A little over two years ago, shortly after I became Australia’s Prime Minister, President Ram Nath Kovind visited our shores. Together, we travelled to Parramatta, in Sydney, to unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi and observe multicultural Australia in action. It was a moment I cherish.
That same day, the President spoke of “our togetherness”. When settlers first arrived in Australia in the 18th century, it was India that provided supplies to nourish and house them. This was the beginning of “the India connect” that saw us fight together – “in trenches and faraway lands” – and it continues to grow to this day.
Just over a century ago, one of Australia’s early Prime Ministers Alfred Deakin had a lifelong love of India. For a time, he lived in India, then wrote about it. He wrote this about our two countries: the distance which separates us … is being steadily diminished … year by year.
It is a remarkable history, and our times are drawing us closer. Our nations are guided by the same ideals: of democracy, freedom, and the rule of law. And we celebrate these values today – January 26 – as we both mark our national days; a wonderful coincidence of history.
The steady gains we have made over many decades, and especially in recent times, are impressive. But if there was ever a year that might have threatened that progress, it was 2020.
Covid-19 has claimed lives and livelihoods around the world. It has kept us apart from our families, friends and loved ones, and made even the smallest geographical distance seem like a chasm.