Albanese arrives in India to a traditional Gujarati welcome

Tributes at Sabarmati, Mahatma Gandhi's ashram, are first on the agenda as Anthony Albanese arrives in India

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It was Holi as Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese arrived in India, landing at Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, to start his first Prime Ministerial visit to India.

Accompanied by 25 of the top business leaders from Australia, PM “Albo” Albanese was welcomed at the airport by Minister of State, Jagdish Vishwakarma, and Bhupendrabhai Patel, Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Albanese in India

The ceremonial welcome included a greeting, garland of flowers and a performance by traditional Gujarati dancers. (Gulal, the coloured powder thrown around at Holi, failed to make an appearance until a bit later, however).

One of his first ports of call was to Sabarmati Ashram in Gandhinagar, the home of Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, from 1917 to 1930.

The cultural immersion aside, Mr Albanese also got down to work early on, his first engagement being in education, the leading sector of connect.

He announced the launch of Deakin University’s international teaching campus in India, the first overseas university in India tohdo this. The state-of-the-art campus in the heart of the smart business district GIFT City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) will give students access to the university’s post-graduate courses.

On the occasion, Deakin University Vice Chancellor Professor Iain Martin said Deakin’s approach was ‘in India, with India, for India’ and that as the university prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024, opening a new India campus marked an exciting new chapter.

Mr. Albanese also announced the Australia–India Education Qualifications Recognition Mechanism. The mechanism allows Australian qualifications to be recognised in India and Indian qualification to be recognised in Australia. It is the most “comprehensive and ambitious arrangement agreed to by India with any country,” he said.

Also announced, were the Maitri Scholarships — for Indian students to study in Australia for up to four years. The scholarships are part of the wider Maitri program that seeks to boost cultural, educational and community ties between Australia and India.

Taking over later, was some Holi bonhomie. Courtesy  hosts Chief Minister of Gujarat Bhupendrabhai Patel and Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat, it involved flower petals, gulal, tikkas… and the widest of smiles. Captured on camera, these images are now going viral in Australia’s India community.

On Thursday 9 March, the two Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Anthony Albanese will attend the opening day of the Fourth Test match at the Narendra Modi Stadium. Both PMs will present the team players with their playing caps and are expected to spend about an hour at the cricket. This public appearance in front of an expected 100,000 plus crowd will be a welcome start for PM Albanese in a cricket-mad nation.

Prior to leaving for India, PM Albanese emphasised the importance of his visit at a Perth stopover. “This is an important visit. It will be my fourth meeting with Prime Minister Modi. One of the first things I did as Prime Minister was travel to the Quad Leaders Meeting in Tokyo on May 24 of last year. Australia and India are important partners. We share common values. We are both vibrant democracies. We have an interest in improving our economic relations, and the Varghese Report provides a blueprint that hasn’t been fulfilled enough. This visit will be accompanied by 25 senior business leaders, CEOs of major Australian corporations, leaders of universities, leaders of IT companies, resources, and other companies who want to improve the relationship with India. India is currently our sixth largest trading partner, but they can be much larger in the future. And here in Western Australia we see the importance of the Indian Ocean. The truth is that India, along with Indonesia, will grow to be the third and fourth largest economies in the world in coming years. That presents an incredible opportunity for Australia. And during this visit I will be giving at least seven speeches over the coming days, talking about the opportunities which are there, to have increased people-to-people relations, to educational transfers, increased two-way investment, increased engagement between our business communities. And I think it is an enormous opportunity for Australia.”

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