Dr Ashutosh Misra

In the current times, under the shadow of the pandemic, recognising the correlation between a healthy body/mind and healthy nation is imperative for ensuring public health and wellness. In this context, sports and physical activities have gained currency globally to address the mental and physical ill-effects of the pandemic.

Australia as a sport loving nation has a pivotal role to play in this regard. It encourages an outdoor lifestyle in the community to achieve a work-life balance and connect physical and mental fitness with nature and sports. Australia’s leadership in sporting excellence is respected globally. During his visit to Australia in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi underlined Australia’s contribution and leadership in sports and recommended bolstering bilateral cooperation in sport. Peter Varghese’s report An India Economic Strategy to 2035 also mentioned, “India already looks to Australia as a model in sports for achieving results. Supporting India’s sports agenda can help Australia entrench positive relationships with India government and businesses”. India’s growing $350 million Khelo India Khelo sports ecosystem beholds enormous opportunity for Australian stakeholders, which the AIBC can help facilitate.

Following Prime Minister Modi’s 27 September 2014 speech in the United Nations General Assembly, India’s stellar leadership in yoga has been recognised by the United Nations, declaring 21 June as International Day of Yoga. India’s proposal had received the support and co-sponsorship of 177 nations, a record. Images of mass yoga events from around the world make the headlines every year and Australia can benefit from India’s excellence in yoga. An MoU in sports cooperation exists between the two sides signed in 1999 that needs to be expanded and include the wellness industry.

India’s sport ecosystem currently faces several challenges inter alia, inefficient resource allocation; social and economic inequalities; inadequate sporting infrastructure; organisational, regulatory and administrative inefficiencies; gender discrimination; and corruption across sporting codes. Over the years Australia has been addressing some these challenges through training to Indian officials in sports administration, sports education, sports science and capacity building to several Indian sports departments, associations and federations. Spearheaded by the Australian Sports Commission, Australia has been contributing to ‘increasing the capacity to planning and conducting quality sport-based activities’ and contributing to the ‘locally identified development priorities’ which is encouraging the participation of marginalised children and youth in sports and using sports to improve livelihoods.

Corruption in sports remains a potent challenge to many nations including India, which can benefit from best practices in preserving integrity in sport from Australia, where sporting codes, regulatory bodies and law enforcement agencies work closely to preserve integrity in sport. As India’s global footprint in sport expands it needs to constitute policy mechanisms and sport practices to keep sports clean. My years of experience in working with the Australian and Indian law enforcement agencies, INTERPOL and sporting codes will be instrumental in augmenting AIBC’s footprint in the sector.

The Institute for Australia India Engagement, of which I am the CEO, and Mr Matthew Hayden Goodwill Ambassador for India, has been working closely with the AIBC in strengthening bilateral collaboration and exchanges. Following the Modi-Morrison Virtual Summit on 4th June 2020, the second Triveni policy dialogue was held on 12 June 2020 jointly by IAIE, AIBC and the Centre for India Australia Studies at the O.P. Jindal Global University on “Impact of Covid-19 on Sport Sector: Strategising Recovery”. The panellists included Matthew Hayden, Prof. Shaun Star (Jindal Global University), Dr Sarah Jane Kelly (University of Queensland and Vice Chair, Brisbane Lions); Dale Sheehan (Director Training, International Centre for Sports Security, Qatar) and Dr Jack Anderson (University of Melbourne), Dr Nik Senapati (AIBC) and myself. In coordination with the AIBC, IAIE continues to explore research collaborations and practitioner’s exchanges in the field, and also developing capacity building training programs for the law enforcement agencies, regulators and sporting codes in both countries and host workshops and industry dialogues to enable knowledge exchange between Australia and India.

The 2021 tour of the Indian women’s cricket team to Australia is a timely and a great opportunity to increase AIBC’s outreach, and build sports engagements further and create a more conducive atmosphere for the larger Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. As the National Chair for Sport, I am working closely with Cricket Australia and Queensland Cricket to profile the series widely in Mackay and Gold Coast and augmenting AIBC’s role as a key institutional partner. In conjunction with the National Chair Jim Varghese, executive and secretariat, I am also developing a high-level ministerial dialogue between Sri Anurag Thakur, India’s Minister of Sports, Youth Affairs and Minister of Information and Broadcasting and Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck, Australia’s Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, and Minister for Sport to deepen sporting ties, exchanges and business opportunities for both sides.

I am grateful to the AIBC national executive for posing faith in my capabilities as the National Chair for Sports and look forward to taking our bilateral sporting ties to greater heights and expanding AIBC’s outreach and impact in Australia and India.