Sydney/New Delhi, Mar 8 (EFE).- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese began his three-day India trip on Wednesday as the two countries seek to strengthen their trade and defense ties in the face of rising Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
“(The) trip demonstrates our commitment to deepening our links with India, and to being a force for stability and growth in our region,” Albanese told media before departing for India.
“Australia and India have a rich friendship, underpinned by our common interests, our shared democratic values, the bonds between our people, and an affectionate but fierce sporting rivalry.”
The Indian foreign ministry noted that the two countries “share warm and friendly relations based on common values and democratic principles.”
The ministry said that the Australian prime minister’s visit “is expected to provide further momentum” to the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
The visit, the first by an Australian PM in six years, comes as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s trip to India.
Together with the United States, India, Australia, and Japan form the so-called “Quad” grouping that took shape in 2005 as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue.
US President Joe Biden has made the grouping the centerpiece of his Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China’s growing influence and alleged expansionist agenda in the region.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Australia later this year for the Quad Leaders’ Summit.
Albanese will land in the city of Ahmedabad in Modi’s home state of Gujarat before visiting Mumbai on Thursday and reaching the national capital New Delhi later in the day.
The two prime ministers are likely to watch the first day of the fourth cricket test of the ongoing India-Australia series at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell, Minister for Resources Madeleine King, senior officials, and a high-level business delegation accompany Prime Minister Albanese on his India trip.
Australia seeks to deepen trade ties with India and the visit comes hot on the heels of the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA) signed last year.
The agreement enabled Australia to secure access to the fast-growing Indian market of more than 1.4 billion people and gave Australian businesses opportunities for trade diversification.
More than 85 percent of Australian goods exports to India are now tariff-free, rising to 90 percent over the next six years, the Australian prime minister’s office said in a statement.
And 96 percent of imports from India are now tariff-free — a figure that will reach 100 percent in four years.
The tariff commitments by India in the agreement opened up access for Australia’s exporters of products including critical minerals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, lentils, seafood, sheepmeat, horticulture, and wine.
The Australian PMO statement said the agreement took “advantage of the complementary nature of our economic relationship, creating jobs, and opportunities in both countries.”
India is Australia’s sixth-largest trading partner, fourth-largest export market, and second-largest export market for education.
“Our cooperation is growing exponentially — in economic, social and cultural links, and in education, technology, energy, and defence,” the statement noted.