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PM Modi & Australian PM Albanese discuss maritime security, finalising CECA by end 2023

Modi said he raised the issue of temple attacks in Australia while in talks with Australian PM Albert Albanese, who is on a state-visit to India.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart and fellow Quad leader, Albert Albanese, discussed maritime issues in the Indo-Pacific region, finalising the two countries’ Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), and other issues, during the latter’s state visit to India this week. 

In a joint press conference Thursday, PM Modi expressed regret over the recent spate of temple attacks in Australia, allegedly by pro-Khalistan supporters, and added that he had raised the issue with the Australian Prime Minister.

“I have seen reports of attacks on temples in Australia. I have conveyed this to PM Albanese and he has assured me that the safety and well-being of the Indian community in Australia is a priority,” said Modi. 

At least five Hindu temples in Australia have been vandalised since the start of the year. The most recent incident occurred in Brisbane’s Burbank suburb on 4 March, during which the walls of Shree Laxmi Narayan Temple were defaced with graffiti. 

Days after the incident, Australian ambassador Barry O’Farrell said local investigations are underway to track down perpetrators. 

The two leaders also announced MoUs in the fields of sports, solar energy, and innovation. 

Albanese’s state visit to India comes ahead of the Quad Leaders Summit to be held in Sydney in May, which PM Modi is expected to attend. Albanese and other world leaders will return to Delhi for the G20 Summit later this year in September. 

Cooperation on maritime security

During his remarks Thursday, the Australian Prime Minister officially confirmed that his country will host the Malabar Naval Exercise for the first time this August. The naval exercise began in 1992 between the US and India but has evolved in scope and partnerships and now includes fellow Quad members, Japan, and Australia.

Earlier this week, Albanese visited India’s homemade aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant. 

PM Modi noted that security cooperation is a critical pillar in the strategic partnership between India and Australia. 

“We discussed maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region today,” PM Modi said at the briefing.

According to Albanese, the two leaders discussed an “increasingly uncertain global security environment” and committed to enhance their defence cooperation to work towards an “open, stable, and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.

“I welcome increased defense information sharing between Australia and India including in the maritime domain”, added Albanese. 

PM Modi concurred, adding that the two countries are providing logistics support for each other’s armies and conducting regular exchanges of information between security agencies.

‘Early conclusion of CECA’

During the joint briefing, both leaders expressed their intent to wrap up the Australia-India CECA. 

An interim free-trade agreement, known as the India-Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA), came into force last December. However, the CECA is expected to be a wider economic agreement, covering a large range of issues.

“We also agreed to the early conclusion of our ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) as soon as possible and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to finalise that this year,” said Albanese. 

He added that the “transformational” deal will realise the full potential of the bilateral economic relationship and create new employment opportunities in both countries.

During this visit, the two countries also launched the Australia-India Solar Task Force. It will work as an advisory body that will guide both governments on how to accelerate solar PV deployment and enhance supply chains.

Also read: PM Modi raises with Australian counterpart issue of attacks on temples in Australia



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