India, Australia to begin talks on civil nuclear pact (With Image)

Last Updated: Mon, Jan 21, 2013 13:10 hrs

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) India and Australia will begin negotiations on a bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation pact in March.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid announced this Monday at a joint media interaction after talks with visiting Australian counterpart, Bob Carr.

"Australian and Indian officials will be working to conclude the agreement which will enable the export of uranium from Australia to India," said Carr.

"A sense of urgency and purpose will be there. We will move swiftly," Khurshid said.

The two sides held the eighth round of their framework dialogue, an integral part of the strategic partnership, here and reviewed the entire gamut of their bilateral ties as well as regional and global issues during their talks.

Australia, the world's third-largest exporter of uranium, had agreed to start negotiations on a civil nuclear deal with India during the visit of Prime Minister Julia Gillard to New Delhi last October.

In December 2011, Gillard's Labour Party had overturned its long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India.

India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has in the past prevented Australia from supplying it with uranium.

The two countries discussed matters of shared security, including support for Afghanistan, maritime security in the Indian ocean, joint efforts to combat terrorism and an agreement to an expanded bilateral dialogue on cyber policy.

"India is a key part of Australia's future in the Asian Century and our interests are increasingly converging," said Carr.

"Australia's Indian community of more than 450,000 people is our fastest growing migrant community and India is our second-largest source of international students.

"We are pleased that our strategic partnership has grown in strength and has expanded in scope. We also recognised that there are tremendous opportunities for much greater cooperation and that we shall strive to attain them," Khurshid said.

India and Australia's relations are based on "shared interests and mutual benefit in political and security areas..", Khurshid said.

Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony is to visit Australia soon "for further discussions on cooperation in defence and security".

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