‘Attacks on temples’: PM Modi raises issue with Aus PM Anthony Albanese

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday raised with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese the issue of recent attacks on temples in Australia even as the two leaders focused on concluding an ambitious trade pact by this year and bolster security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific during their first summit talks.

The two sides inked four agreements providing for cooperation in areas of sports, innovation, audio-visual production and solar power following the talks between Modi and Albanese.

The discussions were focused on boosting cooperation in clean energy, trade and investment, defence and security, critical minerals, migration and mobility, supply chains, education, culture and sports.

In his media statement, Modi said it is a matter of regret that reports of attacks on temples have come regularly from Australia over the past few weeks and that it is natural that such news worries everyone in India.

“It is a matter of regret that reports of attacks on temples have come regularly from Australia over the past few weeks. It is natural that such news worries everyone in India, disturbs our mind,” Modi said in the presence of Albanese.

“I conveyed these feelings and concerns to Prime Minister Albanese and he has assured me that the safety of the Indian community is of special priority for him. Our teams will be in regular contact on this matter, and will cooperate as much as possible,” he said.

In his comments, Albanese said Modi and he agreed on concluding the India-Australia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) as soon as possible.

“I am hopeful that we will be able to finalise it this year,” the Australian prime minister, who is on a three-day visit to India, said.

Last year, India and Australia finalised the Economic Cooperation Trade Agreement (ECTA) and it came into force in December last. The two sides are now working on the CECA.

Modi said the bilateral security cooperation is an important pillar of India-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership.

“Today we discussed maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region, and enhancing mutual defence and security cooperation,” he said.

It is understood that concerns over China’s increasing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific figured in the discussions.

“In the field of defence, we have made remarkable agreements in the last few years, including logistics support for each other’s militaries. There is also regular and useful exchange of information between our security agencies, and we discussed further strengthening this,” Modi said.

The prime minister also noted that mutual cooperation to develop reliable and strong global supply chains also figured in the discussions.

In his remarks, Albanese described his country’s relationship with India as “multi-faceted” and said he was looking forward to hosting Modi in Australia for the Quad leaders’ summit in May and then returning to India in September for the G20 summit.

“Prime Minister Modi and I discussed the strength of our economic relationship demonstrated by the entry into force of the landmark India Australia economic cooperation and trade agreement,” he said.

On the comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, he said this “transformational deal” will realise the full potential of the bilateral economic relationship.

“I am proud of the existing cooperation between Australia and India on solar and hydrogen, two technologies that are critical to our energy transition goals and the opportunities for us to work more closely to secure critical mineral supply chains,” Albanese said.

“I’m pleased that today we have exchanged terms of references for the Australia India Solar Task force,” he said.

The visiting leader said Modi and he discussed the increasingly uncertain global security environment and committed to strengthening the Australia India defence and security partnership to address shared challenges as well as to work towards an open, stable and prosperous Indo Pacific.

“I welcome increased defence information sharing between Australia and India, including in the maritime domain,” he said.

Albanese said Australia is honoured to be hosting the Malabar naval exercise this year.

“I am also pleased to report that officials have made significant progress on a new migration and mobility partnership arrangement. This arrangement will promote and support the mobility of students, graduates, academic researchers, business people and other professionals,” he said.

“I am pleased to have exchanged a revised sports memorandum of understanding today which will promote cooperation between our sport-loving nations, including recognising equality, diversity and inclusion in sports,” he said.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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