In Sydney, Albanese and Modi Announce Moves To Strengthen Ties

The Australian prime minister announced a new centre for Australia-India relations, while his Indian counterpart announced the opening of a consulate in Brisbane, India's fourth in the country.

New Delhi: At a rally witnessed by thousands of members of the Indian diaspora, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a new centre for Australia-India relations, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the opening of a consulate in Brisbane, India’s fourth in the country.

The two leaders were jointly taking part at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena, just three months after they took laps together on a ‘chariot’ at the Narendra Modi cricket stadium in Ahmedabad in March.

The first day of Modi’s visit to Australia was to have been occupied by the ‘Quad’ summit. But, US President Joe Biden cancelled his trip to Australia and Papua New Guinea due to domestic negotiations over the debt ceiling.

Since Modi went ahead with his bilateral trip, the schedule was largely filled up with meetings with Australian corporate heads and well-known personalities.

In the evening, Modi and Albanese went to the Olympic Park for the rally, which began with Bollywood-style cultural tableaus to warm up the crowd. 

The Guardian Australia described the audience as “rapturous”, with reports mentioning that supporters had hired a chartered flight to bring in the audience.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the crowd in Sydney. Photo: Twitter/@narendramodi

A newsletter of the Sydney Morning Herald noted that the event was more of a political rally as it was being organised by the Indian Australian Diaspora Foundation, two of whose directors are senior officials of the Australian chapter of the Overseas Friends of the BJP.

“I said to my friend, the prime minister, before, the last time I saw someone on the stage here was Bruce Springsteen, and he didn’t get the welcome that Prime Minister Modi has got,” said Albanese. “Prime Minister Modi is The Boss,” he added.

Albanese announced that a new centre to strengthen relations between Australia and India would be based in Parramatta, which had just got a new Indian-origin mayor. Albanese and Modi also unveiled a plaque naming the Sydney suburb of Harris Park as “Little India”.

He also used the opportunity to ask the Indian-American community to vote ‘yes’ in the forthcoming referendum to amend the constitution to enshrine an ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice’. 

“And I am proud to lead a government that will give all of you, all Australians, the chance to vote in a referendum to recognise our First Peoples in our nation’s Constitution later this year. I urge my Indian-Australian friends; vote yes,” he said.

In his speech, Modi commended the audience, “You have talent, you have the strength of your skills and you have at the same time your cultural values.”

He noted that the deepening partnership between India and Australia “will empower every person that has faith in Mother India”.

Prime Minister Modi said India is a “force of global good” and the “mother of democracy”. The country is a “bright spot” in the global economy, he added.

Stating that the strategic partnership between India and Australia is constantly deepening, he hoped the bilateral trade between the two countries will more than double in the next five years after the signing of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) last year.

Noting that the two countries were working on a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, he added that they are building resilient and reliable supply chains.

Modi asserted that there was a time when the relations between India and Australia were defined by the three Cs: ‘Commonwealth, Cricket, and Curry’. He said that later, the relations were defined by the three Ds: ‘Democracy, Diaspora, and Dosti (friendship)’. Finally, he said that the relations are now defined by the three Es: ‘Energy, Economy, and Education’.

However, Modi said that the actual depth of the relations between India and Australia transcends “these C, D, and E”. The strongest foundations of these relations are mutual trust and respect, which is based on the role of the Indian diaspora, said Modi.

Earlier, local media reported that there were around 60 protestors with yellow ‘Khalistan’ flags, who were greeted by a highly visible police presence to prevent any clashes with the thousands of supporters pouring into the stadium arena.

On Wednesday, Modi and Albanese will hold formal delegation-level talks, before the Indian prime minister returns to Delhi.