Historical Contacts

India and Australia have commercial ties dating back to the 18th century, when India played a central role in nourishing the young colony and trade with Australia came to be an important element in the operations of the East India Company in Bengal. In 1792, in only the fourth year of the infant penal colony, when the supply ship Guardian sank leaving the inhabitants close to starvation, it was to Calcutta that the Governor looked for help, dispatching the 'Atlantic' to bring back all the food and stores it could carry. The 'Atlantic' returned on a winter's day that same year, with a cargo of rice, wheat and lentils.

Australia's first shipments of coal were to Bengal in 1799, from Newcastle.

For the next half century, Australia's most immediate and direct links were with India rather than London, as bureaucrats, merchants, chaplains, judges, moved between the two colonies. By 1840 a ship was leaving Sydney for India roughly every four days, and merchants in Calcutta grew rich from supplying the new outpost.

India was an important source of food and provisions for Australia; it was also a source of retired 'colonials', bringing Anglo-Indian furniture and architectural styles and a taste for spicy food. At the beginning of the 19th century, several British colonial families from India made a life for themselves in the new Australian colonies.

The Consulate General of India in Sydney was first opened as a Trade Office in 1941 and the first High Commissioner arrived in Canberra in 1945.

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