Abbott arrives in India, nuke deal on agenda

RSTV Bureau
Maharashtra Governor C Vidhyasagar Rao with the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott at a meeting in Mumbai.

Maharashtra Governor C Vidhyasagar Rao with the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott at a meeting in Mumbai.

Amidst indications that a nuclear deal could be in the top agenda, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrived Thursday morning on a two-day India visit during which the two countries will look forward to strengthen their strategic ties including trade and commerce.

PM Abbott landed in the financial capital, on a day-long visit during which he will interact with business leaders and select Indian CEOs.

Abbott is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of sports but details of the MoU have not been disclosed so far.

He will also lay a wreath at the memorial for the victims of 26/11 attacks at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, one of the scenes of the ghastly terror assault in 2008.

Talking about the nuclear deal with parliament on the eve of his visit to India between the countries he said, “I am hoping to sign a nuclear co-operation agreement that will enable uranium sales by Australia to India,”.

To prove his priority to give uranium to India he also said on Tuesday that if Australia was prepared to sell uranium to Russia then “surely we ought to be prepared to provide uranium to India under suitable safeguards”, noting it was a “fully functioning democracy with the rule of law”.

India is not a signatory to the NPT, but Abbott has stressed that Australia will ensure adequate bilateral safeguards before any deal is signed.

After failure to conclude a civil nuclear deal with Japan during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to that country, if inked, the pact with Australia, which has about a third of the world’s recoverable uranium resources and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes a year, would boost India’s energy sector.

A clutch of pacts in areas including mining, finance and education could be signed.

He will also attend the launch of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan in India and also present for felicitation of young cricketers by Oz cricket greats Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee at Cricket Club of India. India’s cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar will also attend the ceremony.

After being accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning, Abbott will lay wreaths at Rajghat and India Gate before meeting Prime Minister Modi at Hyderabad House.

Abbott is scheduled to hold talks with top Indian leadership in Delhi including President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday.