India, Australia sign Extradition Treaty

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New Delhi, Jun 23 (UNI) Australia today assured India that it would address concerns about the safety and well-being of the 52,000-strong Indian student community in that country and ''quickly and efficiently'' follow up any incident involving them.

The two countries also signed an Extradition Treaty and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) for cooperation against terrorism and crime and reaffirmed strong support to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.

In a move that will address the concerns of the Indian student community in Australia and their families back home, the two countries also announced formation of a Joint Working Group (JWG) on visas, passports and consular issues to facilitate ''greater practical cooperation''.

Indian students in Australia have lately become target of racist attacks which has raised immense concerns in India about their safety and security.

The issue came up during discussions between Mr Mukherjee and his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith at the Australia-India Foreign Ministers' Framework Dialogue in Canberra, according to a Joint Statement issued after the talks.

The Joint Statement was silent on the crucial issue of civilian nuclear cooperation between the two countries, although it said both the Ministers reiterated strong support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

They noted that both countries had stepped up dialogue on strategic issues and welcomed the decision to establish regular Chief-of-Defence Forces-level talks.

''The inaugural talks are scheduled to take place in Australia in the near future,'' the Joint Statement said.

Australia, a key member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the second largest producer of Uranium after Canada, has refused to sell nuclear energy to India as it is not a signatory to the NPT.

The Australian Foreign Minister also reiterated his country's support to India's bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) when its membership moratorium ends in 2010.

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