Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott on the sidelines of the India-ASEAN Summit here on Thursday. The meeting assumes significance in the light of the ongoing discussions on nuclear cooperation.
According to External Affairs Ministry officials, two rounds of talks have been held since March this year and another engagement is likely in December.
Though the two countries were making good progress and “we expect to get this done soon,” officials said no major headway is expected at the meeting.
“This is their first meeting. Don’t expect this meeting to be long enough to discuss everything in any detail. It will come up. They will probably talk about the future of the relationship and which parts they need to discuss.”
New Delhi and Canberra held their first-ever talks on a civil nuclear partnership agreement in March this year after the Labour government of Julia Gillard decided to ease up on its stated policy of not conducting nuclear-related trade with India. This was announced during her visit to India in October last.
New Delhi is hoping to make better progress on this now with a newly elected Liberal government, which has always been more favourably disposed towards India.
The sticking points have been Australia’s reluctance to sell uranium to non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and India’s refusal to move beyond the contours of the existing nuclear pacts with the U.S., Russia and France.
Talks with Abe likely
There is also a likelihood of Dr. Singh having a bilateral meeting with Japanese premier Shinzo Abe here. This meeting will depend on the convenience of both leaders.
As is the case with Australia, the political climate in Japan is now more favourable for resuming discussions in the civil nuclear sector as the Abe administration has a majority in both Houses of the Diet. Nuclear talks — which had been proceeding well — slowed down in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident.