New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart PM Scott Morrison took part in the first-ever virtual bilateral summit. The event emphasized on ‘strengthening of ties with Australia and its upward trajectory’, focusing on ways to further broad base bilateral ties in a range of areas like healthcare, trade and defence. It is the first time that PM Modi held a “bilateral” virtual summit with a foreign leader.
The two prime ministers have already met on four occasions on the sidelines of multilateral meetings during the last one-and-half years.
The Virtual Summit was 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.
During the first-ever bilateral India-Australia online summit, Australian PM Scott Morrison lauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the leadership he has shown during the COVID-19 crisis. Australia also supported India to play a role in the Indo-Pacific region, with its Prime Minister Scott Morrison stating that the nations “share responsibility for that ocean”.
PM Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in COVID19 and said, “First of all I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to all the people and families affected by COVID-19 in Australia from my side and from all over India.”
PM Narendra Modi said that his government had decided to view the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity. He said, “In India, a process of comprehensive reforms has been initiated in almost all areas. Very soon its result will be seen at the ground level.”
Australian PM Scott Morrison said India, under the leadership of PM Modi, has been playing a very positive role in very difficult times. He said, “I thank you for your leadership not just within India but broadly throughout G20, Indo-Pacific and the stabilising, constructive and very positive role that you have played in these very difficult times.
Australian PM said. “I commend India on its leadership on taking Chair of WHO’s executive board. This is a very important time to be chairing that board and I have no doubt that India’s leadership will be critical in dealing with difficult problems globally particularly in the health area.”
PM Modi said, “India is committed to expanding its relations with Australia on a wider and faster pace. This is important not only for our two countries, but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the world.”
PM Modi said, “How our relations become a ‘factor of stability’ for our region and for the world, how we work together for ‘global good’, all these aspects need to be considered.”
“The role of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership will be more important in this period of global epidemic. The world needs a coordinated and collaborative approach to get out of the economic and social side effects of this epidemic”, said PM Modi.
The PM stressed that India and Australia must work in a manner that their relationship becomes a stabilising factor not just for the Indo-Pacific region but the entire world.
Talking about the Indian community in Australia, PM Modi said, “I am especially grateful for the way you have taken care of the Indian community in Australia, and especially the Indian students in this difficult time.”
Shortly before the start of the virtual summit, the two leaders took to twitter to share their views on the virtual meeting.
Australia PM Scott Morrison said,“Looking forward to catching up with PM Narendra Modi shortly for the first ever Australia-India virtual summit.”
“Glad to be joining the first India-Australia Virtual Summit with you, PM Scott Morrison. India-Australia ties have always been close. As vibrant democracies, from Commonwealth to cricket to even cuisine, our people-to-people relations are strong & the future is bright!” PM Modi responded to his Australian counterpart on twitter.
Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs issued a press release on the event, stating that the virtual summit is being held as PM Morrison’s visit to India could not take place amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MEA stated in a release on Wednesday, “Economic engagement has been growing. In 2018-19, the trade between the two countries was around US$ 21 billion. Australia’s cumulative investment in India is about US$ 10.74 billion whereas India’s total investment in Australia is US$ 10.45 billion. Australian Super Pension Fund has invested US$ 1 billion in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. The two countries are looking at stepping up investments and trade with each other.”
As two democratic nations, India and Australia have developed an understanding of each other’s perspectives on regional and global issues including a shared approach to a free, open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Australia has supported India’s global initiatives such as 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.
In April, the two Prime Ministers had a telephonic conversation, where they discussed the ongoing COVID-19, including facilitation and support for citizens stranded in each other’s country. During the telephonic conversation, PM Scott Morrison spoke of the Indian community, including Indian students being valued as a vibrant part of the Australian society.