India and Australia on Monday reaffirmed their commitment to the conclusion of a commercially-meaningful Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which addresses the priorities of both sides. In a joint statement issued at the end of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Malcom Turnbull, the two countries expressed their keenness to secure a timely conclusion of a high-quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). “RCEP can provide a boost to regional economic confidence in a time of global uncertainty — but to do so it needs to deliver commercially meaningful outcomes for business,” said the statement.
Earlier, at a joint press event with Turnbull, Modi said they reviewed the entire gamut of ties and took many “forward looking” decisions, including one on early holding of the next round of talks on comprehensive economic cooperation agreement. Emphasising on peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, Modi said challenges like terrorism and cyber security require global strategy and solutions.
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Both countries at the end of bilateral and delegation level talks inked six MoUs, including on cooperation in fighting international terrorism and on civil aviation security, cooperation in the field of environment, climate and wildlife; cooperation in the field of sports and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) with Geoscience Australia on implementation arrangement on cooperation in earth observation and satellite navigation.
Turnbull arrived on Sunday on a four-day visit, his first to the country after assuming office in 2015. His predecessor Tony Abbott had visited India in September 2014 and this was followed by Modi’s visit to Australia in November that year.
Both leaders inaugurated the TERI-DEAKIN Research Centre on Nano and Bio Technology, which is a classic example of the kind of cutting-edge science and technology cooperation that is happening between the two countries. The Australia-India Research Fund of nearly $100 million has focused on collaborative research projects in the areas such as nano-technology, smart cities, infrastructure, and agriculture and disease control.
While Modi noted that Australia was ready to supply uranium to India, Turnbull said his government was looking forward to exporting uranium to India “as soon as possible”. Though it seems increasingly likely that will be without a formal agreement for some time yet.
The coalition government had previously held hopes the India-Australia trade deal could be sealed by the end of 2015 and then end of 2016.
Welcoming India’s membership to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Turnbull noted Australia’s strong support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Australia also expressed its support for India’s membership of the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement.
The two welcomed both countries’ increased engagement with ASEAN, including recent milestones and achievements in their respective relationships, forthcoming leaders’ summits in both countries with ASEAN, and noted the growing strategic importance of Southeast Asia. They recognised ongoing cooperation in other regional bodies such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), and the Asia Europe Meeting. The visiting leader reiterated Australia’s support for India’s membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).