Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to visit India in March, diplomatic sources have confirmed.
The visit is aimed at expressing Canberra’s political will for furthering bilateral ties that received a boost with the implementation of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) last December 29 when Mr. Albanese announced the planned visit that is likely to include New Delhi and Gujarat. “Today the Australia-India Trade Agreement comes into force. This will deliver new opportunities to Australian businesses. At the invitation of PM Narendra Modi, I will visit India in March with a business delegation committed to improving two-way trade between our two nations,” Mr. Albanese had said at that time on his social media page.
The important visit will coincide with the trip of the Australian cricket team that will be in Gujarat to play their fourth Test match against the Indian team. The Hindu has learned that Mr. Albanese’s visit to Gujarat will include watching a cricket match between the two teams. Mr. Albanese met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year during the Quad summit in Tokyo, when he travelled to Japan immediately after being elected to the post of Prime Minister.
The ECTA, a less than comprehensive bilateral trade pact was signed on April 2, 2022, by Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and his then-Australian counterpart Dan Tehan who belonged to the Scott Morrison Cabinet. Following the change of guard in Canberra, the Albanese government moved to secure legislative endorsement last November for the trade pact that is aimed at facilitating trade on a large number of items while helping easier movement of students, professionals and tourists between both sides.
Apart from the ECTA with India, Australia also entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom last year. According to Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell, the pact — A-UKFTA — is the “first full trade agreement the U.K. negotiated from scratch following Brexit”. India is also in talks with the U.K. for a landmark trade pact. The upcoming visit of Mr. Albanese is one of the several occasions when he will have the chance to interact with the top Indian leadership this year.
He is likely to host Mr. Modi, U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Australia for the Quad summit that was decided in Tokyo. Next, he is expected to travel to New Delhi for the G-20 summit that India will host. Australian Ministers are also likely to visit India during the year because of G-20 and other engagements. Apart from trade, Australia has emerged as a pillar of India’s security and defense partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.
End of last year, two Australian naval ships with 1,300 personnel onboard visited Visakhapatnam as part of the 4th edition of Indo-Pacific Endeavour, Australia’s flagship regional engagement which included command post exercises, including an amphibious exercise with the Army and Indian Navy in support.
In a visit to India in June 2022, Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles said that Australia sees India as “completely central” to its “worldview”.
In addition to bilateral cooperation, India and Australia’s partnership has been boosted in recent years because of trilateral and multilateral initiatives, including the Quad grouping of four nations — Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S. With India signing all the foundational agreements and acquiring more and more military platforms from the U.S., there is increasing commonality and inter-operability among the Quad countries, including India and Australia.