“War is terrible but let’s focus on Indo-Pacific”: PM Morrison, Indian PM Modi review ties, share vision to advance relations in virtual summit

While we are obviously distressed at the terrible situation in Europe, our focus, of course, is always very much on what is occurring in the Indo-Pacific and ensuring that those events could never occur here in the Indo-Pacific."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Indian counterpart PM Narendra Modi on Monday held a constructive virtual summit where they reviewed the bilateral ties and shared their respective visions to advance this partnership.

Both the leaders expressed satisfaction at the progress made under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership established during the 1st Virtual Summit in June 2020.

However, PM Morrison set the tone of the this virtual summit by greeting Indian PM Modi in his native language gujarati.

Kem Cho from Brisbane, Prime Minister Modi. Thank you for joining us today for our Virtual Annual Leaders’ Meeting. I very much wish we could be together with you in person, but that day I hope will soon come.”

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi also warmed the meeting with thanking Mr Morrison for Holi wishes.

“I am grateful to you for your wishes for the Holi festival and the election victory.”

“On behalf of all Indians, I convey my condolences for the loss of life and property caused by floods in Queensland and New South Wales,” he added.

Mr Modi also expressed his satisfaction at the enhanced scope of the relationship which now covers diverse areas such as trade and investments, defence and security, education and innovation, science and technology, critical minerals, water management, new and renewable energy technology, Covid-19 related research, etc. 

Prime Minister Modi thanked PM Morrison for the special gesture in returning 29 ancient artefacts to India. These artefacts comprise sculptures, paintings and photographs, across centuries, some dating back to the 9th-10th century, from different parts of India.

The artefacts include 12th century Chola bronzes, 11th-12th century Jain sculptures from Rajasthan, 12th-13th century sandstone Goddess Mahisasuramardini from Gujarat, 18th-19th century paintings and early gelatin silver photographs. 

Mr Modi said, “Our relations have made remarkable progress in the last few years. Trade and investment, defence and security, education and innovation, science and technology – we have very close cooperation in all these areas. Our collaboration has grown rapidly in many other areas, such as critical minerals, water management, renewable energy, and Covid-19 research.”

“I heartily welcome the announcement of the establishment of the Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technology Policy in Bengaluru. It is imperative that we have better cooperation between us in cyber and critical and emerging technologies.

It is the responsibility of countries with similar values like us to adopt appropriate global standards in these emerging technologies,”

added Mr Modi.
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Prime Minister Modi thanked Prime Minister Morrison for taking care of the Indian community, including the Indian students, in Australia during Covid-19 pandemic. 

PM Morrison at India-Australia virtual summit; Image Source: Supplied

Both the leaders also appreciated the increasing strategic convergence between the two countries as fellow democracies with shared values and common interests, which include a free, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. 

The Ukraine-Russia War is tragic but our focus should be Indo-Pacific

PM Morrison acknoledged that the meeting of course is set against the very distressing backdrop of the war in Europe, which must never happen in our own region, and he very much thanked Mr Modi for the partnership that they have.

“While we are obviously distressed at the terrible situation in Europe, our focus, of course, is always very much on what is occurring in the Indo-Pacific and ensuring that those events could never occur here in the Indo-Pacific,”

stressed Mr Morrison

The Indo-Pacific region is facing increasing change and much pressure, and Mr Morrison thinks that Quad Leaders’ call recently, gave them the opportunity to discuss Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, but it also gave them the opportunity to discuss the implications and consequences of that terrible event for the Indo-Pacific and the coercion and the issues that the region face.

“The tragic loss of life underlies the importance, of course, of holding Russia to account,” said Mr Morrison

“But cooperation between like-minded liberal democracies is key to an open and inclusive and resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific, and I welcome your leadership within the Quad to keeping us focused on those important issues,”

Mr Morrison added
PM Morrison at India-Australia virtual summit; Image Source: Supplied

Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement – “CECA

PM Morrison said, CECA reflects the ambition that we share and we hold for our relationship, and the pace and scale of that cooperation, since we lifted ties back in 2020, has been remarkable.

