Australia said Tuesday it wants to take its relationship with India to “a new level” as it hosted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a visit focused on trade, with little attention to his government’s treatment of minorities.

The Australian government was seduced by the growing trade with India and the possibility of having an ally to confront China’s growing military, diplomatic and economic influence in the Pacific.

Modi will address some 18,000 supporters at Sydney’s Qudos Bank Arena in the evening, where Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to be present, in a show of support for the Hindu nationalist leader.

Australia and India have a great “strategic alignment,” said Australian Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles.

“He really deserves the opportunity to take the relationship to a new level,” Marles told ABC national television, echoing what Modi said ahead of his arrival Monday on his first visit to Australia since 2014.

Asked whether Australia would address the treatment of Muslims and other minorities in India, Marles declined to go into details about a planned Modi-Albanese meeting Wednesday in Sydney.

“In the end we are two democracies and that shapes the way we see the world,” Marles said, recalling their growing trade and defense relationship.

India is a “massive growth economy, there are huge opportunities for us,” he said.

– Blatant” attacks on minorities –

By contrast, the U.S. State Department weeks ago urged India to condemn religious violence, releasing a report on attacks on minorities, including Muslims and Christians, in the world’s most populous country.

Human rights groups say India’s 200 million Muslims face increasing discrimination and violence since Modi and his nationalist BJP party came to power in 2014.

On his visit to Australia, Modi will reach out to his country’s second-largest diaspora, with 673,000 citizens of Indian origin based in the country of 26 million people.

But much of that Indian community is opposed to Modi’s treatment of minorities, said Bilal Rauf, spokesman for the Australian National Council of Imams.

“We are very concerned with his visit and the way he has been received without addressing any of the issues raised in his own country,” Rauf told AFP.

He said there are concerns about the treatment of minority groups such as Muslims and Kashmiri villagers.

The two countries want to expand bilateral trade, which reached $31,000 last year and should grow after a free trade agreement comes into force in December.

Modi is the leading international figure in Australia after U.S. President Joe Biden canceled a planned visit to Sydney over debt ceiling negotiations in his country.

Jay Shah, director of the India-Australia Diaspora Foundation, anticipated “euphoria” at Modi’s Sydney stadium event.

Asked about the issue of minorities in India, Shah said he did not understand the allegations against the government. “We respect all diverse opinions,” he told AFP.

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