OPINION: It's been a really frenetic few weeks as far as India and Australia are concerned. In November, I was on a Bollywood film set on the Sydney campus of the University of New South Wales. The film, From Sydney with Love, to be released next year, is set in Sydney and India and is the result of filmmaker Prateek Chakravorty's own love affair with Sydney as a student. It's not unusual to film a Bollywood flick in Australia, but it is unusual to have part of the storyline set here. The film is strong on Australian references, and even UNSW vice-chancellor Fred Hilmer has a walk-on part.
After Bollywood Sydney-style, I was off to Bollywood itself as part of the university's Australian Graduate School of Management study tour of India and China. UNSW has teamed with the SP Jain Centre of Management in Mumbai and can now teach MBAs across Asia and the Middle East with courses on doing business in the ''new India''.
After Mumbai, it's now back to Australia and the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch India try to recover from its Test loss in Melbourne and to see Sachin Tendulkar score his 100th international century, either in the second innings in the SCG's 100th Test or later in the series. The Adelaide Oval would also be a fitting place, given Tendulkar's connections with Bradman.
But it's also to do with economics. Australian businesses were like our cricketers 25 years ago - when it came to India, it was a matter of ''where the bolly hell are you?''. But India's economic resurgence has changed the business landscape significantly.
While we've seen China grow as an export destination at Test match pace, India has moved up our export ranks like a T20 match. Ten years ago, India was not even in our top 10 export destinations; now it is in the top five. In fact, it recently passed the US as our fourth-largest export destination, accounting for $18.8 billion, or 6.6 per cent, of our exports. India now joins China, Japan and South Korea as ''the big four'' in Asia who account for just under $140 billion, or nearly half of our total exports. There are now more than 2100 Australian businesses exporting goods to India, with a rapidly growing services sector bringing two-way services trade to $4 billion.
Why is it so? It's partly due to the rapid rise of India's economy in terms of scale. In fact, according to the Reserve Bank, India's real GDP has tripled since 1990. Its industrial production has also grown, with car sales, for example, trebling over the past eight years.
But is it all rocks and crops? Certainly coal, gold and other resources have played an important role in India's rise, given the commodity boom over the past decade, but it's been happening at the chalk face as well as the coal face.
After well-publicised attacks in Victoria on Indian students, Australia has diplomatically stepped up its commitment to its education relationship with India. This is not surprising, given that India and China account for one-third of all overseas students in Australia (compared with only 9 per cent a decade ago). In fact, one reason for the filming of From Sydney with Love was Chakravorty's affection for Australia based on his time here as a student.
India's rising middle class is opening up tourism export opportunities as well. But India is an investment story as much as a trade story when you consider the contribution made by Indian investors to Australia's development. Indian investment in Australia has increased tenfold over the past decade to the tune of more than $1 billion, according to KPMG research, and has diversified into pharmaceuticals, information and communications technology, healthcare and consumer goods as well as resources.
All the major global Indian brands are in Australia, including TATA Infosys, Wipro and Dr Reddy's Laboratories, along with major financial institutions such as the State Bank of India, the Union Bank and the Punjab National Bank. For their part, Australian businesses are looking more to India as an investment destination. Australia's corporate presence in India includes many major infrastructure companies.
One reason for Australia's success in India has been the efforts of Peter Linford, Australia's dynamic senior trade commissioner in Delhi. During Linford's term there has been increasing trade and investment interest between the two countries, with a strengthening of Australian diplomatic and commercial resources under his watch including the expansion of Austrade offices. Linford describes sport, particularly cricket, "as an important mechanism for developing business interest between Australia and India", and he is leading major efforts at the SCG to introduce senior Indian business representatives to Australia.
Linford, who works closely with Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, has an excellent record in turning sporting links into business results and has been described by AFL legend Kevin Sheedy as "the most effective representative of the Australian government'' he has worked with.
But now it's back to the SCG and we can be confident that whatever score Tendulkar makes this summer, the future of Australia-India trade is more than just the three C's - cricket, curry and Commonwealth.
Tim Harcourt is the J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics at the Australian School of Business at UNSW and author of The Airport Economist.