India-Aus friendship 10 out of 10, PM Modi an inspiring leader: Ex-Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull
JAIPUR — Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has rated the Australia-India friendship 10 out of 10 and called Prime Minister Narendra Modi an inspiring leader who is “making a huge difference”.
The bonhomie between the two leaders was visible in the many photos from Turnbull’s first visit to India in 2017. He has retired since and is currently touring India with his wife.
Turnbull, who is one of the speakers at the ongoing 17th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), recalled his “lovely visit” to India in 2017 and the time spent with PM Modi.
“I had a lovely visit here. I have seen him (Modi) in Japan recently at the funeral of our old friend Shinzo Abe… I enjoyed Mr Modi’s company enormously. I know he is controversial in his own country naturally. But from the outside, an inspiring leader and clearly making a huge difference,” Turnbull, the Liberal Party of Australia leader who served as the prime minister from 2015-2018, told PTI.
The 29th Australian prime minister said the two countries have got many things in common — the love for cricket, rule of law and democracy — and their friendship is “ten out of ten”. The only problem, he said, is “we don’t do enough trade”.
This issue, according to Turnbull, who is also an established businessman, was part of the conversation between him and Modi too.
“When we first met, Modi said ‘you have done a lot of international business in your life, you have done a lot of business with China, why have you done very little with India?’. I said, ‘Truthfully, India is too hard to do business in as a foreign investor and he acknowledged that,” Turnbull recalled.
It is “crazy” that China, a communist country, was an easier place to invest than India which is a democracy, he said.
Though he did not criticise India’s “strong protectionist tradition”, which the 69-year-old believes is something that every country manages in their own way, Turnbull admitted that Australia would like to have fewer trade barriers between the two countries.
He, however, did acknowledge some work accomplished towards achieving “closer economic partnerships’, the negotiations of which, he underscored, started during his tenure and finished fairly recently.
“Our trade relations have improved with the limited FTA (Free Trade Agreement) that we have but we have got a long way to go,” he added.
During the conversation, Turnbulll also talked about his autobiography, “A Bigger Picture”, his eventful life so far as a journalist, banker, lawyer, businessman, the PM of Australia, and why everyone should write about their life — “particularly if you are the PM of your country”.
“Someone told me once very wisely that ‘an older biography is a bit like a highlight, you can’t put everything in and you have got to focus on what are the key episodes or chapters of your life’.
“I tried very hard to make sure it was accurate. I encourage everyone to write, but particularly if you have been the PM and you have had an eventful life. I think in a way you owe it to history, to the people, to your country to set out your story. I mean it is my story but it really belongs to everyone else as much as it does to me,” said Turbull, who has authored several books including “The Spycatcher Trial” and “The reluctant Republic”.
He is scheduled to visit Gujarat, Varanasi, Agra and Delhi. Ask if he also plans to visit his friend PM Modi too, he goes: “Know what it is like to be the PM, he has got the country to run”.
“I am sure if I ask him to see me, he’ll be happy to see me. Really showing my respect for not trying to trespass on his time. There’s a saying in Australia, which I think would apply in every country, ‘the scarcest resource in the federal government is the prime minister’s time’,” he concluded.
Touted as the “biggest literary festival in the world”, the JLF 2024 will host some of the world’s best thinkers, writers, and speakers till February 5.