India-Australia partnership to scale greater heights following June 4 summit: Envoy

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NeW DELHI: India-Australia relations will ‘scale greater heights’ and elevated to next stage across sectors with the virtual summit on June 4 Australian High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell said on Monday.

“India and Australia relations will scale greater heights after the summit-level meeting between the two countries,” O’Farrell said.

During the summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison are expected to ramp up efforts to diversify Australia’s export markets and find trusted suppliers of vital products and components.

The new agreements will focus on reliable supply chains in key strategic sectors, including medical goods, technology and critical minerals, amid heightened tensions with China over Beijing’s response to coronavirus pandemic.

Australian farmers could also benefit, with talks underway on expanding agricultural exports to India, including barley, as China throws up new trade barriers, media reports stated.

The leaders will seal a new defense agreement allowing reciprocal access to bases and co-operation on military technology projects, while a new education partnership will be on the table to help overcome Australian university reliance on Chinese students.

The talks in terms of strategic convergence, now have greater significance as COVID-19 exacerbates the strategic contest between the US and China.

Morrison was scheduled to visit New Delhi in January, but had postponed it due to the bush fires in Australia. The rescheduled plan for May was put on hold due to the outbreak of Covid-19.

Modi has so far been part of virtual summits in the Saarc and G-20 formats but this will be the maiden bilateral summit held through a virtual domain.

The Australian PM and Modi have been in touch with each other to discuss measures to contain the pandemic. During a phone call in April, both leaders agreed to remain attentive to the wider significance of the India-Australia partnership, including in the Indo-Pacific region, even as they focused on solving the current health crisis. They agreed on the importance of bilateral experience-sharing in the context of this health crisis, including through collaborative research efforts.

Australia has felt that it could do more with India in global and regional responses to the threat of terrorism besides widening the scope of their Indo-Pacific partnership to stabilise the Indian Ocean Region through the logistics support agreement for their defence forces. The agreement was originally scheduled to be signed in January during Morrison’s visit.

Logistics sharing agreements with nations like Japan and Australia will significantly enhance the capability of the Indian Navy to operate eastwards, which is an increasing area of interest. However, sources have cautioned that the agreements should not be seen in the context of the ‘Quad’ initiative (quadrilateral security dialogue among the US, Japan, Australia and India).





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