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The prime ministers of India and Australia will hold a virtual bilateral summit next week that is expected to see an intensification of ties in the economic and strategic spheres.

This will be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first bilateral summit to take place virtually given the embargos on travel due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison who was to come to India in January for the summit had to put off his visit due to the devastating wildfires ravaging large parts of his country. The visit was being planned for May but now the summit is to happen on 4 June, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday.

The summit comes against the backdrop of India and Australia having tense ties with China. In the case of India, tensions are due to a long pending border demarcation issue. In the case of Australia, tensions are high due to the Australian government seeking an impartial probe into the spread of the covid-19 pandemic and the origins of the disease. China has in recent weeks threatened economic consequences for Australia taking such a stance.

Ahead of the virtual summit between the prime ministers, Indian and Australian defence ministers this week agreed that the India-Australia strategic partnership provided the foundation for the two countries to work with other nations in dealing with challenges in a post covid-19 world.

The two ministers “agreed that India-Australia Strategic Partnership provides a good basis for both countries to work together along with other countries in this regard to deal with the post COVID-19 related challenges," it said.

“Both ministers also conveyed their commitment to take forward the initiatives of bilateral defence and security cooperation under the framework of the India-Australia Strategic Partnership," it added. India and Australia besides Japan and the US are part of the Quadrilateral group of countries – seen as a grouping of key democracies in the region.

Strengthening defence cooperation will be a major theme during the Modi-Morrison summit.

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