India, Australia ink defence deal, 6 other pacts
India and Australia on Thursday elevated their ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership and signed seven agreements including a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support during an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) will allow militaries of the two countries to use each other's bases for repair and replenishment of supplies besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation. India has already signed similar agreements with the US, France and Singapore.
In sync with the comprehensive strategic partnership, the two sides also upgraded their two-plus-two dialogue featuring their foreign and defence secretaries to the ministerial level.
Besides the MLSA, the other pacts signed will provide for bilateral cooperation in areas of cyber and cyber-enabled critical technology, mining and minerals, military technology, vocational education and water resources management.
In the talks, the two sides also deliberated on a host of key issues including dealing with growing threat of terrorism, maritime security challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, reform in the World Trade Organisation and ways to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Reflecting importance they attached to the Indo-Pacific, the two countries also unveiled a declaration titled 'Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific', outlining their commitment to promoting peace, security, stability, and prosperity in the region.
According to a joint statement issued after the Modi-Morrison talks, both sides discussed the issue of taxation of offshore income of Indian firms through the use of the India-Australia Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and sought early resolution of the issue.
It said both sides also decided to re-engage on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) while suitably considering earlier bilateral discussions where a mutually agreed way forward can be found.
The two countries recognised that terrorism remains a threat to peace and stability in the region and strongly condemned the menace in all its forms and manifestations, stressing that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever.
The joint statement said both sides support a comprehensive approach in combating terrorism, including by countering violent extremism, preventing radicalisation, disrupting financial support to terrorists and facilitating prosecution of those involved in acts of terror.
They also called for early adoption of a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT).
In his opening remarks, Modi pitched for a coordinated and collaborative approach to come out of the adverse economic and social impact of the epidemic that has infected around 65 lakh people and killed 3.88 lakh globally.
He said a process of comprehensive reforms covering almost all areas has been initiated in India as his government viewed the coronavirus crisis as an 'opportunity'.
Referring to the virtual summit, Modi termed it 'a new model of India-Australia partnership, a new model of conducting business'. It was the first time that Modi held a 'bilateral' virtual summit with a foreign leader.
He described his talks with Morrison as 'an outstanding discussion', covering the entire expanse of ties between the two strategic partners.
'Our government has decided to view this crisis as an opportunity. In India, a process of comprehensive reforms has been initiated in almost all areas. It will soon see results at the ground level,' Modi said.
He also conveyed his appreciation to Morrison for taking care of the Indian community in Australia, especially the students during the 'difficult time'.
In his remarks, Morrison complemented Modi for his 'constructive and very positive' role including at the G-20 role in pushing for a concerted global approach in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.
Modi said he believed that it is the 'perfect time and perfect opportunity' to further strengthen the relationship between India and Australia.
'We have immense possibilities to make our friendship stronger,' Modi said, adding: 'How our relations become a 'factor of stability' for our region and for the world, how we work together for global good, all these aspects need to be considered.'
He said India was committed to expand its relations with Australia on a wider and faster pace, noting that it is important not only for the two countries, but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the world.
'The role of our comprehensive strategic partnership will be more important in this period of global epidemic. The world needs a coordinated and collaborative approach to get out of the economic and social side effects of this epidemic,' he said.
The joint statement said to provide oversight of the comprehensive strategic partnership and to deepen economic and strategic cooperation, India and Australia affirm their desire to increase the frequency of prime ministerial contact through reciprocal bilateral visits and annual meetings in the margins of international events.