India’s role critical in building open, inclusive, prosperous Indo-Pacific: Australian PM

Australian PM Scott Morrison on Thursday said that Australia is committed to building an open, inclusive as well as a prosperous Indo-Pacific region and India’s role in that region will be critical in years ahead.

“In the Indo-Pacific, we are committed to an open, inclusive and prosperous region and India’s role in that region will be critical in years ahead. The cultural links that we enjoy between our countries are well known. And what I am excited about is it’s time for our relationship to go broader and to go deeper,” Morrison said during a virtual summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

He expressed regret that his engagement with Prime Minister Modi is not being held in person due to the coronavirus travel restrictions. Morrison’s trip to India was also cancelled earlier this year due to the bushfires in Australia.

“Together with friends such as Mr. Abe (Shinzo Abe, Japan Prime Minister), this has been important in our region (Indo-Pacific) and to provide that steady and stabilising during these challenging times,” he said.

“I thank you (PM Modi) for your leadership not just within India but broadly throughout G20, Indo-Pacific and the stabilising, constructive and very positive role that you have played in these very difficult times,” he added.

Morrison once again conveyed his condolences to all of those deeply impacted by tropical Cyclone Ampham that hit the Indian states of West Bengal and Odisha, killing over 70 people last month.

“Our relationship is exactly that as you said; very comfortable and very natural, so much in common and shared, if not in language always, certainly the things that matter such as values that we hold. And we obviously like to champion those values together in our region and as sovereign nations,” he stressed.

He also thanked Prime Minister Modi for extending an invitation to visit India soon and said he looked forward to meeting him at the G7 summit which is scheduled to take place in the United States later this year.

In his talks, Morrison also reflected on the joint declaration between Australia and India on a shared vision for maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific which looks forward to bring together scientists from the two countries.

“We share an ocean. We share responsibilities for that ocean as well. It’s health. It’s well-being. It’s security. And the relationship we are forming around those issues on our maritime domain,” the Australian Prime Minister stressed in the summit.

He focused on the need for a mutual logistic support arrangement as well as a defence, science and technology management for many commercial opportunities between the two countries.

“In a time like this, we want to do very much with friends and trusted partners. This is a partnership which has stood the test during the course of this current crisis. We share a vision for open and free rules by multilateral systems in our region whether that is in the health area or it is in the trade or other places,” he said further.

The trade and investment relations between India and Australia is growing a lot faster, Morrison pointed, but also noted that the comprehensive strategic partnership that has been formed today over the virtual meet will take the bilateral relationship to a new level.

Concludingly, Morrison also congratulated India for taking over the leadership at the World Health Organisation’s executive board.