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  India   All India  11 Mar 2023  India, Australia to step up ties in defence, trade; sign 4 pacts

India, Australia to step up ties in defence, trade; sign 4 pacts

THE ASIAN AGE. | SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Mar 11, 2023, 6:52 am IST
Updated : Mar 11, 2023, 6:52 am IST

PM Modi said that PM Albanese had assured him the welfare and security of the Indian community in Australia was of “special priority” to him

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese, in New Delhi, Friday, (PTI Photo)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese, in New Delhi, Friday, (PTI Photo)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Australia’s PM Anthony Albanese held “positive, productive and engaging” talks in New Delhi on Friday at the first India-Australia annual summit, when the two nations decided to ramp up ties in several sectors, including defence and security, trade and investment, climate and clean energy, culture and people-to-people ties, and signed four pacts.

Modi, in his remarks before the media, said it was a “matter of regret” that temples in Australia were being attacked and that this issue worries and concerns “everyone in India”. He added that Albanese had assured him the welfare and security of the Indian community in Australia was of “special priority” to him.

Foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said at a special briefing in the evening that Modi had raised the issue of disturbances being created by pro-Khalistan elements in Australia and pointed out that such actions disrupt peace and harmony in both societies.

The foreign secretary said Modi was assured by the Australian PM of “deep understanding” of the matter and told that Australia was making all efforts to “ensure peace and harmony”.

It was agreed officials of both sides would stay in touch on the matter, he added.

The four pacts that were signed were on culture, sports, innovation and renewable energy, with the constitution of two task forces in solar energy and the clean hydrogen sector.

A fifth pact was also signed a few days ago on mutual recognition of education degrees.

In his remarks on the Indo-Pacific region, Modi also spoke about the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two nations and the strengthening of bilateral defence ties, including in logistics support, maritime security and exchange programmes between officers of the armed forces of both sides.

In his remarks, the Australian PM described ties with “vibrant, wonderful and diverse” India as “multi-faceted” and said he looked forward to welcoming Modi to Australia to attend the four-nation Quad leaders’ summit in May this year. On trade ties, Albanese hailed the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) that came into force last year which he said eliminated tariffs for more than 85 per cent of Australian goods exported into India. He added that the two nations were now working towards the early conclusion of the proposed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between the two nations and hoped that it would be finalised this year, adding that it would be a “transformational deal” that would realise the full potential of the bilateral economic ties, create new employment opportunities and raise living standards of the people of both nations.

On strengthening defence and security ties, Albanese talked about efforts to “strengthen an open and stable Indo-Pacific region", in what is being seen as a move by both nations with an eye on China, without referring to that country by name. He spoke about the need for increased defence-related sharing of information between both nations and said Australia would host the four-nation Malabar exercises this year which will see the participation of the Indian, Australian, US and Japanese navies.

Asked at his briefing whether the bilateral defence cooperation was to tackle Chinese expansionism in the region, the foreign secretary said India-Australia defence cooperation should not be seen in the context of a third nation but added that both India and Australia face challenges in the maritime domain. "It is a bilateral ecosystem and not a derivative of what a third country does," he said.

The Australian PM welcomed a new bilateral agreement on recognition of the educational qualifications of both nations and hoped for an greater presence of Australian universities’ campuses in India. He also spoke of the progress made towards a proposed new bilateral migration and mobility pact that he said would benefit students, academic researchers, businessmen and professionals. On cooperation in the clean energy sector, Albanese spoke about the cooperation in solar energy and green hydrogen and the agreement on the terms of reference of establishment of an India-Australia Solar Task Force. He also mentioned the bilateral audio-visual agreement in the cultural sphere that would benefit screen projects. He also said that the Indian sport of kabaddi will be showcased at the 2026 Commonwealth Games to be held in Australia.

Tags: pm narendra modi, india australia trade agreement, australian prime minister anthony albanese, defence and security
Location: India, Delhi