India and Australia will not tolerate elements that want to harm bilateral ties: PM Modi

PM Modi raised attacks on temples in Australia, praised Australian PM Albanese for action

May 24, 2023 08:35 am | Updated 08:54 pm IST - Sydney

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following a joint press conference at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, on May 24, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following a joint press conference at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, on May 24, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

India and Australia will not tolerate any element that may harbour plans to harm strong bilateral ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a “joint press statement” event, Mr. Modi announced that India will open a new consulate in Brisbane, and said the two sides have “decided to focus” on upgrading the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) to the level of a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement. 

“Prime Minister Albanese and I have in the past discussed the issue of attacks on temples in Australia and activities of separatist elements. We discussed the matter today also again. We will not accept any elements that harm friendly and warm ties with India by their actions or thoughts. I thank Prime Minister Albanese for the actions that he has taken against such elements. PM Albanese has assured me that he will take strict actions against such elements in the future also,” Mr. Modi said.

He had earlier raised the incidents of vandalism against temples in Australia with Mr. Albanese when the latter visited India in March. 

The issue has been a sticking point in bilateral relations between the two countries, especially in the backdrop of a spurt in Khalistani activities in Australia. Fights broke out between the supporters of Khalistan and opponents of the movement in Melbourne on January 29. Subsequently, in March, the police identified six men who were involved in the brawl that broke out over an online “referendum” on Khalistan. 

Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra, in an interaction with the media, welcomed the actions taken by Australian authorities against separatist elements. Mr. Kwatra said Mr. Modi had acknowledged Canberra’s “correct appreciation” of the activities of separatist forces operating out of Australian territory. 

Mr. Kwatra said that the two leaders had discussed the need for “reform” of the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and that “there was a clear articulation of strong [Australian] support for a permanent membership of India” in the UNSC.  

Speaking before Mr. Modi, Mr. Albanese emphasised regional security and said the Quad’s leaders stood together for “an open, stable secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, a region in which sovereignty is respected and all countries, large and small, benefit from a regional balance that keeps the peace”.

The two countries had operationalised the ECTA in December 2022, and Mr. Modi said the plan is to upgrade the discussion towards a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). 

Mr. Modi’s visit to Australia was part of a three-nation tour that began on May 19, starting with Hiroshima in Japan, where he attended the G7 meeting and a mini-Quad meeting that was earlier scheduled to be hosted by Australia. The Indian Prime Minister received a Guard of Honour at the Admiralty House in Sydney, after which the two sides signed an official agreement, including one on mobility that will assist in the movement of professionals and students from both sides. Mr. Modi described the agreement on mobility as a move that will “strengthen the living bridge” between India and Australia. 

Mr. Modi described the agreement on migration and mobility as a move that would “strengthen the living bridge” between India and Australia saying, “Today, we signed a migration and mobility partnership agreement. As I announced yesterday, for a continually deepening relationship, we will soon open a new Indian consulate in Brisbane just as Australia has announced opening of a new consulate in Bengaluru.”

Australia has diplomatic missions in New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and the mission in Bengaluru will be the fifth on the list. Prime Minister Albanese welcomed the planned Indian consulate in Brisbane and said the new Australian mission in Bengaluru will connect “Australian businesses to India’s booming digital economy and innovation ecosystem, and reinforce our growing links in science and technology”.  

PM Modi meets Governor General of Australia David Hurley

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 24 met Governor General of Australia David Hurley and both leaders discussed the people-to-people connection between the two countries and the strengthening of long-standing bilateral partnership.

Mr. Modi met Mr. Hurley after he held wide-ranging talks with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

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