Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison will hold a virtual bilateral summit today to review the bilateral strategic ties and explore ways to expand cooperation in areas of trade and defence. This is the first time that Prime Minister Modi will be holding a “Bilateral Virtual Summit” with a foreign leader.
“The virtual summit will be an opportunity for the two leaders to review the broad framework of the relationship, in the context of growing ties between India and Australia, and to discuss their respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The two countries are also expected to finalise a landmark agreement for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support in the summit besides sealing a number of other pacts, officials said.
Recently, the two leaders had a friendly exchange on twitter after the Australian Prime Minister shared pictures of the home-cooked samosas on his social media handles.
“Sunday ScoMosas with mango chutney, all made from scratch – including the chutney,” he wrote and tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
PM Modi was quick to respond and said on Twitter: “Connected by the Indian Ocean, united by the Indian Samosa!”
Connected by the Indian Ocean, united by the Indian Samosa!
Looks delicious, PM @ScottMorrisonMP!
Once we achieve a decisive victory against COVID-19, we will enjoy the Samosas together.
Looking forward to our video meet on the 4th. https://t.co/vbRLbVQuL1
– Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 31, 2020
The two prime ministers have already met on four occasions during the last one-and-half years.
While attending the G20 Summit in Osaka in Japan last year, the Australian Prime Minister tweeted a selfie that he took with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Kithana acha he Modi! #G20OsakaSummit,” Mr Morrison had tweeted the picture in which PM Modi was seen in a brown jacket over white attire. Both of them are smiling.
On April 6th, they two leader had a telephonic conversation in which ongoing COVID-19, including facilitation and support for citizens stranded in each other’s country, was discussed, the ministry said. Scott Morrison also spoke highly about the contribution of the Indian community, including Indian students, to the Australian society, it added.
The relationship between the two nations was upgraded to a ‘Strategic Partnership” level in 2009. Since then, both countries have expanded their cooperation in a range of key areas.
In its White Paper on Foreign Policy un 2017, Australia recognised India as the “pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries” and a “front-rank partner of Australia”.
The bilateral economic engagement too has been on an upswing in the last few years. According to official data, the trade between the two countries was around USD 21 billion in 2018-19.
Australia’s investment in India is about USD 10.74 billion whereas India’s total investment in Australia is USD 10.45 billion.
Australian Super Pension Fund has invested USD 1 billion in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. “The two countries are looking at stepping up investments and trade with each other,” the MEA said.
Both India and Australia have developed an understanding of each other’s perspectives on regional and global issues, the foreign ministry said. “We have a shared approach to a free, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
In the last few years, both the countries have been focusing on expanding maritime cooperation.
India and Australia commenced their first bilateral naval exercise ‘AUSINDEX” in 2015 which was focussed at deepening defence and maritime cooperation especially in the Indian Ocean.
The third edition of AUSINDEX was held in the Bay of Bengal in April 2019.
Australia has supported India’s global initiatives such as International Solar Alliance (ISA), CDRI and Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI). Australia supports India’s membership of an expanded United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In the recent past, Australia supported India’s membership for Australia Group, and Wassenaar Arrangement and favours India’s membership of NSG.
Australia has been supportive of India’s position on cross-border terrorism and on asking Pakistan to take meaningful action against terrorist groups operating from its soil.
Australia also co-sponsored the UNSC resolution to declare Azhar Masood a global terrorist.