India and Australia boosted their relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership on Thursday, and during a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Scott Morrison upgraded their 2 + 2 foreign affairs and defence dialogue to ministerial level.
The two sides have launched a "common vision for Indo-Pacific maritime cooperation," and signed seven agreements focused on key areas such as security and rare earth minerals.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) will encourage mutual access to military logistics facilities, allow more complex military joint exercise and enhance interoperability between the two sides' armed forces.
"India is committed to extending its relationship with Australia more rapidly. This is critical not only for our two countries but for the Indo-Pacific region and the world as well, "Modi said in his opening remarks in Hindi on television.
Morrison said the two sides' integrated strategic collaboration will take them "to a whole new level of relationship" and "continue to build trust because we want confidence-building business and trading relationships."
Other important agreements signed by both sides during the virtual bilateral summit – first such meeting for our PM – was inclusive of a Framework Agreement on Cyber and Cyber-Enabled Critical Technology Cooperation, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Critical and Strategic Minerals Cooperation in Mining and Processing, an Implementing Arrangement on Cooperation in Defense Science, and
Shortly before the Covid-19 crisis, both sides discussed the idea of engaging in the mining and processing of rare earth metals such as lithium, neodymium and dysprosium, of which Australia is the sixth-largest in the world's natural reserves.
India, which imports more than 90 per cent of China's rare earth metals, has been looking to diversify sources. In 2016 China's imports were worth $3.4 million.
The two sides also signed three MoUs on Public Administration and Governance Reform Cooperation, Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training and Water Resource Management.
The virtual summit was arranged after Morrison was forced to postpone a planned visit to India twice-first due to the devastating bushfires in Australia in January and then due to the Covid-19 crisis in May.