Canberra, Nov 18 (IANS) India and Australia Tuesday agreed to seek early closure on their civil nuclear agreement and to speed up negotiations on a bilateral trade pact as Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought closer economic and security ties between the two countries.
On the last day of his visit Australia, Modi also became the first Indian leader to address a joint session of the Australian parliament.
Earlier, he held delegation level talks with his Australian counterpart Toby Abbott and both sides inked five agreements, including on exchange of sentenced persons.
Modi, in a departure from his normal self, spoke in English, both during the media interaction with Abbott and in parliament and later in Melbourne when he addressed a gathering of Australian businesspersons.
At the Modi-Abbott talks, both countries agreed on a framework on security cooperation to reaffirm their bilateral strategic partnership.
The action plan of the document says both sides will strengthen military cooperation and cooperate on civil nuclear energy and maritime security.
It calls for annual prime ministerial meetings, regular defence ministers’ meeting, and annual defence policy talks and regular maritime exercises.
India and Australia will also cooperate in counter-terrorism, and Australia will support Indian membership of the export control regimes.
It calls for “early operationalization of civil nuclear energy cooperation and Australia’s support for strengthening India’s energy security by supply of uranium for India’s safeguarded nuclear reactors”.
Modi said the two countries had agreed to speed up negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and he had asked for easier access for Indian business to the Australian market and quicker investment approvals.
Modi began his around 25-minute address to parliament on a lighter note, brining large smiles and some laughter among the members.
“I am the third head of government you are listening to this week! I don’t know how you are doing this! May be, this is Prime Minister Abbott’s way of shirt fronting you!” he said.
Modi said both sides need to strengthen security cooperation to combat terrorism and cooperate closely in international forums like the East Asia Summit, the G20 and an Indian Ocean association.
Modi said that in the six months his government had 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 both countries can play their part in maintaining maritime security.
India and Australia need to work together and with others to create an environment that promotes co-existence and cooperation in which all nations, small and big, abide by international law and norms, even when they have bitter disputes.
He said Australia had immense opportunities to participate in India’s progress in areas like agriculture, food processing, mining, infrastructure, manufacturing, finance and technology and energy.
Abbott, addressing the media after talks with Modi, underlined his country’s “willingness and readiness to supply uranium for peaceful purposes”.
In a take-off on their close sporting links, he referred to the BJP government’s strong majority in parliament, saying: “Modi has the runs on the ball for getting the bureaucracy working” to get any job done.
He said both countries were increasingly cooperating in security and military affairs and said there was potential to increase economic cooperation.
Earlier, Modi visited the War Memorial and signed the visitor’s book. He presented Abbott with a memorial of Australian John Lang, who was the legal counsel for Rani of Jhansi against the East India Company.
–Indo-Asian News Sevice