EAM to visit Australia for talks on issues including energy

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New Delhi, Jun 20 (UNI) Amid a UPA-Left deadlock on the Indo-US nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will leave here tomorow for Australia, a key member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), for discussions with his counterpart on various issues including energy.

The visit is significant as Australia is the second largest producer of Uranium after Canada and a member of the 45-nation NSG whose nod is essential for the implementation of the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement.

India, which appears to be determined to go ahead with the nuclear deal ignoring all domestic opposition, has to muster support at the NSG after the deal crosses the hurdle of a safeguards agreement with the atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said Mr Mukherjee would attend the second Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue on June 22-23.

The previous dialogue was held in 2005 in New Delhi.

Asked whether the civilian nuclear energy issue would come up at the discussions, the spokesman said ''discussion on energy security is possible. The Minister is going there for wide-ranging Foreign Office dialogue.'' Australia has refused to sell Uranium to India as India is not a signatory to the NPT.

It has, however, said it would consider joining any consensus at the NSG to authorise global nuclear commerce with India when the deal becomes operational.

The spokesman said that during the past few years, there had been considerable expansion in bilateral trade, cooperation in Science and Technology, IT, energy, education, agro-industry and tourism between the two countries.

''Energy is an area of interest and could be part of the focus of discussions,'' he said.

Mr Sarna said cooperation in several sectors between the two countries was growing well and IT was an important component.

Thirteen Indian IT developmental centres are operating in Australia and there are nearly 63,000 Indian students in that country.

UNI RB RP VC1812

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