India and Australia intend to begin civil nuclear cooperation talks in March in New Delhi, Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid said on Monday.
The decision that comes during a visit of his Australian counterpart follows, Canberra´s agreement last year to open negotiations to export uranium fuel to the energy-hungry third-largest economy in Asia.
"We shall be commencing negotiations on a Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement in March," Khurshid said, speaking to reporters at the end of his discussion with Carr.
Australia, which had earlier refused to sell uranium to India as it has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but reversed its stand last October, considers India a key part Australia´s future, Carr said on Monday.
The negotiations could last up to two years, the two sides said, adding that the first round of talks conducted by the Foreign Ministries of both countries will be held in Delhi.
Full text of Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid´s address at the Joint Media Interaction:
Your Excellency Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and friends from the media:
I have just had a very useful round of discussions with Senator Bob Carr, Foreign Minister of Australia. We held the eighth round of the Framework Dialogue between our two countries. The dialogue is an integral component of the strategic partnership between our countries which was agreed by our Prime Ministers in 2009.
We have reviewed the entire range of our bilateral relations as well as regional and global issues. We are pleased that our strategic partnership has grown in strength and expanded in scope. We also recognize that there are tremendous opportunities for much greater cooperation. We shall strive to attain all of them.
Our relations are based on shared interests and mutual benefit in political and security areas, our expanding economic and trade ties, our cooperation in the energy and resources sectors which is extremely important for India, collaboration in science and technology and research, and our meaningfully growing people-to-people links.
The State visit of the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to India last year was a landmark in our strategic partnership during which a number of agreements were signed and several new initiatives were launched. Senator Carr and I have reviewed the progress in the implementation of those decisions. We are satisfied with the scope and extent of progress made in various areas. We have strengthened our collaborative endeavours in several sectors and have opened up new areas of cooperation.
We held the first Ministerial level Energy Dialogue led by the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and the Australian Minister for Energy in December 2012. We shall be commencing negotiations on a civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement, led by our Ministry of External Affairs and the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in March 2013 in New Delhi. Our cooperation in water resources has expanded, and the Water Technology Partnership will take concrete shape at the next Joint Working Group in April 2013. And negotiations for the transfer of sentenced persons will commence shortly.
High level Ministerial level exchanges have taken place in several areas. We shall soon be hosting the Joint Commission between our Minister for Commerce and Industries and the Australian Trade Minister which will give impetus to our trade relations, currently at 21 billion Australian dollars.
Our trade negotiators have been engaged in broadening understanding towards a mutually beneficial CECA. Our investments in Australia have grown significantly in recent years, particularly in the resources sector. We have welcomed the Australian side to invest in the opportunities in India. Our Defence Minister will be visiting Australia soon for further discussions on cooperation in defence and security.
We highly value our cooperation in science and technology. Our scientists have been working together on research projects that address the needs of the people as well as the frontier areas of science. We are pleased with our cooperation in the education sector, which has been expanded by the inclusion of specific programmes on vocational skills. And establishment of such centres in India has also been given a stronger structure through close collaboration between the governments in addressing the needs of the student community in Australia both in terms of curriculum quality as well as safety issues.
On the regional and global issues, we have strengthened our cooperation and consultation. We recognize the importance of regional cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR-ARC) which has acquired a new momentum during our Chairmanship will continue the positive movement as Australia assumes the Chair for the next two years.
We have collaborated closely on our cooperative agenda with ASEAN and in East Asia Summit. We look forward to working closely with Brunei, the new ASEAN Chair in this effort. Similar cooperation has also furthered our objectives in ASEM and in G20. Australia will host the G20 Summit in 2014 and we look forward to close collaboration and consultation on global economic issues. We welcome Australia's role at the UNSC.
Our people-to-people exchanges have been intensified through closer cooperation on cultural, academic, sporting and other links, which have broadened our relationship and deepened our understanding of each other. I wish to congratulate Australia for hosting the Ozfest which has brought our people closer.
Our bilateral relations have shown steady progress over time with consolidation of our strategic partnership through expansion and deepening of cooperation in various sectors. We will continue to build upon these and also in new areas of cooperation. We shall play our due role in the transformations taking place in our region and be responsible partners in the emerging regional architecture.
I thank the Minister for a very very meaningful interaction.Australian Foreign Minister (Mr. Bob Carr): Thank you, Minister. It is a great honour to be here.
The focus of our talks, as you said, was on maintaining the momentum in the relationship between Australia and India following the successful visit to India by Prime Minister Gillard in October last year.
India is a key part of Australia's future. And our recent strategic document, Australia in the Asian Century, identified the relationship with India as being of crucial importance to Australia. I said to the Minister this is supported by Australian public opinion. Australian public opinion wants to see India and Australia get closer. This is underpinned by our common values, democracy, secular government, strong judicial systems, a robust freedom of expression, and shared interest in cricket. This is part of the dialogue between our countries that worked so well that we want to add momentum to the progress signaled by our Prime Minister's visit in October last year.
In that spirit, I am pleased that the announcement we are able to make today on the opening of talks on civil nuclear cooperation can be done. I am delighted to say the first round of negotiations on that cooperation agreement will take place in Delhi in March. I am pleased that we have been able to agree to work together on shared security challenges including joint efforts to combat terrorism, with Australia hosting the next meeting of the Joint Working Group we have on combating terrorism.
We agreed on an expanded bilateral dialogue on cyber policy. We discussed maritime security in the Indian Ocean. I welcome the forthcoming visit to Australia by Defence Minister of Antony which would be the first ever by an Indian Defence Minster to Australia. Again that is confirmation of how we are working more closely than ever in the past.
As two leading democracies in the region we want to do more to encourage engagement between our elected representatives. We have agreed to revitalize engagement between our Parliaments. As a first step, Australia will host a goodwill delegation of Indian MPs in February this year.
I am delighted to announce first phase of the Water Technology Partnership today with Australia committing a total of 12 billion dollars over four years. As a first step, we will pilot an Australian Water Management Tool in three States in eastern India, but also help improve flood warning systems and flood management in the Kosi river basin, and host a delegation to Australia to study our systems in the Murray Darling basin.
We are a nation that suffers drought. We have an erratic rainfall pattern of necessity. We have to learn some expertise in border management. We want to share what we have learnt.
We have already affirmed our mutual commitment to strengthen the East Asia Summit, and we agreed we would continue to cooperate closely in the G20, particularly in the lead up to Australia's chairmanship in 2014. Australia will host the next IOR-ARC Council of Minister's meeting in Perth in November when we take over its chair from India.
Our Minister for Trade will visit India later this month to advance our Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement negotiations. We agreed to work towards a date in 2013 for the next round of negotiations on social security agreement.
So, our discussions were broad and are fruitful. We reaffirmed that our interest whether economic and strategic are converging in a way they have never done before. Australia and India are getting closer as strategic partners. Minister, thank you.