Australia, India Seek Closer Economic, Security Ties

Australian Prime Minister Albanese and his Indian counterpart Modi discussed in Sydney on Wednesday to strengthen regional security and economic ties, and signed a deal to improve Indian student and business travel to Australia. The two leaders also discussed the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on developing countries, particularly regarding food and energy security. Modi had been due to attend the meeting of Quad group of nations, which includes Australia and India, as well as the United States and Japan, in Sydney, but that meeting was held on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan instead, as Biden needed to return to Washington.

Modi is visiting Australia for the first time since 2014, and two months after Albanese travelled to India.

“Quad leaders stand together for an open, stable, secure and prosperous Indo Pacific region … where all countries large and small benefit from a regional balance that keeps the peace,” Albanese said after his meeting with Modi.

Albanese added that he and Modi had also discussed trade, migration and renewable energy, and the two nations had established a hydrogen task force to expand cooperation on clean energy.

Australia, whose largest trading partner is China, is seeking to diversify its export markets, including forging closer trade ties with India.

India is Australia’s sixth largest trading partner, while around 750,000 people in Australia claim Indian ancestry.

Modi said they had discussed increasing cooperation on mining and critical minerals, and would work towards a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement.

“We talked about taking the Australia-India comprehensive strategic partnership to greater heights in the next decade,” he told reporters. The next round of trade negotiations will be in June and July.

A migration agreement “will further strengthen our living bridge” Modi said, referring to the Indian diaspora in Australia, which is the second-largest and fastest growing diaspora group in the country.

Modi travelled to Australia after holding a meeting with 14 Pacific island leaders in Papua New Guinea.

India’s foreign secretary Kwatra told reporters in Sydney that Modi and Albanese had discussed synergies with Australia’s development programs in the Pacific islands. India’s Pacific islands agenda was focussed on economic and health partnerships, Kwatra said.

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