The Australian consulate general, which has been operating from its Ho Chi Minh Sarani premises in the business district, witnessed a formal opening on Thursday evening. The occasion brought Australian assistant minister of foreign affairs Tim Watts to town, in the company of ambassador Barry O’Farrell.
The ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held in the evening in the courtyard of the premises, draped in the national colours of green and gold, that the consulate general shares with the British deputy high commission. The consulate-general, Watts said, “opened for business in 2019” but “Covid-19 had put the official opening on hold”.
“Even though we have been operating for some time, now we have the chance, post-Covid, to register our presence in this fantastic city,” consul general Rowan Ainsworth said.
Governor C.V. Ananda Bose, in a speech laced with humour and peppered with anecdotes, urged the two countries not to cooperate in one field — cricket. To that Watts retorted that he had “never felt a shred of cooperation towards Sourav Ganguly and that’s the way it should be”.
The governor pointed out that more than 100,000 Indian students were studying in Australian universities and urged the minister to send “Australian children to study in Bengal as well”.
Students of Future Hope sang the Australian national anthem at the programme which concluded with a dance by the troupe, Caper Maniac Crew, to the Oscar-winning track Naatu Naatu.
The consulate general in Kolkata was the country’s fourth diplomatic post in India when it reopened on March 26, 2019. Australia had a deputy high commission in Kolkata that had opened on June 18, 1970, when it was elevated from a trade commission, but it wound up in 1976.