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India, Australia to discuss nuclear material supplies

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 6 (UNI) India and Australia will discuss the issue of Canberra, a key member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), selling uranium to New Delhi at a meeting this evening between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his visiting Aussie counterpart John Howard.

''I think we would like to talk about it,'' Mr Howard told reporters at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan where he was given a ceremonial welcome this morning.

The two countries would discuss it in the light of policies governing nuclear material supplies and their needs, Mr Howard said, standing alongside Dr Singh who had formally received him.

Earlier, in an interview to ''The Australian'' newspaper, Dr Singh had said India was short of uranium and as such would like Canberra to sell uranium to India in the wake of last week's Indo-US nuclear deal under which Washington agreed to persuade the NSG to resume sale of fissile material to New Delhi.

''I very much hope Australia, as a member of NSG, would endorse what I and US President George W BUsh have worked out,'' Dr Singh said, pointing out that the deal would in fact strengthen non-proliferation efforts.

India had an impeccable record on the issue of non- proliferation, he had said.

The talks between Dr Singh and Mr Howard, who arrived here last evening on a five-day visit, would also cover a number of regional and international issues.

The two countries are expected to sign agreements for bilateral cooperation in trade, defence, science and technology and air services.

Dr Singh is expected to apprise Mr Howard of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal firmed up during the visit of US President Mr Bush last week.

Australia had earlier maintained that it would not supply uranium to India until New Delhi signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

''We don't have any plan to change our current policy...We are not going to suddenly change our policy just because the Indians and Americans have reached an agreement,'' The Australian Prime Minister said before leaving for India.

The Indo-US nuclear agreement needs approval of the NSG besides the US Congress before it can be fully implemented.

Australia has about 40 per cent of the world's known uranium deposits but sells it only to countries which have signed the NPT.

A statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry said a number of agreements are due to be signed in the presence of the two Prime Ministers, including on Customs Co-operation, Trade and Economic Framework and Defence Co-operation.

''The discussions I will have while in India will add impetus to our growing strategic relationship,'' Mr Howard had said.

His visit provides an ''important opportunity'' to advance Australia's foreign and trade policy interests with India, an Australian High Commission release said.

During the visit, Mr Howard will call on President A P J Abdul Kalam.

This is the second visit by the Australian Prime Minister in six years. He is accompanied by a 20-member business delegation, comprising CEOs of top companies.

Mr Howard began his official engagements today with a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

He leaves for Mumbai and Chennai tomorrow.

The two-way trade between Australia and India stood at 9.4 billion dollars in 2005.


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