Cricket is a common language between Australia and India but Tony Abbott will be looking to break new ground during a visit to the subcontinent.

Don’t misunderstand Andrew Robb: the man loves cricket.

But the trade minister knows there’s more in common between Australia and India than just a love of the game, and dwelling on the past won’t unlock the potential of the future.

“Cricket, the English language, democracy and our common history are a great foundation for friendship. But friendship isn’t enough,” he told the Australia-India Roundtable earlier this year.

That’s a message Tony Abbott will be eager to impress upon India’s new leader Narendra Modi when the prime minister visits the subcontinent for the first time this week.

He’ll be joined by Mr Robb and a senior Australian business delegation to showcase opportunities to reignite trade between the two nations.

Coal has ensured that India remains Australia’s fifth-largest export market, but the trade ledger is uneven.

The two-way flow of goods and services has slipped markedly in recent years, with India dropping off Australia’s list of top-10 trading partners in 2013.

But the government is keen to arrest this decline and is optimistic it can get things moving with the new Modi administration.

He’s been invited to the G20 in Brisbane this year which – assuming he attends – will make him the first Indian leader to visit Australia in 28 years.

“I think there is enormous potential for us to continue to strengthen and broaden and deepen the relationship with India,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told AAP.

One major hurdle to a closer friendship has been uranium.

Australia has plenty of it, but for years refused to sell any to India because it had not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty despite possessing an arsenal of warheads.

It’s expected Mr Abbott will sign a nuclear safeguards agreement in New Delhi on Friday, signalling a new willingness to engage with India.

“It removes a major obstacle of mistrust,” the Lowy Institute’s Rory Medcalf told AAP.

“The uranium deal will help to unlock the new potential in the relationship.”

Maritime security will also be on the agenda along with education, with 50,000 Indians studying in Australia.

This has been a trouble spot in the past. Enrolments dipped after a spate of attacks on Indian students in 2009, but have since stabilised.

Mr Abbott will also visit Malaysia, where the mood will be more sombre.

The prime minister will brief his counterpart Najib Razak on the Australia-led search for missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, and the pair will discuss the investigation into the downing of MH17.

The crisis in Iraq and Syria will also feature prominently, with both leaders grappling with the threat of homegrown radicals returning from the Middle East.

But cricket tragics need not despair.

Brett Lee and Adam Gilchrist are tagging along, so there’s still a chance Mr Abbott will throw a googly for the cameras.