“I salute India’s achievements,” – PM Abbott

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5.9.2014. Excerpts of transcript of  Prime Minister Mr. Tony Abbott’s address to  Indian Chambers of Commerce Lunch, New Delhi India. 

Prime Minster Tony Abbott thanked Minister Sitharaman for her presence and for her words in his address to Indian Chambers of Commerce at a luncheon.

He said, “It is a real honour to be here as Australia’s Prime Minister. This is not my first visit to India. As a student, I spent three months travelling around much of northern India. I was conscious of the historical links: the Indian soldiers who’d been with us at Gallipoli and in Palestine and who, in a later war, had passed with our own into captivity at Singapore. I was excited by this land of contrasts; of the most ancient spirituality with the most modern technology. I was fascinated by a country that was both exotic and familiar. Not only was that a formative period in my life; it also left me with an abiding sense that India would soon make its mark in the wider world.”

He further said, “The India of today is the world’s second most populous nation; for most of the past three decades it’s grown at more than 5 per cent a year and, in purchasing power terms, it’s already the world’s third largest economy. In short, India is the world’s emerging democratic superpower.

“In India, as elsewhere in Asia, hundreds of millions of people are moving from poverty into the middle class; as successive governments have dismantled regulatory shackles and unleashed the flair and the drive that’s so obvious in the Indian diaspora.

I salute India’s achievement.”

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“India has proven that economic transformation is quite compatible with robust free speech, independent courts, and democratic checks and balances on government. My instinct is that India’s well entrenched democracy, commitment to the rule of law, and habit of lively debate will turn out to be its greatest intangible assets.

The purpose of this visit, as soon as possible in the life of the new governments here and in Australia, is to remind Australians never to neglect any of the emerging Asian great powers; and to reassure Indians that Australia is acutely conscious of all that our two countries might achieve together.

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The election of new governments opens new possibilities for both our countries.

Australia is “open for business” – Prime Minister Modi is inviting the world to, “Come, make in India”. India, for its part, has, so to speak, a new CEO, determined to bring to the whole country the problem-solving approach he brought to revitalising an important state.”

“As countries that believe in private sector-led growth, both Australia and India will be in a position to lead-by-example at the coming Brisbane G20 leaders’ summit, in committing to policies for an extra 2 per cent growth over the next five years.”

Mr Abbott added, “Both Prime Minister Modi and I wish to be known as “infrastructure prime ministers” and the G20, fittingly, will focus on mobilising private capital to address the world’s infrastructure deficit.

Both India and Australia want to boost two way trade and investment and I hope that the comprehensive economic partnership – or free trade – negotiations between our two countries will be concluded, at the latest, by the end of 2016.

That way, top-quality Australian coal, for instance, will be available to power Indian households and businesses at the lowest price to consumers.”

Mr Abbott said that there has never been a better time to revitalise the friendship that has usually been warm but has often been under-developed.

“These days, India is our largest or next-to-largest source of immigrants and our largest or next-to-largest source of overseas students.

As my CEO delegation attests, some of the half million Australians of Indian background are already very senior in business, culture, education and administration; and as I discovered yesterday, Australian cricketers are at least as revered in this country as at home – and this will only increase now that Brett Lee is to become the latest Bollywood star in a new Indian-Australian film co-production.

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In a sign of the mutual trust and confidence that our two countries have in each other, Prime Minister Modi and I will today sign a nuclear co-operation agreement that will, finally, allow Australian uranium sales to India.

This was originally an initiative of the Howard Government; now brought to fruition by the Abbott Government.”

He also promised that the Australian government is streamlining student visa arrangements and working visa arrangements to make it easier for Indians to study and to work in Australia.

If all goes to plan, next year, an Indian company will begin Australia’s largest ever coal development which will light the lives of 100 million Indians for the next half century.

Last year two-way trade between Australia and India was only $15 billion and Indian investment in Australia is well under $20 billion and the less said about Australian investment in India the better. Though comparing that with China the two way trade at $150 billion, Mr Abbott, said, “India’s trade and investment is substantial – but it’s not what it should be – given our countries’ level of comfort with each other, our comparative proximity and the complementarity between our economies.”

“A reason for that is that Australia has spent three decades promoting trade with China while only recently re-discovering India’s economic potential.”

I should add, in respect of our relationships with China and with India, that it’s possible to have more than one friend at the same time.”

“Over the past half century, Australian coal, iron ore and gas has powered the economic transformations of Japan, Korea and China. My hope is that we can become an utterly reliable source of energy, resource and food security for India too. Australia and India already have a formally-negotiated strategic partnership.We already have an educational partnership comprising formal links between many institutions – mostly they’re Australian universities and institutes with campuses in India but a two-way street is starting to develop.

“My hope is to develop an economic partnership commensurate with our countries, our two countries’ history and heritage and our people’s easy rapport with each other – a rapport that is evident today – mines and minds, if you like.”

“My business delegation likes Prime Minister Modi’s determination to ease the cost of doing business; for their part, our Indian business partners are looking forward to the $1 billion a

Talking about selling uranium to India, Mr Abbott said, “We can so easily work together and our two countries are so ready to trust each other on issues like uranium safeguards. Around the world, Australia has many friends and few critics because we’re a strong ally, a reliable partner and among the most ready to help whenever trouble strikes. Likewise, as a nation, India has always behaved scrupulously in accordance with international law. We both deplore terrorism in all its forms and cooperate against it wherever it occurs.

We both take a dim view of border violations and believe that territorial disputes should be settled peacefully in accordance with international law.”

Mr Abbott acknowledged India’s “look east” policy and Prime Minister Modi’s very successful visit to Japan and said, “In the years ahead, India will have many friendships but few, if any, that will be as uncomplicated and as clearly mutually beneficial as that with Australia.”

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