Melbourne, June 20 : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said that he knew little of the new international Asia-Pacific forum proposed by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The Indian External Affairs Minister, scheduled to arrive in Australia on Sunday, said he was hearing about Rudd's idea to create a new Asia-Pacific grouping to deal with political, security and economic challenges for the first time. "We have not received any proposal, we have no idea about the community idea. I'm hearing practically from you for the first time," Mukherjee told reporters on the eve of his visit to Australia.
Mukherjee also said that he accepted there is little chance of a uranium deal with Rudd Government.
"They have stated their position and this is the stated position of the incumbent party and ruling party," The Australian quoted him, as saying.
But he dismissed suggestions that the Rudd Government's chief focus was China.
"No, no...Various countries have diplomatic relationships with other countries but one does not mean at the expense of relationships with other country," Mukherjee said.
Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has urged India to embrace the new forum, accusing previous governments of neglecting the nation's important relationship with Delhi.
"The growth in our commercial ties has outpaced government-to-government contact. While a number of states, including my own of Western Australia, have more recently been very active, governments in Canberra have frankly both underappreciated and neglected our relationship with India for a long period. This cannot continue," Smith said.
Smith's statement prompted an angry rebuke to "grow up" from his predecessor Alexander Downer.