With English Vinglish and defence pact, PM wows Oz

  • Updated: Nov 19, 2014 01:25 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi put several “runs on the board” on Tuesday as he signed a raft of agreements, including one on defence cooperation, with Australia and became the first Indian premier to address the Australian Parliament.

Modi, who was given a rock star welcome in Sydney on Monday, extracted a promise from Australia to sell uranium to India as well as fast-track a pending bilateral free trade agreement.

India and Australia signed on Tuesday a deal on a new framework for security cooperation across the spectrum in defence, cyber and maritime security and combating terrorism, including threats posed by foreign fighters joining extremists groups. Agreements on drug control, social security, culture and tourism were also signed.

Addressing legislators in English, Modi said the two sides “agreed on seeking early closure on the civil nuclear agreement (signed two months ago), which will give Australia a chance to participate in one of the most secure and safe nuclear energy programme in the world”.

Australian premier Tony Abbott said Modi has “runs on the board” to meet the aspirations of the people.

“If all goes to plan, next year, an Indian company will begin Australia’s largest-ever coal development programme, which will light up the lives of a hundred million Indians for the next half a century. And, if all goes to plan, Australia will export uranium to India, because cleaner energy is one of the most important contributions that Australia can make to the wider world,” he said.

“If all goes to plan, by the end of next year we will have a free trade deal with what is potentially the world’s largest market,” he said, effectively bringing forward the free trade agreement deadline from 2016 to 2015.

When Modi’s turn came to bat, he said: “We celebrate the legend of Don Bradman and the class of Sachin Tendulkar together. We are impressed by Australian speed as you are charmed by the Indian spin until, of course, Shane Warne came along!”

The remark went viral and news portal news.com.au picked a light-hearted line to flag its story on Modi: “If all else fails, make a joke about Warnie.”

He began his speech ribbing his host. “(As) the third head of the government you are listening to this week, I do not know how you are doing this. Maybe this is prime minister Abbott’s way of shirtfronting you!” he said, drawing laughter from the MPs and a smile from Abbott.

Abbott made “shirtfront” — a head-on shoulder charge to an opponent’s chest in Australian Rules Football — a global concept when he threatened to do it to Vladimir Putin at the G20 over the crisis in Ukraine.

Modi met industry leaders later in Melbourne and attended a reception at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

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