India and Australia have decided to sign nine pacts, including one to raise their relationship to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ for wider and deeper cooperation in diverse areas ranging from trade to defence. The eight other pacts cover cooperation in key matters such as cyber technology, maritime engagement, education, science and technology and water resources management.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, who spoke at the start of a virtual bilateral summit on Thursday, also agreed that while trade and investment flows between the two nations are growing, more effort is needed in this direction.

“Our trade and investments are growing. But I will not say that I am satisfied at the speed of increase. When a leader of your potential is leading a nation that is our friend, the criteria of judging the pace of progress in our relationship has to be ambitious,” Modi told Morrison.

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Echoing the sentiment, the Australian PM said the growth in trade and investment could be much faster. “I think the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership that we are forming today will lead to a whole new level of relationship and will continue to build the trust. Because we want commercial and trading relationships that are built on trust,” he said.

Morrison further said that the agreement signed at the virtual summit would play an important role in boosting bilateral relationship. “This is a grand portfolio of specific and very particular arrangements that give form and substance to the comprehensive and strategic partnership,” he said.

The nine agreements

The agreements announced at the summit included a joint statement on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and a joint declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.


The pacts signed included a framework arrangement on Cyber and Cyber-enabled Critical Technology Cooperation, an MoU on Cooperation in the Field of Mining and Processing of Critical and Strategic Minerals, an arrangement concerning Mutual Logistics Support (MLSA), and an implementing arrangement concerning Cooperation in Defence Science and Technology.

Three MoUs were also signed on co-operation in the fields of Public Administration and Governance Reforms, Vocational Education and Training and Water Resources Management.

Dealing with Covid

The leaders also said that they would continue to cooperate to deal with the pandemic that has disrupted economies worldwide.

Australia is an important trade partner for India although there is a large trade imbalance due to the former’s huge coal exports to the country. India exported goods and services worth $5.17 billion and imported goods and services worth $15.75 billion in 2018-19. Australia’s cumulative investment in India is about $10.74 billion, whereas India’s total investment in Australia is $10.45 billion.

Both India and Australia are keen to restart talks on a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement on the lines of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact that India walked out of in November 2019, mostly due to concerns about providing market access to China. The RCEP comprised 16 nations including the 10-member ASEAN, China, South Korea, New Zealand, Japan, India and Australia.

Australia also wants India to consider rejoining the RCEP talks.