PM announces Australia-India centre at Modi rally

·3-min read
Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS

Thousands of members of Australia's Indian community have given a rapturous stadium welcome to Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi as a new centre for Australia-India relations was announced for Sydney's west.

The two prime ministers were constantly cheered at the Olympic Park rally on Tuesday evening ahead of more formal talks between the pair planned for Wednesday.

Mr Albanese announced the new centre to help foster new ties and strengthen relations between both nations would be based in Parramatta, "a place that itself is a testament to the vitality of the Indian-Australian experience".

"We want to see more connections, more Australian and Indian students living and studying in each other's countries and bringing those experiences home."

The government on Tuesday night announced members of the advisory board for the new centre, including former Australian cricket captain Adam Gilchrist.

Mr Albanese urged those in the crowd to vote yes in the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament.

He said the last time he saw someone on the stage at the venue was at a Bruce Springsteen concert but he didn't get the welcome Mr Modi received.

"Prime Minister Modi is the boss," Mr Albanese said, referring to Mr Modi's rock star welcome.

Addressing the crowd he said they had "brought the spirit of the world's biggest democracy to Australia".

"And you have helped make our democracy stronger and more inclusive."

The prime ministers also unveiled a plaque for the foundation stone of the Little India gateway in Sydney's Harris Park.

Thousands of members of Australia's Indian community attended the Qudos Bank Arena to welcome Mr Modi, in what marked his first visit in 10 years and the prime ministers' sixth meeting in 12 months.

Many members of the Indian community had travelled from around Australia to attend the rally.

Speaking in Hindi, Mr Modi said relations between both countries were "based on mutual trust and respect".

In planned official talks on Wednesday the two leaders are expected to discuss trade, defence and renewable energy.

"This is a relationship we need to invest in," Mr Albanese told parliament on Tuesday.

"We have a rich friendship and a very affectionate sporting rivalry.

"We are both part of a growing, dynamic region and Prime Minister Modi is a very welcome visitor to our shores."

He hoped trade discussions concerning the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, which began in 2011, would conclude this year and said ties on renewable energy, critical minerals, security and defence were growing.

As crowds gathered outside Sydney Superdome hours before the evening rally, Mr Modi met business leaders including billionaires Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest.

He also discussed infrastructure investment in India and how Australia manages retirement pensions with Paul Schroder, the head of the country's largest superannuation fund, Australian Super,.

But alleged human rights abuses are what some want on the agenda during the whistle-stop tour.

Human Rights Watch's Asia director Elaine Pearson has urged Australia to not to repeat the "same mistakes it made with the Chinese government by pursuing deeper trade engagement while sidelining human rights concerns".

Asked whether human rights should be on the agenda, Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said India was a large democracy that shared values with Australia.

"We have never had a greater strategic alignment with India than we do right now. Both countries are deeply invested in the collective security of the Indo-Pacific region," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

India has snubbed global calls to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow remaining a large arms supplier to New Delhi.