SYDNEY (AFP) - India and Australia vowed closer defence and security ties on Tuesday while stressing the importance of economic cooperation, a day after Canberra sealed a huge trade pact with fellow Asian superpower China.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was given a rock star welcome by thousands of rapturous supporters in Sydney on Monday, described the closer ties as “natural”.
“This is a natural partnership emerging from our shared values and interests and strategic maritime locations,” he said in Canberra after inking agreements on security cooperation, narcotics control, social security, and tourism.
“Security and defence are important and growing areas of the new India-Australia partnership for advancing regional peace and stability and combating terrorism and transnational crimes,” he added ahead of addressing parliament.
Modi’s trip Down Under – for the G20 summit in Brisbane and a state visit – is the first by an Indian prime minister in 28 years. It comes just two months after Abbott’s tour of India, during which the two countries sealed a long-awaited nuclear energy deal.
Modi, who won India’s biggest electoral victory in three decades in the April-May polls, said injecting new momentum into bilateral trade and business relations was also of key importance. He called for Indian businesses to have easier access to Australian markets and quicker investment approvals.
“India and Australia have a great economic synergy. There are huge opportunities for a partnership in every area we can think of – agriculture, resources, energy, finance, infrastructure, education and science and technology,” he said.
“The economic climate in India has changed. I believe it will be a lot easier to convert opportunities into concrete outcomes.”
On Monday, Australia sealed a landmark trade deal with China that will abolish tariffs in the lucrative resources and agricultural sectors as Canberra confronts a painful downturn in mining.
Abbott already has his eye on a similar outcome with India, flagging the prospect of a pact by the end of next year.
“By the end of next year we will have a free trade deal with what is potentially the world’s largest market,” he said, adding that both leaders “will make it happen”.
Abbott also said the bilateral relationships needed to move beyond “cricket”.
“We can never forget that India is an intellectual powerhouse, a potential economic powerhouse,” he said, pointing to trade being “underdeveloped” while urging better intelligence and military cooperation.
“There’s an enthusiasm on both our parts for more bilateral and trilateral military exercises and we hope to see much more of that in the years ahead,” said the Australian leader.