World affairs

‘Very worrying’: PM Modi flags temple attacks at India-Australia summit

NEW DELHI:India and Australia on Friday signalled their intention to boost cooperation in defence, trade and mobility of professionals as Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged concerns about recent attacks on temple to his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese.

After participating in the first annual India-Australia Summit, Modi and Albanese said the two sides were moving forward with a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) to upgrade an interim trade deal finalised last year and a migration and mobility pact that will benefit students and professionals.

Addressing a joint media interaction after their talks, Modi described security cooperation as an important pillar of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership and said the two sides discussed maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and ways to enhance bilateral security and defence cooperation.

Albanese said both sides are committed to strengthening the defence and security partnership to address shared challenges and work towards an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Modi said he raised India’s concerns about recent attacks on temple in Australia.

The Indian side has taken up this matter with Canberra several times in recent weeks following incidents that were linked to pro-Khalistan groups. “It is a matter of concern that in the past few weeks, there have been regular reports of attacks on temple in Australia. It is natural that such news is very worrying and distressing for everyone in India,” Modi said, speaking in Hindi.


“I expressed our thoughts and concerns to Prime Minister Albanese. He has assured me that the safety of the Indian community and the place of worship temple is a priority for him. Our teams will remain in regular contact on this issue and cooperate as necessary,” he added.

Albanese, who is set to visit India again in September for the G20 Summit, also invited Modi to Australia for the Quad Leaders’ Summit in May. The two sides also signed three agreements on cooperation in sports, audio-visual co-production, and the terms of reference for an India-Australia solar task force. They also signed a letter of intent for cooperation between India’s Atal Innovation Mission and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

Read | Australian PM Anthony Albanese onboard INS Vikrant

Albanese arrived in Ahmedabad on March 8 for a three-day visit. Besides participating in Holi celebrations on Wednesday, he joined Modi to watch the first day of the final Test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on Thursday.

Albanese and the high-power business delegation accompanying him interacted with leading Indian CEOs in Mumbai. He also visited the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant in the waters off Mumbai and announced Australia will host this year’s edition of the annual Malabar naval exercise by the navies of India, Japan and the US.

At the joint media interaction, Modi noted that the two sides signed several important defence-related agreements in recent years, including one on the reciprocal provision of logistics support between their armed forces. He said both sides also discussed ways to strengthen the regular exchange of information between security agencies.

Last year’s Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) has opened better opportunities for trade and investment for both countries, Modi said. “Our teams are working on CECA,” he added. Albanese said the ECTA eliminated tariffs on more than 85% of Australian goods exported to India, benefiting consumers and providing cheaper inputs to industry, and he is hopeful the CECA will be finalised this year.

“We also agreed on an early conclusion of our ambitious CECA as soon as possible, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to finalise that this year. 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,” Albanese said.

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