Australia today urged India to sign a Free Trade Agreement with it to deepen the economic cooperation between the two countries and strengthen the bilateral relationship.
Delivering the inaugural "Indo-Pacific Oration" organised by Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi today, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said, "We want an FTA, a meaningful agreement, to further strengthen economic relationship."
She pointed out that Australia have FTAs with South Africa, Japan and China and are now looking forward to an FTA with India to complete the quartet.
Bishop further said that under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Modi, India has set out to travel a new road in the beginning of the 21st century. This road is full of economic opportunities, high expectations, risks and complexities.
The minister said Australia is ready to walk along with India along this road "to drive economic growth" and meet "strategic challenges" to ensure brighter future for both the countries and their people.
"Australia is a trusted partner and close friend. We are natural partners and natural friends," the Minister said. "India is not at periphery, but at heart of Australia," she said.
She said Australia is ready to ensure the energy security of India which is in need of large quantities of energy for its economic growth. She expressed readiness to help India with coal, gas and uranium supplies.
Bishop said Australia and India should work together with other nations of the Indo-Pacific region to ensure peace, stability and economic growth. She emphasised on the need to engage with countries like China too to ensure stability and growth.
She said Australia welcomed the changing India which in turn is changing the region, adding India has become a significant player and world leader.
The minister said Australia would be hosting the second Indian Ocean Dialogue later this year. The first Dialogue was organised in Kochi in association with ORF. The Minister hoped ORF would continue its support to the Dialogue this year too.
ORF Director Sunjoy Joshi, in his welcome remarks, said there would not have been a better person to deliver the inaugural Indo-Pacific Oration than the Australian Minister, being the country an important player in the region.
He said ORF has been working on the region for very long time and its Chennai Chapter has been focussing on the maritime and strategic issues of the region.
Joshi emphasised on the need to ensure peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the work being done by ORF in organising forums and partnerships to achieve this.