Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Thursday held an online bilateral summit, the first such one held by Modi with any global leader during the lockdown.
While focusing on ways to further improve bilateral ties in areas of healthcare, trade and defence, Modi said it was the “perfect time and perfect opportunity” to strengthen the relation between the two nations, NDTV reported.
“India-Australia relations have deepened,” Modi said. “And this depth comes from our shared values, shared interests, shared geography and shared objectives.”
The prime minister said that India was committed to expanding relations with Australia on a wider and faster pace. He said that this was also important for the Indo-Pacific region and the world, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“The role of our comprehensive strategic partnership will be more important in this period of global epidemic,” Modi said. “The world needs a coordinated and collaborative approach to get out of the economic and social side effects of this epidemic.”
Modi said that the Indian government had decided to view the current crisis as an opportunity. “In India, a process of comprehensive reforms has been initiated in almost all areas,” he said. “It will soon see results at the ground level.”
He also called for a coordinated approach to overcome the economic crisis caused during the coronavirus pandemic. “The role of our comprehensive strategic partnership will be more important in this period of the global epidemic,” Modi said. “The world needs a coordinated and collaborative approach to overcome the economic and social side effects of this epidemic.”
The Australian prime minister, in his remarks, praised Modi for his “constructive and very positive” role, including at the G-20 role in pushing for a concerted global approach to deal with the coronavirus crisis. Morrison said India was a “trusted friend of Australia” and a “pioneer in technology”.
He said that Australia’s relationship with India is a natural one. “India has been a positive force in these trying times and our relationship with India is a natural one,” the prime minister said. “The time has come for broader and deeper ties.”
Following the summit, Modi tweeted saying that the two leaders had an outstanding discussion, covering the entire expanse of relations between the two nations.
In a joint statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the two nations committed to elevate the bilateral Strategic Partnership concluded in 2009 to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This reflected India and Australia’s commitment to global cooperation to address challenges such as Covid-19.
The two nations also pledged to share the benefits of scientific and medical research, and strengthen and diversify supply chains for critical health, technology and other goods and services.
On April 6, in a telephonic conversation, Modi and Morrison had discussed the ongoing coronavirus situation, including facilitation and support for citizens stranded in each other’s country. Morrison had also spoken about the Indian community, including Indian students being valued as a vibrant part of the Australian society.
In its White Paper on Foreign Policy in 2017, Australia recognised India as the “pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries” and a “front-rank partner of Australia”.