India’s Modi hosts Australia PM at stadium named after him

Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi inaugurate cricket match between their teams at Ahmedabad stadium named after the Indian PM.

The prime ministers of India and Australia have lent a touch of cricket diplomacy to their ties as they inaugurated a test match between their two teams at a stadium named after Narendra Modi in the western city of Ahmedabad.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Indian host Modi on Thursday handed caps emblazoned with national emblems to rival captains Steve Smith and Rohit Sharma.

The two prime ministers clasped their hands and raised them as thousands of cricket fans cheered the two leaders who went around the stadium and later sat down to watch the start of the game.

Modi and Albanese also saw a photo exhibition highlighting their countries’ cricketing ties.

The India-Australia cricket rivalry is considered one of the most intense in the world, comparable to the Ashes test series played between England and Australia.

The opposition Congress party slammed Modi for attending the event at a stadium named after him.

“Doing a lap of honour in a stadium you named after yourself in your own lifetime – height of self-obsession,” party leader Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet.

Modi with Albanese, second left, raise their hands with Indian and Australian cricket team captains Rohit Sharma, right, and Steven Smith at the start of the match in Ahmedabad [Ajit Solanki/AP]

Albanese arrived on Wednesday in Ahmedabad, a key city in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, at the start of his four-day visit to India.

He paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, India’s independence leader, during a visit to the Sabarmati Ashram, which was one of Gandhi’s abodes in India. Albanese later attended a cultural event related to the Holi festival at the state governor’s residence.

Albanese will leave later on Thursday for Mumbai, where he will visit India’s homemade aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was commissioned into the Indian Navy in September.

The two leaders will hold official talks on Friday in New Delhi.

India Australia Cricket
Australia’s Usman Khawaja during the cricket test match with India in Ahmedabad [Ajit Solanki/AP]

“Australia and India are important partners,” Albanese said in Perth before leaving for India. “We share common values. We are both vibrant democracies. We have an interest in improving our economic relations.”

He said India, along with Indonesia, would grow to be the third and fourth-largest economies in the world, which presented “an incredible opportunity” for Australia.

India’s goods exports to Australia stood at $8.3bn and imports from the country aggregated to $16.75bn in 2021-22, according to the economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative.

While India’s exports range from agriculture, garments and railway engines to telecom, 95 percent of India’s imports from Australia are raw materials and mining products needed by Indian industry.

Both leaders have expressed their commitments to a “free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”. They stress the progress of the Quad, an alliance of Australia, India, Japan and the United States, that aims to counter China’s rising influence in Asia.

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