PM Modi flags attacks on temples in Australia

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese highlights trade, says CEPA to be concluded ‘as soon as possible’

Updated - March 10, 2023 11:33 pm IST

Published - March 10, 2023 11:23 am IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Australian Prime Minister  Anthony Albanese during a meeting at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, March 10, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during a meeting at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, March 10, 2023. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Reports of vandalism targeting temples in Australia “worries” India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on March 10.

Welcoming his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese, to India, Mr. Modi said India and Australia have a close partnership covering areas such as security and education but the recent “attacks” by “pro-Khalistan outfits” against Hindu temples have “disturbed” New Delhi.

In his press statement, Mr. Albanese did not mention the concerns raised by Mr. Modi but said that the Delhi-Canberra ties were “multifaceted”. He informed that the two sides agreed on completing a Comprehensive Economic Agreement “as soon as possible”.

“Indian immigrants are the second largest expat community in Australia. They are making significant contributions to the Australian society and economy. It is a matter of regret that attacks on temples have been regularly reported in Australia over the past few weeks. It’s natural that such news worries the people in India, and disturbs our mind,” Mr. Modi said at the Hyderabad House.

Elaborating upon the issue, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said Mr. Modi blamed the incidents on the “pro-Khalistani outfits in Australia” and expressed “strong concern” about the “incidents of vandalism and targeting the Indian community”.

Also read | India is top-tier security partner, says Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

It is learnt that the Indian side conveyed that the targeting of temples had created an “environment of all round insecurity” for the vast Indian community in public spaces of Australia.

Sources, however, indicated that they “noted with satisfaction” that the Australian side displayed serious political will in dealing with the attacks.

Separately, a diplomatic source informed that Mr. Albanese affirmed Australia’s commitment to free speech without compromising “community safety and harmony at home”.

Earlier, Australia’s High Commissioner Barry O’Farrell told the media here that the attacks had “horrified” Australian people and that Canberra remained committed to multicultural values.

“I have placed these emotions and sentiments before Prime Minister Albanese and he has assured me that the safety of the Indian community is of special priority for him,” Mr. Modi said, informing that the two sides would be in contact over the matter and take necessary actions.

Mr. Modi highlighted the growing people-to-people relation, describing it as a “significant” part of India-Australia relation.

He said India-Australia relation was important for dealing with global challenges and global welfare. Mr. Modi thanked Mr. Albanese for inviting him to the Quad Leaders’ Summit that will be held in Australia in May. “We have signed an agreement on education that will help our students. We are moving ahead on mobility agreement. After that I will be happy to welcome PM Albanese to India in September for the G20 summit,” Mr. Modi said.

Mr. Kwatra described the visit as a “very strong successful step forward” in India-Australia relations, saying the two leaders discussed regional and global issues. “In this context the leaders discussed strategic convergence and common interest between our two countries including in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Mr. Albanese did not touch upon the reports of vandalism that spiked since early this year and dedicated a major part of his remarks to trade and commerce between the two sides.

“PM Modi and I discussed the strength of our economic relationship, demonstrated by the coming into force of the landmark India Australia Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement last year. This has eliminated tariffs on more than 85% Australian goods exported to India,” he said, informing that that the two sides discussed “increasingly uncertain global security environment” and working towards a stable and open Indo-Pacific region.

Mr. Albanese started his Prime Ministerial visit to India by arriving in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

He and PM Modi opened the fourth India-Australia cricket Test match of the Border-Gavaskar series and received military honours at the INS Vikrant in Mumbai before being officially welcomed at the Rashtrapati Bhavan earlier on Friday.

The two sides sealed a revised MoU on sports to supplement existing sporting ties between the two sides. Mr. Albanese announced that kabaddi would be showcased in the 2026 Commonwealth games in Australia. He further announced the new Centre for Australia India Relations would be led by Chief Executive Officer Tim Thomas saying, “The centre will build greater understanding of the Australia-India relationship and support opportunities flowing from our burgeoning connections.”

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