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Wish I Was There for the Famous Hug, Says Australia's PM as Modi Bats for Closer Bond

PM Modi and Australia's Scott Morrison during the virtual summit on Thursday.

PM Modi and Australia's Scott Morrison during the virtual summit on Thursday.

The two prime ministers have already met on four occasions on the sidelines of multilateral meetings during the last one-and-a-half years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday told his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison that the need of the hour is to Work to "make our bond a factor of stability in the region" as he held an online summit in order to strengthen the "positive trajectory" in bilateral ties. This is the first time that PM Modi is holding a "bilateral" virtual summit with a foreign leader.

"Looking forward to catching up with @narendramodi shortly for the first ever Australia-India virtual summit," Morrison tweeted ahead of the summit. To this, PM Modi responded by saying that he was glad to be joining the first India-Australia Virtual Summit with Morrison.

"India-Australia ties have always been close. As vibrant democracies, from Commonwealth to Cricket to even Cuisine, our people-to-people relations are strong and the future is bright!" Modi added.

SUMMIT'S FOCUS

The focus of Thursday's summit will likely be on the positive trajectory in bilateral relations during discussions between the two prime ministers, highly-placed sources told news agency PTI.

Australian High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell hinted on Monday that India and Australia are expected to sign a landmark agreement for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support during the summit.

The cooperation between the two countries has intensified recently, with Modi and Morrison meeting on four occasions on the sidelines of multilateral meetings in the last one-and-a-half years.

Additionally, the relationship between the two nations upgraded to a 'Strategic Partnership' level in 2009 and ever since, Australia and India have broadened their cooperation to include a range of crucial areas.

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

Leaders to Discuss Responses to COVID-19

"The virtual summit will be an opportunity for the two leaders to review the broad framework of the relationship in the context of their growing ties. It will also be an opportunity to discuss their respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic," said a source.

Maritime cooperation has also been a topic of discussion between the two leaders in the last few years.

India and Australia began their first bilateral naval exercise 'AUSINDEX' in 2015 which aimed at increasing defence and maritime cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean. The third iteration of AUSINDEX - 2019 was conducted in the Bay of Bengal in April 2019.

Australia has backed India's position on cross-border terrorism and on asking Pakistan to take meaningful action against terrorist groups functioning from its territory.

Further, Australia co-sponsored the UNSC resolution to blacklist Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. "Australia values India's diversity and inclusiveness and has holds the view that recent developments with regard to J&K are India's internal matters," the sources said.

'United by Samosas!'

In a candid exchange ahead of the summit, Australian PM Scott Morrison posted photos of samosas on Sunday on Twitter and said that he would have liked to share the snack with his Indian counterpart. To the tweet, PM Modi replied that the two countries are "Connected by the Indian Ocean, united by the Indian Samosa!"

"Looks delicious, PM @ScottMorrisonMP. Once we achieve a decisive victory against COVID-19, we will enjoy the Samosas together. Looking forward to our video meet on the 4th," PM Modi added.

(With inputs from PTI)