India and Australia on Thursday vowed to boost collaboration in science, technology and research to support their national COVID-19 responses and promote innovative solutions to fight the pandemic.
The two countries resolved to come together in combating the deadly virus during an online summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
"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 overcome the economic and social ill-effects of this pandemic," Prime Minister Modi said in his opening remarks at the summit.
"Our government has decided to view this crisis as an opportunity. In India, a process of comprehensive reforms has been initiated in almost all areas. It will soon see results at the ground level. I am especially grateful for the way you have taken care of the Indian community in Australia, and especially the Indian students in this difficult time," Modi said.
The prime minister also expressed his heartfelt condolences to all the people and families hit by COVID-19 in Australia, noting that the pandemic has affected every type of system in the world.
A joint statement, issued after the Modi-Morrison talks, said India and Australia recognise the importance of global cooperation for saving lives and managing the economic impacts of COVID-19 and future global challenges.
"We will share the benefits of scientific and medical research and development, strengthen healthcare systems, and reflect on the recommendations of the independent and comprehensive evaluation of the international health response to COVID-19 to improve capacity for global pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response," the statement said.
India and Australia also resolved to boost collaboration on science, technology and research to support their national COVID-19 responses, it said.
"We have committed to a new phase of the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund to promote innovative solutions for responding to and treating COVID-19, as well as other jointly determined priorities, to be preceded by a one-off Special COVID-19 Collaboration Round in 2020," the statement said.
India and Australia jointly decided to work cooperatively through multilateral, regional and plurilateral mechanisms to strengthen and diversify supply chains for critical health, technology and other goods and services, it said.
"We will work together to strengthen international institutions to ensure they are inclusive and rules-based," the statement said.
Both countries jointly decided to work together in the areas of digital economy, cyber security and critical and emerging technologies as identified by the Framework Arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation.
During the talks, the Australian side conveyed that India could consider it as a stable, reliable and trusted supplier of high-quality mineral resources.
Both sides jointly decided to diversify and expand the existing resources partnership, the joint statement said.
The MOU on cooperation in the field of mining and processing of critical and strategic minerals identifies specific areas where both sides will work together to meet the technological demands of the future economy, it said, adding that both countries have decided to cooperate on new technologies for exploration and extraction of other minerals.
In the field of innovation and entrepreneurship, both sides committed to continue fostering collaboration between entrepreneurs, developing innovative products and promoting start-ups and incubation centres.
The two countries committed to enhance cooperation in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector and decided that major industries of both countries should endeavour to integrate the SME/MSMEs of the other country into their supply chains, thereby diversifying bilateral trade, the statement said.
They jointly decided to take forward SME/MSME cooperation including through the Australia India Business Exchange programme, it said.
The two countries also vowed to come together in the agriculture sector, recognising the long history of collaboration in agricultural research, education, development and capacity building.
"It was jointly decided to continue building on our mutually beneficial agriculture relationship including through exploring the development of a partnership on grains management and logistics to reduce post-harvest losses, rationalise costs and ensure farmer income is not affected by supply chain disruptions (particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic)," the statement said.
Both countries noted that on market access issues, some progress has been made and they demonstrated their strong commitment to continue the negotiations, it said.
Recognising that water security is a critical challenge for both countries, it was decided to deepen policy and technical cooperation on mutually agreed activities to improve water management and sustainable economic development through the MoU on cooperation in the field of Water Resources Management, the statement said.