Albanese fetes India’s Modi, sidesteps questions on rights record | News


Australian Prime Minister Antony Albanese and his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, have pledged to take relations between their nations to “higher heights”, signing new agreements on migration and inexperienced hydrogen, as Canberra seeks to spice up commerce and diplomatic ties with New Delhi in an effort to counter China.

The signing of the commerce offers on Wednesday got here hours after Albanese offered Modi a rock star’s welcome in one in every of Sydney’s greatest sporting arenas whereas sidestepping questions from the media concerning the Indian chief’s human rights report, together with allegations of crackdowns on dissidents and the nation’s minority Muslim neighborhood.

Albanese advised reporters at Sydney’s Admiralty Home that he was “completely delighted” to welcome Modi to Australia.

He famous that the 2 leaders have met six instances since his election as Australia’s prime minister final yr.

Australia and India are members of the Quad group of nations, which additionally contains Japan and the USA.

Modi is the one chief of the Quad nations to proceed together with his scheduled go to to Australia after US President Joe Biden pulled out of a deliberate assembly of the group in Sydney to return to Washington to give attention to debt restrict talks. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hosted a Group of Seven summit final week, additionally cancelled his Australia journey.

“Quad leaders stand collectively for an open, secure, safe and affluent Indo-Pacific area … the place all nations massive and small profit from a regional steadiness that retains the peace,” Albanese advised reporters after bilateral talks with Modi.

Throughout their summit, the 2 leaders mentioned commerce, defence and renewable vitality, and signed an settlement to ascertain a hydrogen activity power and broaden cooperation on clear vitality. Additionally they signed a deal on migration that can permit the alternate of scholars, researchers and enterprise individuals, whereas boosting efforts to stop human smuggling, in line with Albanese.

For his half, Modi – a nationalist chief who faces re-election subsequent yr – hailed “constructive discussions” with Albanese, and mentioned the pair had “talked about taking Australia-India Complete Strategic Partnership to higher heights over the following decade”.

“Within the language of cricket, our ties have entered the T20 mode.”

Additionally they mentioned rising cooperation on mining and significant minerals, Modi mentioned, and are looking for to finish negotiations on a free commerce deal earlier than the tip of the yr. The Complete Financial Cooperation Settlement would improve the scope of a bilateral commerce pact that got here into power in December final yr.

Australia, whose largest buying and selling associate is China, is looking for to diversify its export markets, together with forging nearer commerce ties with India. India is Australia’s sixth largest buying and selling associate, with the two-way alternate of products and companies valued at 46.5 billion Australian {dollars} ($31bn) final yr.

Albanese and Modi, who is understood for by no means addressing a information convention, didn’t take any questions.


Because the talks progressed, a number of protesters gathered in entrance of the Admiralty Home, carrying indicators denouncing “Modi’s crimes in opposition to innocents” and alleged “insults and violence”, in line with footage broadcast by Sky Information Australia.

The dozen or so protesters have been outnumbered by the safety personnel on the scene.

Earlier than his assembly with Modi, Albanese was requested if he would stand as much as the Indian chief over allegations of rights abuses. However he averted the query.

“India is the world’s largest democracy. Right here in Australia, in fact individuals have a proper to precise their views in a peaceable approach and all of us have totally different views about individuals in politics,” he advised the Channel 7 broadcaster.

“It’s less than me to move a touch upon a few of the inner politics” of India, he insisted.

Modi, nevertheless, appeared to don’t have any such qualms.

The Indian chief on Wednesday hit out at latest “assaults” on Hindu temples in Australia – vandalism allegedly dedicated by Sikh separatists – and added that Albanese had assured him of “strict actions in opposition to such components sooner or later”.

India’s Modi and Australia’s Albanese thank members of the Australian-Indian neighborhood following a neighborhood occasion at Qudos Financial institution Enviornment in Sydney, Might 23, 2023 [Dean Lewins/AAP Image via Reuters]

The evening earlier than, Albanese had hosted a mass rally for Modi on the Qudos Financial institution Enviornment in Sydney Olympic Park.

To chants of “Modi! Modi! Modi!” Albanese launched his “expensive pal” to a crowd of Indian-Australians and praised him for making Australia “stronger and extra inclusive”.

“The final time I noticed somebody on the stage right here was Bruce Springsteen and he didn’t get the welcome that Prime Minister Modi has acquired,” Albanese mentioned, referring to the favored American rock star.

“Prime Minister Modi is the boss!” he added.

Some 20,000 individuals attended the rally, in line with Australian media.

Indian-Australians make up the nation’s fastest-growing and second-largest diaspora, with 673,000 Indian-born residents in a inhabitants of 26 million. Virtually 90,000 Indian college students are enrolled at Australian universities, the most important abroad contingent after China.

Albanese’s heat embrace of Modi has drawn condemnation from others, nevertheless.

“We’re deeply involved about his go to, and the style by which he has been welcomed with none of the problems of concern in his personal nation being raised,” Bilal Rauf, spokesperson for the Australian Nationwide Imams Council, advised the AFP information company.

Human Rights Watch, in the meantime, mentioned: “The Australian authorities mustn’t repeat the identical errors it made with the Chinese language authorities by pursuing deeper commerce engagement whereas sidelining human rights considerations.”

The rights group mentioned that below Modi, “the world’s largest democracy” has develop into a lot much less free and extra harmful, with dozens of journalists, activists and opposition leaders jailed and violence “successfully normalised” in opposition to minority Muslim and Christian communities.

“Utilizing ‘quiet diplomacy’ has had no evident influence on the human rights state of affairs,” mentioned Elaine Pearson, HRW’s Asia director. It “has led to rising sentiment that Australia is keen to miss the plight of affected communities in India to win over India as an ally in opposition to China and Russia”.

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