Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull arrived in New Delhi on his four-day State Visit to India on Sunday evening. During his visit, the Australian Prime Minister will meet Prime Minister Modi to hold talks and find ways and means to boost ties in areas including defence, security, energy and trade. The two countries are likely to sign a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs), covering a range of areas including defence and security, environment, renewable energy, sports and trade.
India being the world’s largest democracy, together with a market of 1.2 billion people, youthful population, diversified economy and growth trajectory, presents a significant opportunity for Australian business, especially in the agriculture, energy, manufacturing, mining and services sectors.
In fact, in recent years there has been a remarkable growth in the trading relationships between the two countries, with the two-way trade in goods and services increasing from US$6.8 billion in FY2003-04 to US$19 billion in FY2015-16.
Today, India is Australia’s fifth largest trading partner with further scope to expand.
On his arrival, Turnbull was accorded with ceremonial reception at the President House. Later in the day he was guest of honour at a state banquet and was officially received by the president and vice-president.
Even though this is Turnbull’s first visit to India, the two heads of state have had several opportunities to interact, including G-20 in Antalya in 2015 and in Hangzhou in 2016.
Turnbull hailed Modi for his leadership and said: “He is leading this most remarkable nation (India) on extraordinary journey of growth and development.” He further praised the nation, saying, “achievements of India are the admiration of the World.”
Turnbull had only positive things to say about India and PM Modi. He said that India has presented a remarkable story to the world. Thanks to the enterprise and energy of its people and the determination of its PM to super-charge India’s growth into the 21st century, he added, India no longer needs to lament a low rate of growth compared to China.
“India is showing it can grow at a rapid rate and that is offering enormous opportunities for Australia,” he said. Turnbull reiterated that Australia looks forward to working even more closely with India than in the past, and that this visit would work towards making the ties between the two countries stronger.
On the very first day of meeting, the leaders of India and Australia inked six MoUs. Of them, one was aimed at strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation. Emphasising on peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Modi said that terrorism and cyber security require global strategy and solutions.
Indian students studying in Australia also featured in the dialogues today. 60,000 Indians studied in Australia in 2016, an increase of 12 per cent on 2015. “He has got a massive task, a massive objective, a huge ambition to upskill the people of India and there is a big role for Australia to play in that,” Turnbull told reporters in New Delhi.
After the talks, a joint statement was issued by the two leaders today, stating: “We will continue to ensure that we provide outstanding opportunities for Indian students.”
The future dialogues between the two leaders during the visit are expected to include:
- The issue of India’s NSG (Nuclear Suppliers Group) membership bid ahead of Nuclear Suppliers Group’s plenary meeting expected to be held in June. Australia is strongly backing India in the membership bid. The Australian Government has been in the process of garnering support for India to enter the elite nuclear club.
- There is also speculation that there will be conversation regarding Australia participating in the Indian Malabar naval exercises that are held with the US and in which Japan has also participated.
- Cooperation in renewable energy, clean coal and bio-fuels will also feature in the dialogues as Australian coal has a very big role to play in India’s plan to expand power across the country.
- Labour mobility is also an issue which may be discussed as India would like to see Australia ease restrictions on foreign workers, particularly in IT services, in exchange for opening up agricultural markets.
- India is also interested in the ‘Australian brains’ exported to it – technology, ways to boost agricultural productivity, logistics management, and education services, which the PM of India is surely to bring up.
- On Australia’s part, they would be interested in dialogues on free trade negotiations keeping in mind India’s growing economic clout.
Apart from PM Modi, Turnbull will also meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.
On Tuesday, Turnbull will visit Mumbai where he will attend several events, including an interaction with key business leaders and an energy round-table.
The visit takes place after a milestone and source of trust and confidence was achieved between the two countries with the decks having been cleared for export of precious nuclear fuel, which will open door for Australian uranium to be exported for use to fuel India’s nuclear power plants.
However this visit will not include any discussion on negotiations to conclude the much delayed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement between Australia and India which was launched in May 2011.
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