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Australia, India Pledge To Strengthen Economic And Security Ties

Indian PM Narendra Modi shakes hand with his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese,
after exchange of agreements and press statement in New Delhi [Manish Swarup/AP Photo]

India and Australia have agreed to accelerate a broader economic partnership and to boost their defence ties, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says.

Last year, the two countries signed a free trade deal, called the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), the first signed by India with a developed country in a decade.

However, a much larger Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) has been stuck in negotiations for more than a decade. Discussions between the countries restarted in 2011 but were suspended in 2016 as the talks were gridlocked.

Indian PM Narendra Modi with Albanese arriving for a cricket match in Ahmedabad [Ajit Solanki/AP Photo]

Negotiations resumed in 2021 but a deal has yet proved to be elusive.

“We also agreed on an early conclusion of our ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement as soon as possible and I am hopeful that we will be able to finalise that this year,” Albanese, who is visiting India, told reporters in New Delhi on Friday.

“This transformational deal will realise the full potential of the bilateral economic relationship, creating new employment opportunities and raising living standards for the people of both Australia and India.”

He said Australia and India made “significant and ambitious” progress in strengthening defence and security ties and also discussed climate change issues.

Bilateral trade between the countries was at $27.5bn in 2021 and India says trade has the potential to nearly double to $50bn in five years under the ECTA.

In the 2022 fiscal year, India was Australia’s ninth-largest trading partner and they hope to double trade in the next five years.

India’s exports to Australia totalled $8.3bn and imports from the country stood at $16.7bn in 2021-22, according to the economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative.

While India’s exports range from agriculture, garments and railway engines to telecom, 95 percent of India’s imports from Australia are raw materials and mining products needed by Indian industry.

Quad partners

India and Australia are security partners through the Quad group, which also includes the United States and Japan. The alliance is seen as a bulwark against China’s assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.

Albanese’s visit included a Thursday reception on board the INS Vikrant, India’s first home-made aircraft carrier, where he announced new joint military drills.

“Security cooperation is an important pillar in the comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Australia,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday at a joint press briefing after a private meeting.

Modi said in a statement that he raised in his talks with Albanese recent attacks on Hindu temples in Australia where Indian immigrants are the second-largest demographic. Media reports said the attacks were carried out by Sikh separatist groups.

Modi said Albanese assured him the safety of the Indian community was a priority for him.

Friday’s meeting came a day after the leaders watched the opening session of the fourth cricket Test together in a stadium named after Modi in his home state of Gujarat.

Both men performed a lap of honour on a cricket-themed golf cart at the start of the match, where Australia are fighting to avoid a series loss and India need a win to secure a World Test Championship berth.

“We are competing on the cricket field to be the world’s best, but together we are building a better world,” Albanese told reporters.

Albanese flies out of New Delhi on Saturday morning and will host Modi in Australia for the next Quad leaders’ meeting in May.


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