Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese landed in India on Wednesday for a four-day trip that will focus on deepening the bilateral ties between the former colonies.
Mr Albanese, 60, landed at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.
It is his first trip to India since taking office in May last year.
He is being accompanied by Trade and Tourism Minister Don Farrell, Resources Minister Madeleine King and more than 25 business leaders from the resources, education and IT sectors, among others.
“We have a historic opportunity to strengthen our relationship with India, at a time of extraordinary growth and dynamism in our region,” he said before boarding the plane for Ahmedabad.
“This trip demonstrates our commitment to deepening our links with India, and to being a force for stability and growth in our region.”
He was welcomed at the airport by Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and the two leaders headed straight to Sabarmati Ashram — the former home of Mahatma Gandhi. He later attended a Holi event at Raj Bhavan, the official residence of governor of Gujarat.
Mr Albanese will watch the first day of the fourth test match between India and Australia with Mr Modi at the world's largest cricket stadium, named after the Indian Prime Minister, on Thursday.
Mr Modi said he was “looking forward to deliberations with his Australian counterpart” to further deepen friendship between two countries.
Mr Albanese will hold bilateral talks with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Mr Modi separately on Friday as well as hold engagements with business communities in Mumbai — the financial capital.
The two nations share strong economic relations. While India is Australia's ninth largest trading partner, Australia is the 17th largest trading partner of India.
The countries have an Economic Co-operation and Trade Deal, signed last year, designed to double the trade between the nations in the next five years by providing supply chain support for critical minerals from Australia to India as well as opening up possibilities in pharmaceuticals and medicines shipped from India to Australia.
Australia is also one of the top destinations for skilled immigrants from India. There are nearly 976,000 people in Australia of Indian ancestry. It is also a popular destination for university students.
The two countries also regularly conduct joint military drills and naval exercises.
India and Australia are also part of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, commonly known as the Quad — a loose strategic alliance between the India, Australia, US and Japan, aimed at ensuring “free and open maritime navigation” in the Asia-Pacific, where Beijing is developing military and civilian infrastructure.
Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong was in New Delhi to participate in the G20 Foreign Ministers' meeting and later attended a discussion with Mr Jaishankar, where she called India a “a critical power” in the Asia-Pacific region.