New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison held an online summit on Thursday focussing on ways to further broadbase bilateral ties in a range of areas like healthcare, trade and defence.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Modi said he believed that it is the “perfect time and perfect opportunity” to further strengthen the relationship between India and Australia.
“We have immense possibilities to make our friendship stronger,” Modi said, adding: “How our relations become a ‘factor of stability’ for our region and for the world, how we work together for global good, all these aspects need to be considered.”
Prime Minister Modi said India was committed to expand its relations with Australia on a wider and faster pace, noting that it is important not only for the two countries, but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the world.
“The role of our comprehensive strategic partnership will be more important in this period of global epidemic. The world needs a coordinated and collaborative approach to get out of the economic and social side effects of this epidemic,” he said.
It is the first time that Modi held a “bilateral” virtual summit with a foreign leader.
Relationship between the two nations was upgraded to a ‘Strategic Partnership’ level in 2009. Since then, both countries have expanded their cooperation in a range of key areas.
In its White Paper on Foreign Policy in 2017, Australia recognised India as the “pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries” and a “front-rank partner of Australia”.
The bilateral economic engagement too has been on an upswing in the last few years.
According to official data, the trade between the two countries was around USD 21 billion in 2018-19.
Australia’s cumulative investment in India is about USD 10.74 billion whereas India’s total investment in Australia is USD 10.45 billion.
Australian Super Pension Fund has invested USD 1 billion in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.
In the last few years, both the countries have been focusing on expanding maritime cooperation.
India and Australia commenced their first bilateral naval exercise ‘AUSINDEX’ in 2015 which was focussed at deepening defence and maritime cooperation especially in the Indian Ocean.
The third edition of AUSINDEX-2019 was held in the Bay of Bengal in April 2019.
Australia has been supportive of India’s position on cross-border terrorism and on asking Pakistan to take meaningful action against terrorist groups operating from its soil.
Australia also co-sponsored UNSC resolution to declare Azhar Masood a global terrorist.