Prime Minister Narendra Modi raises the issue of vandalization of Hindu temples in Australia as he seals an economic, defense and strategic partnership with the Quad partner country
Call it cricket diplomacy. In a major symbolic gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese were each gifted with portraits of themselves fashioned by collages of Australian and Indian cricketers who represented their countries in matches played over the last 75 years.
On Thursday ahead of the start of the fourth Test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy between India and Australia at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) organized a felicitation for the two prime ministers at the venue. BCCI President Roger Binny gifted Albanese and presented him a picture of the Australian PM made up of a collage of Australian players who had represented the national team during the past 75 years.
Similarly, BCCI secretary Jay Shah felicitated PM Modi with a picture made up of a collage of Indian cricketers who had represented the Indian team. It was a special gesture to mark the 75 years of friendship between India and Australia.
Then, Modi and Albanese after taking a lap of honor of the stadium handed over Test caps to their respective team captains Rohit Sharma and Steve Smith before the start of the match. Both the prime ministers were greeted with loud cheers before the start of the match as they took a lap of honor across the massive sports arena to celebrate 75 years of friendship between India and Australia.
It was a great example of connections between India and Australia and the common link of cricket. But as the venue of meetings moved to the national capital, the two leaders sat down to talk and discuss important issues – both bilateral and geopolitical.
The Australian Prime Minister was on an official visit to India from March 8 to 11 During the first India-Australia Annual Summit held here both the countries shared their commitment towards further deepening of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Both the nations exchanged MoU for cooperation in sports and audio-visual co-production. The Australian Prime Minister arrived in Delhi on Thursday evening after concluding his engagements in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
Modi on Friday said that Anthony Albanese, in light of the recent attacks on temples in Australia, has assured that the safety and well-being of the Indian community in Australia is a priority for him. “Since the last few weeks, news of attacks on temples in Australia are coming regularly. It is natural that such news worries people in India. I have raised these concerns with Prime Minister Albanese who has assured me that the safety of the Indian community is a special priority for him,” PM Modi said during India-Australia: Exchange of Agreements and Press Statements on Friday. The PM while speaking alongside Australian PM Anthony Albanese, said: “On this subject, our teams will be in regular touch and will cooperate as best as possible. It is important to deal with such challenges and global well-being.”
The PM said that the Indian diaspora is now the second-largest immigrant community in Australia. “This Indian community is contributing a lot to the society and economy of Australia,” the PM said.
The Indian High Commission in Canberra recently condemned the “deeply disturbing” incidents of vandalization of three Hindu temples in Melbourne, and asked the Australian Government to ensure the safety and security of members of the Indian community and their properties in the country.
In January, ISKCON’s Hare Krishna Temple was vandalized in Melbourne’s Albert Park area. Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs was vandalized on January 16 and BAPS Swaminarayan Temple in the Mill Park area on January 12.
“The High Commission of India strongly condemns the deeply disturbing incidents of vandalization, including of three Hindu temples in Melbourne in recent weeks. The frequency and impunity with which the vandals appear to be operating are alarming, as are the graffiti which includes glorification of anti-Indian terrorists,” read a release issued by the Indian High Commission in Canberra on its official Twitter handle @HCICanberra.
The commission said that these vandalization incidents are clear attempts to sow hatred and division among the peaceful multi-faith and multi-cultural Indian-Australian community.
But despite such incidents, the relations between the two countries are growing. India and Australia are working towards a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, Anthony Albanese said on Friday emphasizing that people-to-people connect have been the foundation of ties between the two countries.
The Australian PM further said that he is hopeful that the agreement will be finalized this year. Addressing a joint press conference with PM Modi after bilateral level talks were held at Hyderabad House earlier this morning Albanese said that Australia’s relationship with India is multifaceted.
Albanese said that high-level contact between the two countries has further strengthened cooperation across many sectors.
“I look forward to hosting PM Modi in Australia for the Quad Leaders’ summit in May and then returning to India in September for the G20 Leaders’ summit. The frequent high-level content between Australia and India has further strengthened cooperation across a range of areas including trade & investment, climate and energy, defense and security, and between the people of our two countries.”
Last year, both the countries had signed a free trade agreement called the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement. The bilateral trade between the two countries amounts to nearly 27 billion dollars in 2021-22. The bilateral trade is expected to cross 45 to 50 billion dollars by 2035.
In the joint press conference on Friday, Albanese said that Australia also agreed to strengthen its defense partnerships with India. “We agreed on an early conclusion of our ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement as soon as possible. I am hopeful that we will be able to finalize it this year,” he said.
He further said that CECA will open new employment opportunities for both countries.
“CECA will open new employment opportunities for both countries. We will finalize and hope for an early conclusion of CECA this year. Australia has eliminated tariffs on 85 per cent of goods exported to India according to the trade agreement signed last year between the two countries,” he said.
Shedding light on the bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra on Friday said that PM Albanese’s visit to India underlines his enthusiasm and commitment to India-Australia ties.
He further said that both leaders were satisfied with the “all-round progress” in various areas of the partnership between the two nations across fields including trade. Both the prime ministers met for the first India-Australia Annual Summit talks at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.
“Both leaders (PM Modi-PM Albanese) assessed very clearly & noted with great satisfaction the strong all-round progress across a range of areas, including science and technology, strategic & security domain, renewable energy partnership in critical minerals, trade & economic engagement,” the Foreign Secretary said during a press conference.
The full set of comprehensive progress that the two countries have achieved since the relationship was upgraded to a comprehensive, strategic partnership in 2020.
Pointing that Albanese’s visit and today’s annual summit will take India-Australia ties to a higher level, Vinay Kwatra said, “PM Albanese’s visit underlines his enthusiasm & commitment to India-Australia ties. It is also the first annual summit between India & Australia at the level of the leaders. The Summit mechanism was established as an outcome of the 2nd virtual Summit held in March last year.”
Kwatra mentioned PM Albanese’s visit to INS Vikrant on Thursday and said that he was the first foreign leader to get onboard the indigenously built aircraft carrier since its commissioning last year. “PM Albanese was particularly appreciative of his visit to INS Vikrant – we are told the first foreign leader to do so since the first indigenously-built aircraft carrier was commissioned last September,” he said.
Calling PM Albanese’s visit as a testimony of his commitment towards the ties between the two countries, Kwatra said, “PM Albanese’s visit underlines his enthusiasm and commitment to India-Australia ties. It is also the first annual summit between India and Australia at the level of the leaders. The Summit mechanism was established as an outcome of the 2nd virtual Summit held in March last year.”