India, Australia to hold summits annually, says PM, pushes for early conclusion of FTA

New Delhi, March 21 : India and Australia have decided to make their summit meetings an annual affair to give further momentum to their strategic ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday as he thanked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for the return of 29 antiquities to India. In his opening remarks at the second virtual summit with PM Morrison, PM Modi said the two sides have made remarkable progress in their relations. “In trade and investment, defence and security, education and innovation, and science and technology we have very close cooperation. In water management, critical tech and on Covid-19 research too, our collaboration has increased,” PM Modi said. On the bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, he said both sides have made a lot of progress in the negotiations in very little time. “On the remaining issues I am confident that we will come to a consensus very soon. Early conclusion of the CECA free trade agreement is important for our economic revival and our economic security,” the PM said. “During our last summit we elevated our ties a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and I am happy that we are establishing the mechanism of holding annual summits. This will help give a structural arrangement to our ties,” he said. PM Modi called for global rules to govern the emerging technologies. On Quad, he said the four nations of India, US, Australia and Japan, have good relations in the format, and their cooperation highlights their commitment to a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. The success of Quad is very important for regional and global stability, he said. He thanked PM Morrison for the return of the 29 antiquities, which he said are from states including Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Himachal Pradesh, among others. These were smuggled from India and would be returned to their rightful places, he said. He also congratulated the Australian PM for the victory of the Australian women’s cricket team over India in the league fixture in the ICC Women’s World Cup, but laughingly said the tournament is still ongoing. He conveyed his congratulations to both the teams for the tournament. Earlier in his remarks, he thanked PM Morrison for his congratulations on the BJP’s Assembly elections victory. He also conveyed commiseration over the extensive damage and destruction caused by floods in Queensland and New South Wales. RN

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