Interview with Ashleigh Gillon, Sky News

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Australia, Australia-India Relations, response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ashleigh Gillon: Welcome back, you're with NewsDay. As we've been reporting, the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has hosted his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi for bilateral talks at Admiralty House in Sydney today. For more, joining us live is the Assistant Foreign Minister, Tim Watts.

Appreciate your time, thank you. I understand you've recently returned from a trip to India yourself, so you should be well versed in the issues at play with this relationship. This morning we saw the leaders signing a new Migration and Labour Mobility partnership. How does that actually work in practicality? What will that really mean for businesses here in Australia?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: So, the meeting between Prime Ministers Albanese and Modi today is a real landmark in the Australia-India relationship. As the Prime Minister was saying this morning, it is the 6th time the two Prime Ministers have met in the last twelve months and that is surely a record between our countries and a reflection of the deep relationship between our countries. Now, the Migration and People Mobility Agreement partnership that you were talking about just then, this is a reflection of the ambition of both of our countries to deepen the people-to-people connections between our countries. So, clearly there's now a million Australians of Indian heritage. It's an enormous diaspora community. We have about 84,000 Indian students in this country, so a lot of people going backwards and forwards. And this mobility agreement is designed to smooth that, to have more young Australians going to India to study, more young Indians coming to Australia to study, but also to put some guardrails around that to ensure there's cooperation going on on irregular people movements and people smuggling.

Ashleigh Gillon: There were high hopes that India would be able to fill some of the demand shortfall that some of our exporters suffered when those Chinese trade restrictions came in. To what extent has India been able to fill that gap? We heard the leaders say earlier they want to expedite the signing of the full trade agreement to later this year. What have been the key challenges so far in terms of getting that pact signed?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, both countries agree that there is more that we can do to deepen the trade and investment relationship between Australia and India. So, last year we signed the economic - the Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement, which reduced all tariffs on Australian imports to India - sorry, 85 per cent of Australian goods going into India and in five years' time that'll be 90 per cent of goods. And we're seeing that the trade agreement expanding. We want to drive it further. And that's why both Prime Ministers committed to concluding as soon as possible the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, an agreement that we aim to move into new frontiers like digital services and government service provisions.

So, there's a rich agenda. One of the big, exciting opportunities, I think, between our two countries is in renewable energy and the green economy. And we saw the signing of the agreement of the Green Hydrogen Task Force between the Prime Ministers today. A lot of complementarities between the Australian and the Indian economy, particularly between resources and manufacturing. So, we think that there's a lot of growth that can occur on that front.

Ashleigh Gillon: We've heard a lot of talk about shared values between our countries over the past couple of days. Yet when it comes to one of the biggest foreign policy issues confronting governments around the world, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, India has chosen not to publicly condemn the aggressor Russia. Is that concerning? Should that make us think twice?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, all countries have different histories and different cultural contexts, and India has a particular relationship with Russia. We've had this discussion between the countries as friends for some time now. Australia's view is that Russia's illegal, immoral invasion of Ukraine cannot be allowed to stand by the international community. It can't be allowed that a larger neighbour can invade a smaller neighbour, particularly a larger neighbour who is a member of the UN Security Council flagrantly breaching the UN charter. So, we've articulated our position on that. It's the Indian Government's right to articulate its own sovereign position on that issue. But I should say Australia and India share a deep interest in the Indo-Pacific region and building a region that is peaceful, prosperous and secure, where no country is dominated, no country dominates, where all countries get to make their own choices. We are working closely together through institutions like the Quad to build a region that operates in that way. So, Australia and India, we're closely aligned, in fact, more closely aligned than ever before on the strategic front.

Ashleigh Gillon: Tim Watts, I appreciate you making the time. Thank you.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Pleasure.

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