‘Modi is the boss’: Australia welcomes Indian leader like a rock star


Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, comparing him to US rock star Bruce Springsteen in a gushing introductory speech to a packed stadium on Tuesday.

Modi is making his first visit to Sydney in nine years as he prepares to contest next year’s national elections – and as Australia seeks to build economic bridges with the world’s most populous market at one time where relations with another Asian giant, China, have soured. .

Standing on stage at the Qudos Bank Arena on Tuesday, a sprawling entertainment venue in the capital’s Olympic Park, Albanese played emcee and warm-up.

“The last time I saw anyone on stage here was Bruce Springsteen, and he didn’t get the welcome Prime Minister Modi got,” Albanese said.

“You have brought the spirit of the greatest democracy in the world to Australia,” Albanese said of his “dear friend”, adding that the Indian leader has helped strengthen Australian democracy.

“Prime Minister Modi is the boss!” he added to thunderous applause of a crowd dominated by Australia’s Indian diaspora.

Originally planned as a summit for leaders of the Quad, which includes the United States and Japan, Modi’s trip to Australia comes as Canberra tries to strengthen its relationship with New Delhi in a bid to develop economic ties and strengthen their strategic partnership, as the West attempts to thwart the rise of an increasingly assertive China.

“In the parlance of cricket, our ties have gone into T20 mode,” Modi said in a joint appearance with Albanese. “Our democratic values ​​are the foundation of our ties. Our relationships are based on mutual trust and respect. The Australian Indian community is a living bridge between our countries.

Modi also met with several “prominent Australian personalities”, according to an Indian government statement, including international chef Sarah Todd and Australian singer Guy Sebastian.

In a series of videos posted on Modi’s Twitter account, several such figures were filmed praising the leader.

“He was so warm and kind,” Sebastian said of their interaction.

Its warm welcome is symbolic of its immense public appeal to many Indians living abroad, as well as its emergence as a key player in the world order.

But the leader and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are also coming under increasing scrutiny for a crackdown on free speech and discriminatory policies towards minority groups in the secular democracy of 1.4 billion, something the Western leaders rarely address it publicly during Modi’s visit.

Asked by reporters whether Albanese will pressure Modi on some of these issues, the Australian leader sidestepped the question, saying he has a “respectful” relationship with his Indian counterpart.

“India is, of course, the largest democracy in the world. Here in Australia, of course, people have the right to express their opinions peacefully, and people, we all have different opinions about people in politics,” Albanese said. “Australia, of course, always stands up for human rights wherever they happen in the world.”

India has also repeatedly abstained in votes condemning Russia at the United Nations, instead reiterating the need for ‘diplomacy and dialogue’, while buying huge amounts of oil from Moscow despite sanctions. Western forces against the invasion of Ukraine.

Albanese said he respects that India “is responsible for its own international relations” and acknowledged the South Asian nation’s history of non-alignment.

“India is a great supporter of peace, security and stability in our region,” he said.

Members of the Australian Indian community await the arrival of Prime Minister Modi at the Qudos Bank Arena on May 23 in Sydney, Australia.

Modi’s visit to Australia caps off a busy week of diplomatic activity and travel.

Over the weekend he was in Papua New Guinea, where he met Prime Minister James Marape and pledged his support for the Pacific Islands.

A few days earlier, Modi had met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan – the first time they had met face to face since the start of the Russian invasion.

And next month, US President Joe Biden will welcome Modi to the White House.

Modi’s diplomatic wave comes in a pivotal year for the leader.

India assumed the presidency of the Group of 20 (G20) this year, hosting a series of important events in the country, while presenting itself as a leader of the global South. Modi is also preparing for an election year in 2024, seeking to secure a momentous second decade in power.

And as India grows ever closer to the West and its allies, critics have accused Western leaders of turning a blind eye to some of the alleged human rights abuses in New Delhi taking place at home. them.

Earlier this year, India banned a BBC documentary criticizing Modi’s alleged role in the deadly 2002 Gujarat riots, in which more than 1,000 people – mostly Muslims – were killed, in a gesture castigated by defenders of freedom of expression.

In March, Rahul Gandhi, the former leader of India’s main opposition political party and one of the few figures with the star power and name recognition needed to challenge Modi, was stripped of his lawmaking status after have been given a two-year term. prison sentence for defamation.

BJP critics and Gandhi supporters say the case is politically motivated.

Earlier this month, Modi’s party lost its only stronghold in the south of the country after the state of Karnataka voted in favor of Gandhi’s Congress Party.


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