New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison held an online summit on Thursday (June 4) focussing on ways to further broadbase bilateral ties in a range of areas like healthcare, trade and defence.

In his opening remarks, 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.”

The prime minister said India was committed to expanding 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.

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“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.

It is the first time that PM Modi held a “bilateral” virtual summit with a foreign leader.

Relationship between the two nations was upgraded to a ‘Strategic Partnership’ level in 2009. Since then, both countries have expanded their cooperation in a range of key areas.

In its White Paper on Foreign Policy un 2017, Australia recognised India as the “pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries” and a “front-rank partner of Australia”.

The bilateral economic engagement too has been on an upswing in the last few years. According to official data, the trade between the two countries was around $21 billion in 2018-19.

Australia’s cumulative investment in India is about $10.74 billion whereas India’s total investment in Australia is $10.45 billion. Australian Super Pension Fund has invested $1 billion in India’s National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.


 
In the last few years, both the countries have been focusing on expanding maritime cooperation.

Meanwhile, ending on a lighter note, Australian Prime Minister made a mention of PM Modi's trademark hugs and a staple from his home state of Gujarat — Khichdi.

The Australian prime minister had last week tried making an Asian snack — Samosa — at his home and shared its pictures on his official Twitter handle, calling them "ScoMosas".

This morning, he told PM Modi, "I look forward to the first India-Australia virtual summit and the Modi hug. I thank you for the ScoMosas....we had a lot of fun with it over the weekend. Next time, it has to be Gujarat Khichdi. I will try that out in the kitchen before we make it in person."

Replying to Morrison, PM Modi, who has been often photographed hugging world leaders, said, "Gujratis will be very happy to hear that. Khichdi is eaten across the country, people may give the staple food different names in different parts."

The two prime ministers have already met on four occasions during the last one-and-half years.