Melbourne: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard is disappointed over her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh's decision to pull out from next month's Commonwealth meeting in Perth, though she is upbeat about the growing ties between the two countries.

Gillard said she understood Singh's decision but was nevertheless disappointed he would not be part of the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOG) meeting being held from October 28 to 30.

Vice President Hamid Ansari is expected to represent India at the summit of the 53-nation grouping.

"Very disappointed that Prime Minister won't be here for Commonwealth meeting. But I understand his decision. But we are looking forward taking to good partnership and making it even stronger," Gillard said on the sidelines of a University of Melbourne's AsiaLink conference.

"India and Australia are in a strategic partnership. We are good friends. We have strong people to people links growing economically, certainly at leader to leader level. We stay in good touch," she said.

Earlier, speaking on the occasion, Gillard announced that Australia will conduct a white paper review to study the impact of the sweeping economic and strategic changes taking place in Asia, particularly in countries like India and China.

The 'Australia in the Asian Century' white paper will review the opportunities and implications the growing clout of Asia will have on Australia, Gillard said.

She said the rebalancing of global wealth and power that is taking place in the region will "define our future".

The review will consider opportunities for deeper engagement between Australia and Asia in the areas of economy, science and technology, business and clean energy.

The white paper, to be led by former treasury secretary Ken Henry, will be released in mid-2012.

"Rapid growth in much of Asia will change the social and economic, strategic and environmental order of our world," Gillard said in her keynote address.
"And while Asia's rise has been with us for a lifetime, China and India remain relatively poor countries in per capita terms, with decades of growth ahead. These changes have barely begun - these changes will define our future," she said.

She said the study would provide a national blueprint for Australia as it seeks to navigate the Asian century.

The white paper will include consultation with Australian community, business leaders, academics and international partners. "Our challenge is to ensure new institutions like the G20 and East Asia Summit have growing meaning and purpose," she said.

Stressing on the importance of Asia, Gillard said: "Asia has never been of greater global significance and as global economic and strategic weight shifts from west to east, global institutional frameworks reflect this".

Gillard said she believed Australia's closest historical partners in the region - the United States and Japan – would remain powerful for some time to come.

"Yet for all the strength and resilience of Japan and the US, we are now seeing the most profound rebalancing of global wealth and power in the period since the United States emerged as a major power in the world," she said.

"Just one illustration of that shift: the emerging and developing world could well be a net foreign investor, while developed countries become net foreign borrowers, as early as 2025".

(Agencies)