.

At a meeting organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here, he said India was an important trade partner for Australia, with a total bilateral trade of more than $11 billion last year. Now, with India’s economic growth, he said, it was time to expand the ties into a strategic partnership across multiple areas.

“India is now rightly making its voice heard in the corridors of regional and international fora. … Australia welcomes this because we see in India a country that combines a remarkable pace of domestic development with an active and constructive role on the regional and world stage,” he said.

He said Chennai was one of the important drivers of economic growth in India, and Australia considered Chennai its gateway to India and a vital link in the strong economic relationship between the countries. However, he lamented that there was no direct flight between the two countries, though Perth was closer to Chennai than Shanghai was to Sydney.

Answering a question whether Australia considered China a more important partner than India, Mr. Smith said international politics was not a zero-sum game.