Bigger than the Boss: Modi madness hits
Anthony Albanese has welcomed his “dear friend” Narendra Modi to Australia in front of a roaring crowd of thousands of people at an event in Sydney, comparing him to rock star Bruce Springsteen.
The Prime Minister gave his Indian counterpart a bear hug when he arrived at Qudos Bank Arena on Tuesday night before introducing him as someone who “gets a rock star reception wherever he goes”.
“I said to my friend the prime minister, before the last time I saw someone on the stage here was Bruce Springsteen – and he didn’t get the welcome that Prime Minister Modi has got,” Mr Albanese told the 21,000-strong crowd.
Mr Albanese described the cheering audience — made up mainly of members of the Australian-Indian community — as friends who he said he was proud had made Australia their home.
“You make our nation and our shared communities better. You make Australia stronger,” he said.
Mr Albanese on Tuesday night thanked Mr Modi for “bringing the spirit of the world’s biggest democracy to Australia”, saying he had helped make our democracy stronger and more inclusive.
The two leaders also have plans to unveil a plaque foundation stone of the “Little India” gateway in Harris Park in Sydney’s west together.
In his brief opening remarks, Mr Albanese played up India and Australia’s connections and said he wanted to see the relationship between the two countries continue to grow including in the business and education sectors.
“We want to see more connections. More Australian and Indian students living and studying in each other’s countries, and bringing those experiences home,” he said.
“More business leaders and artists and families sharing your experiences and your knowledge and your ideas.”
Mr Albanese said he was reminded of his earlier travels to India as a 28-year-old when he returned to the country earlier this year as prime minister.
“It was a trip full of unforgettable moments: celebrating Holi in Gujarat, laying a wreath for the great Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi, and doing a lap of the incredible stadium at Ahmedabad on Day 1 of the fourth test,” he said.
“Everywhere I went, I felt that deep sense of connection between the people of Australia and the people of India.
“It’s a warmth I felt when I backpacked around India for 5 weeks in 1991 – if you want to understand India, travel by train and video bus.”
Mr Albanese and Mr Modi on Tuesday night announced the inaugural advisory board for the Centre for Australia-India Relations, which the federal government announced its plans to establish earlier this year.
Headquartered in Parramatta the centre’s mission is to work across government, industry, academia and the community to further foster ties between the two countries and encourage businesses to “seize the opportunities” of their economic partnership.
Universities Australia chief executive officer Catriona Jackson, former Australian cricket captain Adam Gilchrist, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Jan Adams and Commonwealth Bank executive Gunjan Pagare are among the appointments to the board.
Mr Albanese said the centre’s location in western Sydney was a “testament to the vitality of the Indian-Australian experience”, giving a shout out to the new Parramatta Lord Mayor — Sameer Pandey.
Mr Pandey was elected to the position just a day earlier, becoming the first mayor in Australia to be born in India.
Mr Modi’s trip to Australia comes after he met with Mr Albanese, US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima on the weekend.
The leaders were meant to hold a formal meeting of their quadrilateral security dialogue at Sydney’s Opera House this weekend, but those plans were scuppered when Mr Biden cancelled his trip to focus on congress negotiations in Washington.
Mr Modi was the only one of the three world leaders to make his trip to Sydney this week as planned.
Earlier on Tuesday, he met with prominent Australian business leaders including Gina Rinehart, AustralianSuper chief executive Paul Schroder and Fortescue Metals Group chairman Andrew Forrest in Sydney to discuss economic partnerships with Indian companies.