NEW DELHI: India and Australia on Thursday announced the elevation of bilateral ties to a “COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP" with the two leaders of the sides saying they intend to sign pacts on cyber security and trade, on cementing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, and on logistics support for their militaries.
Both countries also announced upgrading a key dialogue -- till now held between the foreign secretaries and defence secretaries of the two countries -- to the level of foreign and defence ministers.
Speaking ahead of the start of delegation level talks at the virtual summit with his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that given the challenges in the world today, “this is the perfect time to build stronger ties" with Australia. There was unlimited potential in the relationship and the challenge, Modi said, was “how to translate the potential into reality" to make it a factor of stability and global good.
Both countries shared global common values like democracy, mutual respect, respect for international institutions and rules, Modi said adding that these were now being challenged – a possible allusion to China’s attempts to influence systems and institutions to play along with its interests and the US walking out of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In this context, building strong India-Australia ties were important to strengthen these values for the future, Modi said. Strong India-Australia partnership was also important for stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Modi said. Upgrading ties to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership" was also significant against the backdrop of the challenges posed by the covd-19 pandemic, Modi said. A coordinated and collaborative approach was needed to pull the world out of the economic and social hardship that the pandemic had thrown it into, he said.
Morrison described the India-Australia relationship as “very comfortable" and “natural" with both countries championing common values including an “open," “inclusive" and “prosperous" Indo-Pacific. India’s role in the Indo-Pacific was critical in the years ahead, the Australian prime minister said.
The logistics support agreement that the two countries were to sign later Thursday would be a platform for deeper cooperation in the maritime domain, he said. Both were strong believers in a rules based multilateral system, Morrison said. The Australian prime minister also hailed upgrading of foreign and defence secretaries’ level dialogue to the ministerial level.