India and Austria enjoy traditionally close and very friendly relations since more than 60 years. Numerous official visits on the governmental and parlamentarian level during the last years emphasize the significance both countries attach to the further development of their relations.
A series of high-ranking visits of Indian politicians to Austria represents the most recent highlight in strengthening the Indo-Austrian relationship. Indian Minister of Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch visited Austria from 5 to 8 April 2013. She met with Austrian Minister for Education, the Arts, and Culture Claudia Schmied and visited the exhibition “India of the Maharajas” at Schloss Schallaburg. On the sidelines of the 5th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger and Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur held bilateral talks on 28 February 2013. Just a few weeks before this meeting, India and Austria also strengthened the contractual basis of their excellent bilateral relations: on 4 February 2013 Austrian Minister for Labour, Social Security and Consumer Protection Rudolf Hundstorfer and visiting Indian Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi signed the Social Security Agreement between India and Austria. This Agreement enhances the cooperation between the two states in the social sector, promotes the business location of India and Austria and will contribute to securing and creating jobs in both countries.
A significant intensification of the bilateral cooperation in the areas of technology and innovation could be achieved through the four-day visit to India by Austrian Minister for Transport, Innovation and Technology Mrs. Doris Bures from 1 to 4 October 2012. The stated objective of this first visit to India by an Austrian Transport Minister was to further deepen Austria’s technology and infrastructure cooperation with India on the economic as well as on the scientific level. Bures met with decision makers on the highest political and economic level in order to promote Austrian top know-how on the subcontinent and to facilitate Austrian companies’ access to the Indian market. A Memorandum of Understanding in the shipping sector and a Joint Statement of Intent in the field of road transport were signed.
Increased bilateral technology cooperation had been kick-started already last year by the signature of an MoU in the railway sector during the State Visit to Austria by the Indian President. Indian President Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil visited Austria from 5 to 7 October 2011. After bilateral talks between President Patil and President Heinz Fischer in the Hofburg (Presidential Palace) in Vienna, two Memoranda of Understanding were signed in the presence of the two Heads of State: one on technology-specific cooperation in the field of railways and one between the Department of Science and Technology of the Indian Ministry for Science and Technology and the Austrian Science Fund FWF. On the second day of her visit, President Patil together with President Fischer opened the Indo-Austrian Business Forum in the Austrian Chamber of Commerce in Vienna. Both Heads of State welcomed a further strengthening of bilateral economic ties. Fischer highlighted the considerable potential for the promotion of cooperation between Indian and Austrian companies in areas such as infrastructure, automotive, health, electronics, environmental technologies and renewable energies. Patil also met with Federal Chancellor Mr Werner Faymann and President of Parliament Mrs Barbara Prammer and concluded her trip in Salzburg where she was received by Governor Mrs Gabi Burgstaller.
Patil and Prammer had already met in February 2011, when Prammer visited India with a delegation of Austrian Members of Parliament (6 to 11 February 2011). Prammer, who was accompanied by a high level delegation of Members of Parliament, reciprocated the visit to Austria of her Indian counterpart, Mrs Meira Kumar, in September 2009. The delegation toured throughout India, visiting the capital New Delhi, India’s booming IT-centre Hyderabad and South Indian business hub Chennai. Prammer was received by the President of India, Mrs Pratibha Devisingh Patil, by the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Mrs Meira Kumar, as well as by numerous other prominent political leaders. Strengthening economic ties between Austria and India – with the focus on promoting Austria as a business location and on opening up the huge Indian market to Austrian companies – was the key topic of the visit. Furthermore, women’s empowerment and other key areas such as further exchange in the field of education and science and the increasingly important role of parliamentary diplomacy figured prominently on the agenda. It was of great importance to Mrs Prammer to also meet with women’s rights organisations and other representatives of India’s Civil Society as well as with the Indian students’ community.
The promotion of bilateral economic cooperation had already been revived earlier, by the four-day visit to India (17 - 20 February 2010) led by Austrian Vice Chancellor and Minister of Finance Mr Josef Pröll and Minister of Economy, Family and Youth Mr Reinhold Mitterlehner. Accompanied by a 50-people delegation of leading Austrian companies and high ranking representatives of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, the ministers met numerous Indian decision makers on the highest political and economic level setting the basis for an enhanced economic cooperation between the two countries. Special attention was paid to the booming Indian film industry. In order to boost Austria as a film shooting location for future Bollywood productions – so far more than 70 Bollywood films have been shot in Austria – Pröll and Mitterlehner together with Oscar winner Stefan Ruzowitzky (“The Counterfeiters”) and Veit Heiduschka (producer of “The White Ribbon”) presented the new Austrian film financing scheme to eminent film directors and producers from India.
The last Austrian State Visit to India took place in 2005. Federal President Mr Heinz Fischer visited India together with a major business delegation. This was the first Austrian state visit to India and the return visit for the then Indian president K.R. Naranyanan’s Austria tour in 1999, the first official visit to Austria by an Indian Head of State.
In India, Austria is represented by the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian Trade Commission in New Delhi, by the Honorary General Consulate Mumbai as well as by the Honorary Consulates in Kolkata, Chennai and Goa.
In Austria, India is represented by its Embassy in Vienna.
Short historic overview
In the 18th and 19th century Austrian scientists played an important role in India. Jesuit Father Josef Tieffenthaler for example became known as the „Father of Modern Indian Geography“. Not only was he a cartographer (the first exact cartographic recording of the middle Ganges river including its confluents is owed to him) but also he was an internationally renowned Sanskrit scholar and taught at the Jesuit College in Agra (1740-1770).
Very soon the two young states India and Austria established excellent relations. This was evident as early as in June 1953 when India intervened in Austria’s favour during the negotiations with the Soviet Union on Austria’s State Treaty. In addition to that, Austria could count on India’s support concerning the UN-South Tirol conventions. The personal friendship between Bruno Kreisky and Indira Gandhi and their common interest in the Non Alignment Movement were strong connecting factors. The application of the concepts of "mixed economy" in India and state owned industry in Austria resulted in a couple of major cooperation projects and technology transfers (e.g. the Linz-Donawitz-Method in the steelmaking process).