India and Australia are on course to ink an early harvest trade deal by the end of this month while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is set to unveil a Rs 1,500-crore investment package to boost bilateral ties at a virtual summit with PM Narendra Modi on Monday.
The likely finalisation of the early harvest or 'phase-one' of the ambitious free trade agreement was confirmed by Australian High Commissioner to India Barry O'Farrell on Sunday.
"We are hopeful of signing the phase one (early harvest) trade deal by end of this month," O'Farrell told reporters.
Monday's summit follows the historic first virtual summit between Modi and Morrison in June 2020, when the India-Australia relationship was elevated to a 'Comprehensive Strategic Partnership'.
Diplomatic sources said Morrison will announce an investment package of Rs 1,500 crore (280 million Australian dollar) to boost ties with India that will include Rs 183 crore for cooperation in clean technology and critical minerals and Rs 136 crore for enhancing ties in the space sector.
At the summit, the two sides are expected to make a specific announcement on cooperation in rare earth minerals. Australia accounts for 55 per cent of global lithium production and it possesses over 20 per cent of global lithium deposits.
India has been showing keenness in boosting bilateral cooperation with Australia in the rare earth minerals sector.
The sources said Rs 152 crore out of the total package will be set aside for setting up of new centres to further enhance bilateral ties and a separate amount of Rs 97 crore will be for skill development programmes.
"The summit will emphasise that Australia and India are top tier partners and we will deliver wider ambition and practical progress for the relationship," said a source.
It said Modi and Morrison will focus on building a robust bilateral architecture in the post-pandemic world.
"Prime Minister Morrison will make announcements on a range of creative new initiatives to lift the relationship to even a higher level," the source said.
The financial package of Rs 1,500 crore will form the largest ever Australian government investment in the India-Australia bilateral relationship, the sources said.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said Modi and Morrison are expected to commit to closer bilateral ties in trade, critical minerals, migration and mobility, and education.
"The virtual summit will lay the way forward on new initiatives and enhanced cooperation in a diverse range of sectors between India and Australia," it said.
"Prime Minister Modi and I will discuss deepening our trade and investment relationship and harnessing new economic opportunities to support our mutual economic recovery and growth," Morrison said in a statement on Friday.
Ties between India and Australia have been on an upswing in the last few years.
In June 2020, India and Australia signed a landmark deal for reciprocal access to military bases for logistics support.
The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) allows militaries of the two countries to use each other's bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, besides facilitating scaling up of overall defence cooperation.
The Australian Navy was part of the Malabar naval exercise hosted by India in November 2020 as well as last year.
The navies of the US and Japan were also part of it. Australia was part of the Malabar exercise this year as well.
Copyright©2022 Living Media India Limited. For reprint rights: Syndications Today