Australian leader plans meeting with Biden after India trip

Some media have speculated that Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could join Biden and Albanese in the US to make a joint announcement about an agreement among the three nations

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2022.POOL (REUTERS)

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Wednesday he plans to meet with President Joe Biden in the United States following a trip to India this week, amid speculation the leaders will make an announcement about Australia’s plans to build nuclear submarines.

Albanese gave few details of the US trip, saying there would be further announcements about the arrangements. Albanese is visiting India through Saturday.

Some media have speculated that Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak could join Biden and Albanese in the US to make a joint announcement about the agreement among the three nations, which would see Australia build a fleet of nuclear submarines powered by US technology.

Albanese on Wednesday wouldn’t say if he expected Sunak to also travel to the US.

“I’ll look forward to the continuing engagement that I have with the US administration,” Albanese said.

Albanese made the remarks to reporters at Perth Airport before boarding his plane to India.

He was welcomed later Wednesday in Ahmedabad in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat, at the start of his four-day visit.

Albanese paid tributes to Mohandas 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 Hindu Holi festival at the state governor’s residence.

On Thursday, Modi and Albanese are scheduled to spend some time watching a cricket match between the visiting Australian team and its Indian rivals in Ahmedabad.

Albanese will later leave for Mumbai, where he will visit India’s home-made aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which was commissioned into the Indian navy in September. The two leaders will hold official talks in New Delhi on Friday.

“Australia and India are important partners,” Albanese said in Perth. “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.

The previous Australian government infuriated France in 2021 by canceling a $66 billion contract for a French-built fleet of conventionally powered submarines and opting instead for nuclear-powered versions in a deal secretly brokered with the US and Britain.

The deal came amid concern in Australia and the US about China’s increasingly assertive presence in the Pacific region.

Albanese has stood by the AUKUS agreement to embrace nuclear technology. An announcement on whether Australia will opt for a version of the US Virginia-class or British Astute-class submarines is expected soon.

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