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Career diplomat for key India job

Date: December 31 2012

Career diplomat Patrick Suckling has been appointed high commissioner to India, a country the Gillard government considers critical to Australia's interests.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Mr Suckling would replace Peter Varghese, who was returning to Australia to head the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

''Mr Suckling is an accomplished career diplomat with expertise in policy development, public diplomacy and consular service,'' Senator Carr said on Sunday.

''His previous postings to New Delhi and Washington and postgraduate qualifications in Hindi will serve him well as high commissioner.''

Mr Suckling was an adviser to foreign minister Alexander Downer in 2007. He headed the international division in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet from March 2009 to May 2011 and his most recent position in Canberra was head of DFAT's consular, public diplomacy and parliamentary affairs division.

Senator Carr was scheduled to hold talks with his Indian counterparts on economic, security and regional co-operation issues in Delhi and Mumbai from January 20-23, following the visit to India by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in October.

Ms Gillard's three-day visit to Delhi was aimed at improving ties after a troubled few years.

Indian leader Manmohan Singh and Ms Gillard formally agreed to start negotiations on a nuclear safeguards agreement to allow Australia to start selling uranium to India.

Senator Carr said the relationship with India was critical to ''our national interests''. ''India is our fourth-largest export market with two-way trade presently exceeding $18 billion a year,'' he said.

''It is a key market for education services as Australia's second-largest source of international students.'' AAP

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