Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese on Friday discussed maritime issues in the Indo-Pacific region amid the challenges resulting from China’s expansionist and aggressive agenda. “The Indo-Pacific, maritime security and mutual security and defense cooperation were discussed,” PM Modi said after formal talks with the Australian Prime Minister at Hyderabad House in the national capital. India and Australia also vowed to strengthen maritime security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, and deepen strategic ties.
“Though PM Modi and Albanese did not publically name China, the focus during the talks regarding the Indo-Pacific was on Beijing’s belligerence,” diplomatic sources told The Daily Guardian. “The two leaders sharpened their focus on the strategy to be jointly pursued by New Delhi and Canberra in order to counter China in the Indo-Pacific,” sources said.
“Establishing dependable and trustworthy supply chains and renewable energy was another area of focus in our discussions,” PM Modi added. The two leaders also discussed finalising the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). The two leaders also announced MoUs in the fields of sports, solar energy, and innovation.
Sources told TDG that PM Modi and Australian Premier Albanese spent a good amount of time discussing the Indo-Pacific challenges due to the China factor. In his meeting with PM Albanese, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also discussed the Indo-Pacific issues in the backdrop of growing aggressive behavior of China, sources said.
Significantly, India and Australia are the members of Quad with two other countries Japan and the US. Albanese’s visit to India comes ahead of the Quad Leaders’ Summit to be held in Sydney in May. PM Modi is expected to attend the summit. Albanese will be joining other world leaders to attend the G-20 Summit this year in September. With all these conclaves in view, the talks between Albanese and PM Modi acquired greater importance.
Sources said that Quad Summit strategy was also discussed between the two leaders. PM Modi significantly noted that security cooperation is a critical pillar in the strategic partnership between India and Australia. “We discussed maritime security in the Indo-Pacific region today,” PM Modi said, signaling that the region is of great importance for the two Quad partners, given growing tension with China. Albanese said, “They discussed an increasingly uncertain global security environment and committed to enhance their defence cooperation to work towards an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
Both leaders expressed their intent to wrap up the Australia-India CECA. The CECA is expected to be a wider economic agreement, covering a large range of issues. “We also agreed to the early conclusion of our ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) as soon as possible and I am hopeful we will be able to finalise that this year,” said Albanese.
During his visit, the two countries launched the Australia-India Solar Task Force. It will work as an advisory body that will guide both governments on how to accelerate solar PV deployment and enhancement supply chains.
In a strategic signaling to China, the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has already officially announced that his country for the first time will host Exercise Malabar. The exercise is set to be in Perth in August, though the modalities are still being worked out. And, for the first time India is all set to participate in Australia’s Talisman Sabre exercise.