SYDNEY – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi struck new agreements Wednesday with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese on migration and green hydrogen, while raising concerns about attacks on Hindu temples in Sydney.
Modi was welcomed Tuesday by around 20,000 cheering fans, many chanting “Modi,” at a Sydney stadium for his second visit to Australia as India’s leader.
But his visit has also been protested by activists who accuse his government of restricting Muslim and other minorities’ rights, as well as press freedom. Anti-Modi posters appeared around Sydney, and Hindu temples in Sydney's west were recently vandalized. Sikhs have also used the visit to demand a separate state.
Modi, a Hindu, said he had raised the issue of attacks on temples with Albanese, who assured him that authorities would take “strict actions” against the culprits.
“We will not accept any elements that harm the friendly and warm ties between India and Australia by their actions or thoughts,” Modi told reporters through an interpreter in a joint press conference with Albanese. Neither leader took questions.
The Indian diaspora accounts for only 3% of Australia’s population but is the nation’s fastest growing ethnic minority. Modi described the diaspora as the real strength in the growing bilateral relationship.
Modi is the only leader of the Quad nations to continue with his scheduled visit to Australia after U.S. President Joe Biden pulled out of a planned meeting of the group in Sydney to return to Washington to focus on debt limit talks. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who hosted a Group of Seven summit last week, later canceled his Australia trip as well.
Modi arrived Monday night in Sydney from Papua New Guinea, where he hosted a meeting with Pacific Island leaders to discuss ways to better cooperate.
Modi and Albanese’s meeting Wednesday “reinforced their commitment to an open, prosperous and secure” Indo-Pacific region, the Australian prime minister’s office said in a statement.
The prime ministers announced a new migration agreement that will promote two-way mobility of students, graduates, academic researchers and business people. They also agreed on the terms of reference on a bilateral Green Hydrogen Task Force that will promote cooperation on producing the gas without use of fossil fuels.
The leaders said they expect to complete negotiations on a free trade deal before the end of the year. They also announced new diplomatic posts in Bengaluru, India, and Brisbane, Australia.
Modi last visited Australia in November 2014, just months after his government was first elected.
McGuirk contributed from Canberra, Australia.