Amb. Anil Wadhwa

Former Ministry of External Affairs Government of India
Australia Economic Strategy Report 2020

Ambassador Anil Wadhwa was a member of the Indian Foreign Service from 1979 to 2017 and has served as Indian Ambassador to Italy, Thailand , Oman, Poland , San Marino and Lithuania . As Secretary ( East) in the Ministry of External Affairs of India he oversaw relations with South East Asia , Gulf and West Asia , Pacific  and Australasia. He has served as the Indian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to FAO, IFAD , WFP, UNESCAP and worked with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague heading the Government Relations and Media and Public Affairs Branches . Ambassador Wadhwa has been India’s chief delegate to the East Asia Summit, Asean - India, Asem, ACD, the Arab League , Mekong Ganga Cooperation, and ARF meetings. He has been leading the CII task force for writing the Australia a Economic Strategy Report for the  Indian government. Ambassador Wadhwa is currently a Distinguished Fellow with the Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi and an Independent Director on the Boards of some Corporate firms. 

Dr. Christian Hirst

Assistant Secretary

India and the Indian Ocean

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Dr Hirst is the Assistant Secretary responsible for India and the Indian Ocean in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  He recently served as the Head of the Political and Economic sections at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and before that was Counsellor (Political) at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Dr Hirst has also worked on Pacific and Multilateral issues with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in  Canberra.  Prior to joining DFAT, Dr Hirst was a Senior Adviser Cyber Policy with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  He has also held senior roles in the Department of Defence.  Dr Hirst has a PhD in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from the University of Queensland.

Amb. Navdeep Suri

Former Indian High Commissioner to Australia

Navdeep Suri is Distinguished Fellow and Director of the Centre for New Economic Diplomacy (CNED). He leads existing CNED programmes in Morocco, Kigali and Dhaka — and in creating new areas of focus in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Gulf. Navdeep has had a 36-year long career in the Indian Foreign Service. He served in India’s diplomatic missions in Cairo, Damascus, Washington, Dar es Salaam and London. He was India’s Consul General in Johannesburg, High Commissioner to Australia and Ambassador to Egypt and the UAE. He also headed West Africa and Public Diplomacy departments in India’s Ministry of External Affairs. Navdeep has a master’s degree in economics. He has written on India’s public diplomacy and soft power, India’s Africa policy and the Indian IT outsourcing industry. He has also translated classic Punjabi works into English. Navdeep’s initiative to introduce social media in the Ministry of External Affairs and its diplomatic missions in 2010 was commended. His contribution to building stronger ties between India and UAE was recognised by the President of UAE when he conferred on Navdeep the country’s second highest civilian award — the Order of Zayed II.

Peter Varghese AO


University of Queensland 

Peter Varghese AO is the Chancellor of the University of Queensland. His thirty eight year public service career included Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Director General of the Office of National Assessments and senior adviser on international issues in the office of PM John Howard.

Mr Varghese was High Commissioner to India (2009 to 2012) and has also served as High Commissioner to Malaysia and in diplomatic positions in Tokyo, Washington and Vienna.

He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Australia India Institute and was IABCA's Ambassador of the Year in 2016. He sits on the board of AMP and AMP Capital Holdings.

Born in Kenya, his parents hailed from Kerala, India and the family migrated to Australia in 1964.

Petula Thomas


Indo - Australian Chamber of Commerce

As Director (India & Australia) of the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce, Petula leads on creating the Chamber’s strategic vision and delivery of its key initiatives and engagement across Government and businesses. The Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce, was established on a vision of two former Prime Ministers – Mr. Bob Hawke, Prime Minister of Australia and Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister of India. It plays a significant role in the development of bilateral trade and business relationships between India and Australia. 

Petula has held an exceptional track record throughout her career, winning four global and regional performance awards from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London,  commendation from the Deputy CEO Austrade and a Regional Central Asia South Asia Middle East & Africa award from British Airways Plc. She is on the jury of Womennovator and a member of CII’s International Linkages Sub-Committee since 2019. 

Ravneet Pawha

 Deputy Vice President – Global and CEO (South Asia)

Deakin University Australia

Ravneet Pawha is currently the Deputy Vice President – Global and CEO (South Asia) of Deakin University Australia. Ravneet was awarded the prestigious Business Leader of the Year at the India Australia Business Council Awards 2018. She has a Master in Education and Training and a Master in Business Administration, a gold medalist in her postgraduate studies. With over 27 years of experience in the International education sector, Ravneet has been instrumental in establishing global collaborations and strategic partnerships. She has developed Australian Education collaborations specifically for Deakin University in India and has contributed to the immense success across the region. Currently, she is the Global Vice President and CEO South Asia at Deakin University. She is responsible for establishing holistic engagement across Government, academia, industry and research. She is also responsible for global strategy for Deakin for developing partnerships. The South Asia operations are managed through an office at New Delhi. She has been instrumental in establishing over 20 strong industry -academic collaborations. She brings with her varied international experience.


Hon Barry O'Farrell MP

Former Premier of New South Wales, Special Envoy for the NSW-India Relationship (recent exit)

Ms Kathy Klugman

Deputy Secretary of DFAT's
Global Cooperation, Development and Partnerships Group

Harish Rao

 Global Head, Business Development

Sundaram Business Services