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Diaspora wants India-Australia ties to grow stronger: Ex-Consul General

The eight lakh-plus strong Indian diaspora in Australia wants the bilateral relationship to grow stronger and has no major expectations from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the country after eight years, says India’s former consulate-General to Sydney.

After attending key multilateral summits as part of his three-nation tour, Modi will land in Australia on May 23 to address more than 20,000 members of the Indian community at the Qudos Bank Arena Stadium in Sydney.

“There are no major expectations that the diaspora has from the visit, apart from seeing the bilateral relationship grow stronger. They feel a sense of pride at the honour bestowed on the prime minister by the Australian side,” Amit Dasgupta, Consul-General of India to Sydney from 2009 to 2012, told IANS.

“A transformation in the relationship occurred during the Prime Minister’s first visit and since then, all we have seen is a rapid growth in the bilateral relationship cutting across multiple verticals.”

In 2014, Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Australia after Rajiv Gandhi,
where he addressed 20,000 people at the Sydney SuperDome at Olympic Park and said that in coming years more Indian leaders would be visiting Down Under.

“The prime minister’s visit is a significant event, especially because he ensures special time in his schedule for interaction with the diaspora, and demonstrates, thereby, the importance he attaches to them,” Dasgupta, the Honorary Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia, said.

The visit comes at a crucial juncture when the Indian community faces the brunt of rising Khalistani extremism with their temples and establishments targeted and vandalised with anti-India graffiti.

While India has time and again registered a strong protest with the Australian government asking it to take swift action and bring perpetrators to the book, the attacks have continued, most recently with vandals attacking the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple with “declare Modi terrorist” graffiti.

“With the strengthening of India-Australia relations, it is time to firmly express concern that support to such persons is not in keeping with the spirit of a strategic partnership,” Dasgupta said.

According to a research paper by Dasgupta and Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International, the resident Indian community needs to find a common cause against the pro-Khalistan and anti-India groups.

“Relationship building succeeds only if it is a two-way process that reflects conscious action in favour of the other party’s concerns,” the paper said.

According to an Australia Today report, Indian community members have written a three-page long letter with 1623 signatures about pain and suffering of Australian Hindus and want to present it to Modi.

The Prime Minister’s primary reason for visiting Australia was the Quad Summit, which was cancelled after US President Joe Biden pulled out at the last minute.

The third in-person summit was instead held in Hiroshima on the sidelines of the G-7 summit on Saturday, where its leaders opposed “destabilising or unilateral actions that sought to change the status quo by force or coercion”, without naming China, which has aggressively pushed its territorial claims in the region, including against India.

While other leaders cancelled their visit to Australia, Modi, as he nears the end of his second term as India’s prime minister, chose to go ahead.

“Naturally it has worked out wonderfully, and the Australian government is making this a full-on Modi visit,” Dasgupta told IANS. The two nations share multiple interests and concerns in the Indo-Pacific region, which makes the visit opportune, he further said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese who visited India this year, formally extended the invite to his Indian counterpart.

This time, special “Modi Airways” flights have been arranged in Australia for those who will travel thousands of kilometres to hear the prime minister speak.

The Parramatta Council has formally extended an invitation to Modi to visit Harris Park, informally referred to as ‘Little India’, this time, according to Media reports.

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