India, Australia sign defense, trade deals to bolster ties

India and Australia have upgraded their relationship with a raft of agreements, including strengthening defense ties and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific maritime issues

BySHEIKH SAALIQ Associated Press
June 4, 2020, 6:05 AM

NEW DELHI -- India and Australia upgraded their relationship with a raft of agreements Thursday, including strengthening defense ties and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific maritime issues.

The agreements were signed during a virtual summit between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison.

The mutual logistic support agreement gives the two countries access to each other’s military bases. India and Australia see defense as a key pillar of the bilateral engagement and have recently conducted several military exercises.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne in a statement said a maritime declaration with India marks “a major step forward in the security and defense relationship as part of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” between the countries.

“With Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and Australia, we aspire to achieve new heights in our collaboration,” Modi said at the virtual summit.

Morrison said that stepping up the relationship would build trust further between them.

The two countries also signed agreements on cyber technology and trade.

“The trade and investment flows between our countries are not where you and I would both like them to be, but they are growing,” Morrison said.

The meeting comes at a time when both countries are in an uneasy relationship with China.

India accuses China of starting the latest standoff along their undefined border in the Himalayas, where Indian officials said Chinese soldiers ignored repeated verbal warning to leave the Indian-controlled territory of Ladakh.

China and Australia are at loggerheads over trade, China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea, and most recently, Australia’s push for an international investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and China's responses to it.

——— Associated Press writer Rob McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.

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