Modi praises Australia as great democracy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has praised Australia as a “beacon of democracy” united with India by the same ideals.


Mr Modi is the first Indian leader to visit Australia in 28 years and the first to ever address the federal parliament.

He said the two countries were united because their people had the “freedom to choose, the right to speak and the power to remove”.

“For us in politics we’ve no option but to live with this grace,” he said.

Mr Modi is the third foreign leader to address parliament in the past five days.

“I do not know how you are doing this – maybe this is prime minister Abbott’s way of shirt-fronting you,” he joked, referring to Mr Abbott’s infamous comment.

Mr Abbott said in his introductory remarks that there were “two can-do prime ministers” in the chamber.

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

Geologists say that hundreds of millions of years ago Australia and India shared the same land mass.

“We were, so to speak, joined at the geological hip,” Mr Abbott said.

“We cannot change continental drift but we can ensure that we are closer friends and partners in the future than we have been in the recent past.”

Australia is at the crossroads of a region that holds the key to the world’s future, Mr Modi said.

“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 at the heart of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region.”

Australia evoked images of immense natural beauty and a great quality of life.

Mr Modi praised Australia as a nation with some of the world’s best cities, universities, “most productive hearts and minds” – and great sporting skills.

“Its cities are alive with the richness of the world’s diversity and it is home to 450,000 Indians who are as proud to be part of Australia as they are of their Indian heritage,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten started his speech with the traditional greeting “Namaste”, winning applause from the public gallery.

Mr Shorten paid special tribute to Mr Modi’s passion for education and equality.

“The great significance of your visit, indeed your leadership, is the paradigm shift in Indian politics from the politics of welfare to the politics of aspiration,” he said.

“You lead a nation that will shape our region and inspire our world.”

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.

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 told parliament.

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

As Mr Modi’s address concluded, he was given a rousing standing ovation from members of parliament and those in the public gallery.