In a historic speech in the Australian parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed Australia a major partner of India in “every area of our national priority” and called for closer economic and security cooperation between the two, including in maintaining maritime security.
Modi, the first Indian prime minister to address the Australian parliament, said both need to strengthen their security cooperation to combat terrorism and cooperate closely in international forum like the East Asia Summit, the G20 and the Indian Ocean Region Association.
Speaking in English, Modi said that in the six months since his government has been in office, “we have moved forward, thinking with ambition, acting with speed; seeking growth not just for growth, but to transform the quality of life of every Indian”.
He said Australia is viewed as “a major partner in every area of our national priority, including in providing skills, healthcare and building homes and in energy, building smart cities, in agriculture and in technologies to save water”.
Amid ongoing maritime and territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, Modi said “oceans are our lifelines. But, we worry about its access and security in our part of the world more than ever before”.
He said both countries can play their part in maintaining maritime security.
“But, we do not have to rely on borrowed architecture of the past. Nor do we have the luxury to choose who we work with and who we don’t,” he said.
He said both sides need to “work together and with others to create environment and culture that promotes the currency of co-existence and cooperation; in which all nations, small and big, abide by international law and norms, even when they have bitter disputes”.
China is locked in territorial disputes with countries in Southeast Asia over islands and rights over water zones.
Modi called for deeper bilateral cooperation to combat terrorism, but he said with it turning into a global problem, it requires “a comprehensive global strategy”.
He said there should be “a policy of no distinction between terrorist groups or discrimination between nations” and “a resolve to isolate those who harbour terrorists, willingness to empower states that will fight them; a social movement against extremism in countries where it is most prevalent; and, every effort to delink religion and terrorism”.
Modi also highlighted his government’s Make in India mission and said “Much of India’s future cities and infrastructure is yet to be built and so we have a unique opportunity to make our choices now”.
He said Australia has immense opportunities to participate in India’s progress in areas like agriculture, food processing, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing, finance and technology, energy.
“I see a great future of partnership between India and Australia and, a shared commitment to realize it. Prime Minister (Tony) Abbott started us on this new journey in September. I have come here to set our two countries more firmly on that course,” Modi said.