Indian PM Narendra Modi pledges closer security, trade ties

India and Australia have committed to a free-trade agreement by the end of 2015, a pledge unveiled during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Parliament House on Tuesday.


Prime Minister Modi told those gathered in Parliament House that the two countries stand together at a moment of enormous opportunity.

“There was a time when for many of us, Australia was a distant land on the southern edge of the world,” he said.

“Today, the world sees Australia to be in the heart of the Asia Pacific… I see Australia as a major partner in every area of our national priority, providing skills and education to our youth.”

Australia was a “vital partner” in India’s quest for progress and prosperity and there were few countries with which India had so much synergy, Mr Modi said.

“I see Australia as a major partner in every area of our national priority,” he said.

Watch: SBS Chief Political Correspondent Karen Middleton on Narendra Modi’s speech

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It could provide skills and education to India’s youth, a roof over every head and electricity in every household, he said.

Australia offered affordable health care, agriculture, infrastructure and energy “that does not cause our glaciers to melt”.

“Clean coal and gas, renewable energy, a fuel for nuclear power,” Mr Modi said.

“Cities that are more sustainable and liveable. Villages that offer opportunities.”

Mr Modi spoke of the strategic challenges in the region including historic differences between countries persisting despite growing interdependence.

“We can only pursue our dreams if we have the confidence our cities are safe and our nations secure,” he said.

India and Australia need to expand security and maritime co-operation to promote peace in the region.

“We should work together on the seas,” Mr Modi said.

Mr Modi said Australia shouldn’t be at the periphery of India’s vision, but at the centre of their thoughts.

“It has taken a prime minister of India 28 years to come to Australia,” he said.

“It should never have been so and this will change.”

There was also the chance for commentary on cricket, yoga and the now-famous “shirtfront” pledge.

“I’m the third head of government you are listening to this week,” Mr Modi said.

“Maybe this is Abbott’s way of shirtfronting you.”

Watch: Narendra Modi on shirtfronting

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott also addressed the parliament on the deal, announced one day after he signed a declaration of intent with China.

Mr Abbott said welcomed India’s strength in the Indian Ocean, describing the country as an emerging superpower.

“By the end of next year, we will have a free trade deal with what is potentially the world’s largest market,” he said.

“And I want to make this declaration here in this Parliament: there are two can-do Prime Ministers in this chamber today and we will make it happen.”

With AAP.