Anthony Albanese has been celebrated in a lavish ceremony alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the Australian leader describing the moment as one of the highlights of his life.
The successful gathering was held in front of a monster crowd of 132,000 at Ahmedabad Stadium ahead of the fourth Test of cricket between Australia and India.
The arrival of the leaders on the pitch was somewhat delayed, but once the Indian prime minister set foot in his own stadium, chants of ‘Modi, Modi, Modi’ resounded as they would for cricket icon Virat Kohli.
Australian skipper Steve Smith and Indian skipper Rohit Sharma met the leaders on stage, all four of their arms interlocking and lifting them into the air.
Albanese then joined Modi for a lap of honor around the stadium in a hovercraft cart with giant bats and stumps on the back, waving to delighted fans in the crowd.
The two leaders are working towards a lucrative free trade agreement that would bring huge economic benefits to big business in both countries.
But it comes at a time when most Australians are struggling with cost-of-living pressures and amid a rising inflation rate now at 7.8 percent.
Anthony Albanese says he is humbled by the effort his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, has put into his visit, which has included a cart ride before a large cricket-loving crowd (pictured)
The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday to combat the price spiral raised the cash rate for the 10th straight month to 3.6 percent, and now rates are rising at the most dramatic pace since 1988 and 1989.
The rapid increases have increased monthly variable mortgage payments by a staggering 46 percent in just 10 months.
To make matters worse, energy bills are also skyrocketing.
Energy Australia, which has 2.4 million electricity and gas customers, increased its variable contracts by 14.1 percent this month, adding hundreds of dollars to annual bills.
Contracts are usually reviewed at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, in line with government reviews of industry prices, but competitor Origin made an increase in January and Energy Australia followed suit.
Early in Mr. Albanese’s Prime Ministerial tenure, he was nicknamed ‘Air-bus Albo’ for taking part in a number of overseas engagements, including visits to Japan for a Quad meeting, war-torn Ukraine, France and London for the Queen’s funeral, among others.
The two prime ministers took a lap of honor in a car (pictured) before the game, in a stadium filled with hundreds of posters and billboards with photos of both.
Pictured, Albanese greets Australian cricket captain Steve Smith on the first day of the fourth Test in Ahmedabad.
He appeared to be in high spirits when he touched down in India for three days of high-level talks on Wednesday and was greeted by a cheering crowd of dancers and performers.
Some threw flower petals on him to mark the Holi festival, before the prime minister was shown the bedroom and study where Gandhi worked during India’s independence movement.
He later gave a speech about his experience in India on his first trip in 1991.
“We went through every possible form of transportation over a six-week period and it brought me a love of Indian culture and an understanding of the way Indians embrace and welcome you to this wonderful country,” said the first Minister.
‘If you want to understand a country, don’t go in a car with a caravan, go on a train with the population and buy a ticket at the ticket office.’
After the ceremony at cricket, he was asked if his backpacking experience in India was much different this time around.
“It sure is (different), it’s a highlight of my life to be here today, and India and Australia have a great friendship,” Albanese told reporters.
The Premier sang the national anthem side by side with Captain Smith and the rest of the Australian team, staying for the start of the game.
The leaders left the match after seven overs.
Mr. Albanese is heading to Mumbai, where he will participate in a panel discussion with Australian and Indian CEOs, promote Australian products at an exhibition and discuss ways to enhance film collaborations with Bollywood.
He has made the trip with a major Australian business delegation to further boost business ties.
‘It’s very important that we cement those ties even more. Towards the end of this year, I expect an improvement in the economic relationship between Australia and India,” he said.
Speaking on cricket, Mr Albanese (pictured with Prime Minister Modi) said the two countries had a long and proud relationship and were celebrating 75 years of Test cricket this year.
Around 132,000 attended the stadium for the event.
Work is underway to expand the current Australia-India Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement to include topics such as cooperation, sustainable development, digital trade and government procurement, as well as additional goods and services.
Another important reason for the visit is for Mr. Albanese to announce that Indians will have their bachelor’s degrees, postgraduate degrees, diplomas and high school certificates recognized in Australia.
The move is expected to be a big boost for Australia’s healthcare system in particular, with the opportunity for a wave of new doctors and nurses to alleviate staff shortages.
India’s educational qualifications recognition mechanism means Australians will also have their qualifications recognized in India as part of a reciprocal arrangement between the two cricket-loving Commonwealth democracies.
The Australian government announcement came as Deakin University establishes India’s first overseas university-approved campus.
Later, Albanese will visit the Western Naval Command, which is responsible for the Indian forces in the Arabian Sea, and meet defense personnel who have participated in exercises in Australia.
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham received comments from the Albanese on Thursday that the relationship between the nations is at a high point.
India, which will host the G20 summit in 2023, would also be instrumental in advocating for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he added.