Indian PM Modi visits Australia, seeks closer defence ties

World Tuesday 23/May/2023 17:23 PM
By: DW
Indian PM Modi visits Australia, seeks closer defence ties

Sydney: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Sydney for his second Australian visit as Indian prime minister.

Modi shared the stage with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney Olympic Park.

"The last time I saw someone on the stage here was Bruce Springsteen and he didn't get the welcome that Prime Minister Modi has got," Albanese told a crowd of 20,000 people.

Modi reciprocated the warm welcome, telling the Indian diaspora at the stadium that the "most important foundation of our ties is mutual trust and mutual respect."

He pushed for strengthening ties, promising that trade between the countries would double in the next five years.

"Our positive cooperation is growing in areas like climate action, disaster management, strategic technologies, reliable supply chain, education and health security," Modi said.

"It hasn't grown through diplomacy. The real strength is the Indians living in Australia," he added.

Modi hailed the cricket ties between India and Australia as well, telling the packed stadium that millions of Indians were sadenned by the passing of Australian cricketer Shane Warne in March.

The Indian diaspora accounts for only 3% of Australia's population of 26 million, but is the nation's fastest growing ethnic minority.

Trade ties in focus
The leader of the South Asian nation kickstarted his three-day tour on Tuesday by telling Australian media that he wanted to take New Delhi's ties with Canberra to the "next level," which includes deepening defence and security relations to help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

"As two democracies, India and Australia have shared interests in a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. There is alignment of our strategic viewpoint," Modi told The Australian newspaper.

"The high degree of mutual trust between us has naturally translated into greater cooperation on defense and security matters. Our navies are participating in joint naval exercises. I am confident that there is merit in working together to realize the true potential in closer defence and security cooperation," he added.

The visit comes after Modi attended a weekend Quad summit in Japan with the leaders of the United States, Japan and Australia to counter China's rising influence in the Indo-Pacific.

Australia and India have a great "strategic alignment," Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said.

"It really does afford the opportunity to take the relationship to the next level," he told public broadcaster ABC, ahead of Modi's arrival.

When asked if Australia would raise India's treatment of Muslims and other minorities with the Hindu nationalist leader, Marles declined to go into detail and said he expected Albanese and Modi would have a "full conversation."

"Ultimately, we are both democracies and that very much underpins the way in which we see the world," the deputy prime minister said, stressing instead the trade and defense ties between the two countries.

India is a "growing massive economy, there are great opportunities for us," he said.

Australia is the final stop on Modi's Asia-Pacific tour. The trip has been seen as part of an effort to assert India's role in the region in the face of growing influence from China.

Before traveling to Sydney, Modi was in Papua New Guinea to meet with the 14 Pacific Island leaders in a bid to boost cooperation.