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Sydney(AFP): Speaking extempore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the Australian Parliament on Tuesday calling for closer bilateral security cooperation and a comprehensive global strategy to tackle the menace of terrorism.
Modi, while addressing the Australian Parliament, the first Indian Prime Minister to do so, said, “It has taken a Prime Minister of India 28 years to come to Australia. It should never have been so. And, this will change. Australia will not be at the periphery of our vision, but at the centre of our thought.”
In a burst of humour, the Indian Prime Minister also noted he was the third foreign leader, after China’s Xi Jinping and Britain’s David Cameron, to address parliament over the last week.
“I do not know how you are doing this,” he told the assembled MPs. “Maybe this is Prime Minister Abbott’s way of shirtfronting you?” – a comment that was greeted with laughter and applause.
Modi addressed the Parliament after holding bilateral talks with Prime Minister Tony Abbott following which the two countries signed five pacts on social security, transfer of sentenced prisoners, combating narcotics trade, tourism, and Arts and Culture.
During the talks, the two sides sought an early conclusion of negotiations for a comprehensive economic partnership agreement and a closure on the civil nuclear deal.
Addressing the Parliament, Modi said terrorism had become a major threat.
“In India, we have seen its face closely for three decades. And, we see it with the clarity that comes with it. Terrorism is changing in character and expanding in its reach,” Modi said.
“Internet has made recruitment and call to violence self-generated. It also feeds off money laundering, drug trafficking and arms smuggling.
In order to tackle these new security challenges, Modi sought closer security cooperation, a policy of no distinction between terrorist groups or discrimination between nations, a resolve to isolate those who harbour terrorists, willingness to empower states that will fight them, a social movement against extremism in countries where it is most prevalent and every effort to delink religion and terrorism.
“India sees Australia as one of our foremost partners in the region. There are few countries in the world where we see so much synergy as we do in Australia,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister also called for support for the process of economic integration across the region and an open global trading system that remains integrated.
“We must guard against regional trade initiatives becoming instruments of political competition. However, economic integration by itself won’t be a strong basis for peace and stability, without strong regional institutions,” Modi said.
The Indian Prime Minister added that India and Australia were united by the ideals of democracy which offers the best opportunity for the human spirit to flourish, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday.
“We are united by the ideals of democracy. I consider nations such as ours to be blessed because we have the freedom to choose, the right to speak and the power to remove,” the prime minister said in his address to the Australian parliament here.
He added that the statue of Mahatma Gandhi he unveiled in Canberra was a symbol of the shared values between the two countries.
“There was a time when many of us thought of Australia as a distant land on the southern edge of the world.
“This dynamic region holds the key to the future and Australia is at its crossroad,” Modi said.
He added that India seeks the same future for the world as Australia and sees Australia as a vital partner in India’s quest for progress and prosperity.
“There are few countries in the world where we see so much synergy as we do in Australia,” Modi said.
The Indian premier also called for collaboration in the field of maritime security.
“We should collaborate more on maintaining maritime security. We should work together on the seas and collaborate in international forums. And, we should work for a universal respect for international law and global norms,” he said.
Modi said countries needed to ensure that outer space and cyber space remain instruments of connectivity and prosperity, not new frontiers of conflict.
More importantly, he said, both the countries could work together to deal with piracy and range of other issues related to security.
“The oceans are our lifelines. But, we worry about its access and security in our part of the world more than ever before,” he said.
“Responding to the region’s disasters, combating proliferation, acting against piracy, we can work together on a full range of security challenges,” the Prime Minister said.
Modi said India and Australia were members of several institutions “critical” to the region and the world and both the countries should coordinate more closely on different global fora.
He said the two countries need not have to rely on borrowed architecture of the past nor did the two have the luxury to “choose who we work with and who we don’t.”
“But, what we do need is to work together and with others to create environment and culture that promotes the currency of co-existence and cooperation; in which all nations, small and big, abide by international law and norms, even when they have bitter disputes.
“India and Australia are members of several institutions that are critical for this region and the world. We should coordinate more closely in East Asia Summit, G20 and the Indian Ocean Region Association,” Modi said.
Modi said, India’s development and growth provides a long term opportunity for Australia and it has immense opportunities in the field of agriculture, food processing, mining, infrastructure, finance, technology and energy.
“We have a new Mission for turning ‘Make in India’ into a global name just as Computer in India is. But, we want to find new pathways to prosperity, not simply travel down the roads of the previous century. Much of India’s future cities and infrastructure is yet to be built and so we have a unique opportunity to make our choices now.
“India’s development, demography and demand provide a unique long term opportunity for Australia ?- and all in the familiar framework of democracy. There is no other example of this nature in the world. Indian investors, too, are coming here in growing numbers and commitments,” Modi said.
He highlighted that since his government came to office, no region has seen more intense engagement on India’s part than Asia Pacific region. .
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott hailed India as “the emerging superpower that is already a democracy” and pledged to secure a bilateral trade pact by the end of next year.
“By the end of next year we will have a free trade deal with what is potentially the world’s largest market. And I want to make this declaration here in this Parliament, there are two can do prime ministers in this chamber today and we will make it happen,” the Prime Minister said.
“The cheering crowds sense that there is a natural affinity between Australia and India. A natural partnership for peace and prosperity and they want us, they want both of us, they want all of us to make the most of it.
“We want to be a dependable source of energy security, of resource security and of food security for India.”