Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, on Monday, held a virtual summit and discussed their commitment towards strengthening bilateral ties between both countries in sectors such as trade, mobility, education and critical minerals.

PM Modi, in the second India-Australia virtual summit, expressed delight over setting up a mechanism for the annual summit and said that the mechanism will help prepare a structural system for regular review of our relations.

PM Modi also thanked his Australian counterpart for the initiative to return ancient Indian artefacts. As many as 29 antiquities — consisting of sculptures and paintings executed in a variety of materials — have been repatriated to India. These artefacts belong to six broad categories on the themes of ‘Shiva and his disciples,’ ‘Worshipping Shakti,’ ‘Lord Vishnu and his forms,’ Jain tradition, portraits and decorative objects.

PM Modi further added that “Trade and investment, defense and security, education and innovation, science and technology — in all these sectors we have very close cooperation,” and stressed the importance of an early conclusion of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA ), which, according to Modi, is “crucial for our economic relations, economic revival and economic security.”

“There is also a good collaboration going on between us in Quad. Our cooperation reflects our commitment to free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific,” PM added.

Modi’s Australian counterpart Morrison, on the other hand, talked about the threat of increasing change in the Indo-Pacific region in the wake of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Australian PM Scott Morrison also said that Russia needs to be held accountable for the tragic loss of lives in Ukraine following its “terrible” invasion of that country.

Morrison, about China’s aggressive posture in the region, referred to the recent meeting of the leaders of the Quad countries on the Ukraine crisis and said it provided an opportunity to discuss the “implications and consequences” of the developments for the Indo-Pacific region.

He added, ”We are obviously distressed at the terrible situation in Europe though our focus is very much on Indo-Pacific.”

Modi, however, didn’t make any remark regarding the Russian invasion and focused on the shared values ​​and “remarkable progress” made in various sectors by the two countries.

(With input from agencies)