Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on Thursday held the first ever India-Australia virtual bilateral summit.

Addressing the virtual meet, PM Modi first offered his condolences to the people affected by the Coronavirus pandemic in Australia.

“India-Australia relations have deepened. And this depth comes from our shared values, shared interests, shared geography and shared objectives,” PM Modi said in his opening remarks.

Speaking to Scott Morrison, he said “this is the perfect time to further strengthen relations between India and Australia.

“There are endless opportunities to strengthen our friendship,” he said, but added that “it also brings with it challenges to turn this potential into reality and how our relation becomes a factor of stability for the region”.

He stressed that India is committed to strengthening its relations with Australia, adding that this was not only important for the two nations but also for the Indo-Pacific region and the whole world.

Prime Minister Modi told Morrison that the India government has taken the decision to view the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity.

“In India, a process of comprehensive reforms has been initiated in almost all areas and very soon, its result will be seen at the ground level,” he added.

PM Modi also thanked Scott Morrison for helping the India diaspora, especially the students in Australia during this time of crisis.

Prime Minister Morrison, on his part, thanked Modi for his leadership and playing a “constructive” as well a “very positive” role not just in India but throughout G20 and Indo-Pacific region during the Coronavirus crisis.

Sharing a light moment with PM Modi, Morrison said, “It doesn’t surprise me; this is how (virtually) we’d continue to meet in these circumstances. You are the one who started hologram in your campaigning many years ago, maybe next time we can have a hologram of you here.” On this, PM Modi has a hearty laugh.

Further on, the Australian PM said that his country is “committed to an open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region” where India’s role “will be critical in the years ahead”.

“We share an ocean and we share responsibility for that ocean as well, its health, well being and security. The relationship we are forming around those issues on our maritime domain, I think is the platform for so many other things between our countries,” Scott Morrison added.

Morrison also commended India on its leadership on taking the Chair of WHO’s executive board. “This is a very important time to be chairing that board and I have no doubt that India’s leadership will be critical in dealing with difficult problems globally, particularly in the health area,” he said.

A joint statement said that both the sides agreed to continue to deepen and broaden defence cooperation by enhancing the scope and complexity of their military exercises and engagement activities to develop new ways to address shared security challenges. The two nations also agreed to increase military inter-operability through defence exercises through the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement (MLSA).

The joint declaration further stated that India and Australia are committed to supporting a rules-based maritime order that is based on respect for sovereignty and international law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Following the discussion, PM Modi, in a tweet, described the meeting as a “new model of India-Australia partnership” and a “new model of conducting business”.

The Prime Minister said that the two leaders had an “outstanding” discussion, covering the entire expanse of our relationship.

“With comprehensive strategic partnership between India and Australia, we aspire to achieve yet new heights in our collaboration,” another tweet read.

Earlier in the day, Morrison had tweeted that he was looking forward to catching up with Prime Minister Modi for the first-ever virtual Australia-India summit.

PM Modi also replied back saying that he too was glad over the same.

“India-Australia ties have always been close. As vibrant democracies, from Commonwealth to Cricket to even Cuisine, our people-to-people relations are strong and the future is bright!” PM Modi tweeted.

Officials in New Delhi argue that as two democratic nations, India and Australia have developed an understanding of each other’s perspectives on regional and global issues.

“We have a shared approach to a free open, inclusive, and prosperous Indo-Pacific. This has led to convergence of mutual interest in many areas. The relations are strong not only at the bilateral level, but also at the plurilateral level,” an official said.

Australia supports India’s membership of the NSG and an expanded UNSC. It has also backed India’s demand that Pakistan must take meaningful action against terror groups operating from its soil. Besides, it co-sponsored a UNSC resolution to declare Azhar Masood a global terrorist. Australia holds the view that recent developments with regard to J&K are India’s internal matter.

Officials in Delhi point out that the two nations have much in common, underpinned by shared values of pluralistic, Westminster-style democracies, Commonwealth traditions, the long-standing people-to-people ties, and sporting links.

“Our economies have many complementarities with potential to enhance bilateral trade and investment,” an official said.

In the recent past, Modi and Morrison have had some friendly exchanges on social media.

In a surprising turn of events, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had brought up the Asian snack – home-cooked samosas on Twitter.

“Sunday ScoMosas with mango chutney, all made from scratch – including the chutney,” he wrote and tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

PM Modi was quick to respond and said on Twitter: “Connected by the Indian Ocean, united by the Indian Samosa!”

In June last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison shared some light moments with the both sharing the screen space in a selfie as the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan’s Osaka.

Australian PM Scott Morrison clicked a selfie with PM Modi and posted it on Twitter with the caption: “Kithana acha he Modi!” (How good is Modi).

PM Modi took the bonhomie a step further with a unique reply, “Mate, I’m stoked about the energy of our bilateral relationship!”