Modi’s plane landed in Sydney, the final leg of his Asia-Pacific tour as he looks to assert India’s role as a regional power in the face of China’s growing influence.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Australia on Monday with the aim of boosting economic ties with a country where his country’s expatriate community is growing rapidly.
Modi’s plane landed in Sydney, the final leg of his Asia-Pacific tour, where he is looking to assert India’s role as a regional power in the face of China’s growing influence.
The Indian community is the second largest in Australia after the British. There are 673,000 Indians living in Australia, which has a population of 26 million.
“The community is the most important bridge in the bilateral business relationship between India and Australia,” Judy McKay, national chairwoman of the Australian-India Business Council, told AFP.
Bilateral trade between India and Australia reached A$46.5 billion ($31 billion) last year and is likely to increase after the free trade agreement comes into force in December.
McKay said that Australia and India hope to sign a broader economic agreement this year, noting that their relations have expanded beyond resources to areas such as renewable energy and technology.
US President Joe Biden was forced to cancel a scheduled summit in Australia to return to Washington to negotiate with Republicans on raising the debt ceiling.
At Sydney’s Kudos Bank Arena, organizers expected 18,000 people to turn up on Tuesday evening to welcome Modi, who faces a general election in his country next year.
Asked about Australian media reports of divisions within and outside India under Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule, Jay Shah, director of the India and Australia Foundation, said he could not understand such claims about the world’s largest democracy.
“We respect all the different opinions,” he told AFP. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is due to attend the event and address the crowd, before hosting Modi at Wednesday’s summit.
Modi’s visit comes as China expands its diplomatic, financial and military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Over the weekend, Modi participated in a meeting of the Quad Alliance in Japan with the leaders of the United States, Japan and Australia, with the aim of countering Beijing’s expansionism.
Modi arrived in Australia hours after his participation in a summit of 14 South Pacific nations in Papua New Guinea. It is the first visit by an Indian prime minister to the Pacific country.
“We share your belief in multilateralism. We support a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. We respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries,” Modi told the Pacific leaders.