Taking their bilateral ties to new heights, India and Australia marked a landmark civil nuclear deal on Friday that will pave way for Canberra to supply uranium to the energy-starved country even as the two sides decided to step up cooperation in defence, security and trade.
The nuclear pact was signed following a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott during which the two leaders deliberated on crucial bilateral, regional and international issues including the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Ukraine.
Welcoming the signing of the agreement, PM Modi said it was a “historic milestone” in bilateral relationship.
“It is a reflection of a new level of mutual trust and confidences in our relationship and will open a new chapter in our bilateral cooperation. It will support India’s efforts to fuel its growth with clean energy and minimise the carbon footprint of its growth,” he said at a joint press briefing with Australian PM Tony Abbott.
On his part, Abbott termed the day as “remarkable” for him as well as for Indo-Aus ties and said Australia “trusts India to do the right thing (in the nuclear area) as it has been doing in other areas” and his country is happy to help in meeting energy demand of 1.2 billion-strong India.
Noting that Australia has received commitments from India that uranium supplied by it would not be used in Indian nuclear weapons or be used to quarantine Indian domestic supplies of uranium for nuclear weapons, Abbott has said “India has an absolutely impeccable non-proliferation record and India has been a model international citizen.”
PM Modi also advocated the strong relationship with Australia and said that India and Australia must not only work together with a sense of priority to promote peace and prosperity in Asia, Pacific and Indian Ocean Region, but also take on the responsibility of bringing together all other countries in this endeavour. He also added, “We will also increase our security cooperation to counter terrorism, cyber threats and other security challenges.”
Abbott, who is on a two-day visit, landed in Mumbai early Thursday where he held extensive meetings with business leaders and select Indian CEOs.
Noting that India and Australia were bound by “strongly convergent” trade and strategic interests, the visiting dignitary has said, “We do need to invest more time and effort into the trade and investment relationship with India.”
The two-way trade was worth around 15 billion dollars but the aim was to substantially grow this figure, the Australian leader said.
India and Australia, which has about a third of the world’s recoverable uranium resources and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes of it a year, launched talks on uranium sales in 2012 after Canberra lifted a long-time ban on exporting the valuable yellowcake to Delhi to meet its ambitious nuclear energy programme.