Human rights abuses in spotlight during Indian PM visit

·3-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

Education, critical minerals and Chinese supply chain dominance have been flagged as important topics for discussion during a visit to Australia by India's prime minister.

But the federal government is under pressure to also raise human rights abuses with Narendra Modi.

Human Rights Watch's Asia director Elaine Pearson wants Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to raise the plight of Muslim and minority communities in India.

Crackdowns on freedom of speech meant Mr Modi had been shielded from public criticism of human rights abuses, she said.

"The Australian government should view his visit to Sydney as a key opportunity to raise with him the criticisms and concerns he doesn't hear in India," Ms Pearson told AAP.

"Muslims and Christians have faced discrimination, threats and violent attacks.

"Draconian laws are regularly used to target journalists, civil society groups and government critics."

Greens senator David Shoebridge said Australia should have a strong relationship with India, but it should be "a friendship of truth".

"We have said repeatedly that the degrading human rights situation in India, the lack of freedom of the press needs to be an issue that is squarely raised," he said.

India's high commissioner to Australia Manpreet Vohra doesn't think the issue will be raised in discussions, saying stories about vandalisation of temples and violence and intimidation could have been perpetrated by a small number of people.

"There is action being taken against the violators by the authorities over there and I don't think that is going to impact the overall importance or the smooth nature of how the visit will proceed," he told ABC radio.

"So we'll see about who raises what and how it has to be responded to but I don't anticipate that any of this is at all on the agenda of the Australian government."

Indo-Pacific security expert Ashok Sharma says Indians across the board had benefited under Mr Modi's tenure, arguing criticism was driven by political motives.

Australia and India needed to work together to shore up regional security against Chinese dominance, he said.

There was also a role for both nations to play alongside the United States to boost research and share technology, especially critical minerals and renewable energy.

"Both countries have got to do a lot of work on this, China is trying to dominate this space, both commercially and with critical minerals," Dr Sharma told AAP.

The relationship between Canberra and New Delhi had grown at a rapid pace, including through defence co-operation and military training exercises.

"We need to establish Indo-Pacific security," he said.

"Australia and India also have to work on non-traditional security initiatives, including on climate change."

Mr Modi's visit, the first in eight years, includes meetings with the Indian diaspora in Australia. 

He will hold talks with Mr Albanese and meet local Indian businesses in western Sydney for the unveiling of a foundation stone at the entrance to "Little India" at Harris Park.

The talks will focus on clean energy, the transition to net zero carbon emissions, defence co-operation, and growing bilateral investment.

Mr Albanese said Australia and India shared a commitment to a stable, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

"As friends and partners, the relationship between our countries has never been closer," he said.

Mr Albanese plans to visit India in September for a meeting of G20 leaders in New Delhi.