Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday termed the recent incidents of alleged pro-Khalistan supporters vandalising temples in Australia as “not acceptable” during his talks with his counterpart Anthony Albanese. He assured that Australia is a “multicultural country” and it respects “people’s faith,” and stressed that such attacks will not be tolerated at all.
The strong remarks from both leaders in Sydney came against the backdrop of a spate of attacks on temples in Australia in the past few months. In March, the Laxmi Narayan temple in Brisbane was attacked by Khalistani extremists, with the boundary of the temple vandalised with hateful graffiti.
On January 23, the walls of the ISCKON temple in Melbourne were vandalised with graffiti that read “Hindustan murdabad”. On January 16, the Shri Shiva Vishnu temple in Victoria was targeted while the Swaminarayan temple in Melbourne was defaced on January 12 with anti-India graffiti.
Besides this issue, the two leaders held wide-ranging talks and announced the finalisation of the Australia-India Migration and Mobility Partnership Arrangement, which is aimed at promoting two-way mobility of students, academic researchers and business people.
Modi and Albanese also reiterated their shared ambition for an early conclusion of the ambitious Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) that is expected to significantly expand bilateral trade ties.
The two leaders welcomed progress towards establishing an India-Australia green hydrogen task force.
The terms of reference for the task force were agreed upon during the talks.
After the talks, Albanese also announced the establishment of a new Australian Consulate-General in Bengaluru primarily to connect Australian businesses to India’s booming digital economy and innovation ecosystem.
In his media statement, Modi, highlighting the significance of India-Australia cooperation, said it is crucial for regional peace, stability and global welfare.
“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 as well,” Modi said.
“It is not acceptable to us that anyone hurt the friendly and cordial ties between India and Australia by their actions or ideology,” he said in the presence of Albanese. Modi thanked Albanese for taking action against those involved in such incidents. “Prime Minister Albanese assured me once again today that he will take strict actions against such elements in the future also,” Modi said.
Referring to the frequency of his meetings with the Australian counterpart, Modi said it reflected the depth of the India-Australia relationship.
“This is our sixth meeting in the past one year. This reflects the depth of our comprehensive relations and the maturity of our ties. In the language of cricket, our ties have entered the T20 mode,” Modi said.
Modi said the two sides also held constructive discussions on strategic cooperation in areas of mining and critical minerals.
The Prime Minister described the vibrant Indian community in Australia as a “living bridge” between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers also reiterated their commitment to an open, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific.
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia has strengthened the close and strong relationship that Australia enjoys with India,” Albanese said in his comments.
“This is a relationship we need to invest in. Our strong partnership with India will deliver benefits for Australia in trade, investment and business, and in regional security and stability,” he said.
The Australian Prime Minister also spoke about the rapid upswing in the ties between the two countries. “In my first year as Prime Minister, I have met with Prime Minister Modi six times, which underscores the value we place on deepening ties between our nations,” he said.
“Australia is a better place because of the contributions of the Indian-Australian community, and we want to see more connections between our countries,” he said.
Albanese and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced that the new Centre for Australia-India Relations will be headquartered in Parramatta.
The Centre began operations this month and will drive deeper engagement with India through business, policy and cultural activities and work with Indian diaspora communities.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday appreciated Australia’s Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton for ensuring strong bipartisan support for the strategic bilateral relations.
Modi met Dutton here during the third and final leg of his three-nation tour. Dutton called the meeting between the two of them “productive”.
The two leaders discussed various aspects of the bilateral ties as well as regional developments.
“It was a pleasure to meet you again. Appreciate that you are ensuring bipartisan support to India- Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Modi tweeted. Dutton is a member of Australia’s Liberal Party.
In 2020, the relations between the two countries touched a new level with both countries elevating their ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership”, signing key agreements including a landmark pact for reciprocal access to military bases against the backdrop of their frosty relations with China.
After the meeting, Dutton tweeted, “Wonderful to catch up again with a great friend of Australia, @narendramodi. Proud of the special and growing relationship Australia has with India and may it go from strength to strength in the years ahead.” Dutton was also present at the community event held on Tuesday at the Qudos Bank Arena.
“An electric atmosphere in Sydney tonight to welcome a great friend of Australia,@narendramodi, to our country,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
“A relationship enjoying support across the political spectrum. PM @narendramodi had a productive meeting with Leader of Opposition @PeterDutton_MP in Sydney,” the Ministry of External Affairs tweeted.
“PM Modi conveyed his appreciation for the strong bipartisan support that our partnership enjoys. Also discussed various aspects of bilateral ties, including people-to-people linkages, as well as regional developments,” the tweet read.
Prime Minister Modi also met Governor General of Australia David Hurley and both the leaders discussed the people-to-people connection between the two countries and the strengthening of long-standing bilateral partnership.
“A warm conversation between PM @narendramodi and Governor General @HurleyGeneral of Australia in Sydney. Discussed people-to-people connect between India and Australia and strengthening of long-standing bilateral partnership,” the Ministry of External Affairs tweeted.