“I am ambitious, as I know you are, to make it even closer, particularly when it comes to our economic cooperation, which I hope we’re able to advance further today.”

“We’ve made great progress in defence, maritime cooperation, science, technology, clean energy as well, which is something I know that Australia can work together closely with India.”

“Science, technology, energy and especially critical minerals and rare earths, and we’ll redouble our efforts, as I said, on our interim Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement to unlock new opportunities and benefits for both our economies. It will bring us closer to a full agreement as soon as I hope we can achieve that,” explained Mr Morrison.

PM Modi said, “I also want to say that remarkable progress has been made in a very short time. I am confident that the remaining issues will also be agreed upon soon.”

PM Modi at India-Australia virtual summit: Image Source: Supplied

“The early completion of “CECA” will be crucial for our economic relations, economic revival and economic security,”

added Mr Modi.

The two Prime Ministers also agreed that they would be increasing cooperation between India’s National Investment and Infrastructure fund, the NIIF and Australia’s Pension and Sovereign Fund, which is called the Future Fund.

To attract Australian investments in infrastructure development, India will offer the same tax benefits for Australia’s sovereign and pension funds in India as is given in Australia.

In other words, India is willing to match the tax benefits that Australia gives to its sovereign and pension funds. Once these funds invest in India they will get similar benefits.

Prime Minister Modi also proposed the early integration of digital payments platforms of both countries. This would greatly help almost one-million Indian Diaspora members in Australia.

He also stressed that there is also good cooperation between both nations in Quad. This cooperation reflects commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific because Quad’s success is very important for regional and global stability.

MoU on Cooperation in the critical mining sector

This is an MoU between India’s Khanij Bidesh India Limited and Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office, and would establish a framework for building partnerships in critical minerals investment.

This agreement would give India the opportunities to both invest in Australia’s critical mineral sector and get Australian expertise in this area.

Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement

There was also a letter of intent signed between India and Australia to work towards including a Migration and Mobility Partnership agreement on facilitating migration, mobility between the two countries.

This is something the two Prime Ministers referred to and said would be an area of great interest because it involves both education and technology and the involvement of younger people between two countries.

International Students: Picture Source: @CANVA
International Students: Picture Source: @CANVA

MoU between Prasar Bharati and the Special Broadcasting Service of Australia

It would basically allow for exchange programs, expertise in the media sector, and would facilitate daily slots on television channels in Australia for Doordarshan India – Doordarshan News and DD Sahyadri. 

Defence and Security: General Bipin Rawat Young Defence Officers Exchange Program

Both sides announced the setting up of the General Bipin Rawat Young Defence Officers Exchange Program. This will enable younger officers from both sides to familiarise themselves in each other’s countries, and will greatly increase the service to service contacts between our countries.

There were several other initiatives with Australia in the sectors of space, science and technology, critical minerals, energy etc, which will be detailed in the joint statement.

During a special briefing following the conclusion of the India-Australia virtual summit between PM Modi and Morrison, the Indian Foreign Secretary said the Summit was very fruitful with a constructive, and warm exchange of views.

“The virtual summit reflects the close ties that exist between India and Australia, as also the shared vision of both Prime Ministers to advance this bilateral partnership,”

Mr Shringla said.

“PM Modi and PM Scott Morrison stressed on the high priority they attach to our bilateral relationship and the keen focus to enhance the comprehensive strategic partnership further between our two countries,” he added.

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla; Image Source: The Australia Today

Shringla said that the summit today gave an opportunity to review the progress made since the last meeting which took place in 2020.

“In reiteration to commitment to a progressive Indo pacific region, both leaders discussed calibrating and cooperating with each other on support to pacific island countries for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Foreign Secretary said.

“A significant outcome of the virtual summit was a decision to hold annual summits at the level of the Heads of Government, under the comprehensive strategic partnership. Australia would be the third country with which India will have an institutionalized annual summit,” he added.

Further, Shringla informed that the leaders exchanged their perspectives about regional and multilateral matters and global issues of mutual interest, including shared concerns such as terrorism.