PM Modi and his Aussie counterpart Morrison to focus on boosting ties in virtual summit

New Delhi, Jun 2 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison will attempt to further intensify the 'positive trajectory' in bilateral ties when they hold an online summit on Thursday, official sources said on Tuesday.

It will be the first time that Modi would be holding a 'bilateral' virtual summit with a foreign leader.

The two prime ministers have already met on four occasions on the sidelines of multilateral meetings during the last one and a half years.

On Monday, Australian High Commissioner Barry O'Farrell indicated that India and Australia are expected to sign a landmark agreement for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support during the summit.

The focus will be on the positive trajectory in bilateral relations during discussions between the two prime ministers, the sources said.

Relationship between the two nations was upgraded to a 'Strategic Partnership' level in 2009. Since then, both countries have expanded their cooperation in a range of key areas.

In its White Paper on Foreign Policy in 2017, Australia recognised India as the 'pre-eminent maritime power among Indian Ocean countries' and a 'front-rank partner of Australia'.

'The virtual summit will be an opportunity for the two leaders to review the broad framework of the relationship in the context of their growing ties. It will also be an opportunity to discuss their respective responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,' said a source.

In the last few years, both the countries have been focusing on expanding maritime cooperation.

India and Australia commenced their first bilateral naval exercise 'AUSINDEX' in 2015 which was focused on deepening defence and maritime cooperation, especially in the Indian Ocean.

The third iteration of AUSINDEX - 2019 was held in the Bay of Bengal in April 2019.

Australia has been supportive of India's position on cross-border terrorism and on asking Pakistan to take meaningful action against terrorist groups operating from its soil.

Australia also co-sponsored the UNSC resolution to declare Azhar Masood a global terrorist.

'Australia values India's diversity and inclusiveness and has holds the view that recent developments with regard to J&K are India's internal matters,' the sources said. PTI MPB IJT IJT IJT