India moved a step closer to sourcing uranium from Australia, the world’s biggest exporter of the radioactive mineral, with the Foreign Ministers of both countries agreeing to hold the third round of talks on a bilateral civil nuclear agreement towards the end of this month.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop reaffirmed the commitment of both countries to finalise a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement to enable the sale of Australian uranium to India, and announced that the third round of negotiations would be held here in the last week of November. They met in Perth on the margins of a multilateral conference.
The two Ministers also discussed energy security and the possibility of a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) to strengthen ties. Both sides have laid stress on the security of sea lanes as India and Australia have supplemented their coal-based energy ties with a multibillion dollar contract for sourcing Australian gas.
Having held one round of dialogue, the two countries will be finalising dates for the second interaction on the subject, which will form the fulcrum of a strategic partnership with the imminent addition of uranium to ties in coal and hydrocarbons. Energy security was also discussed during Defence Minister A.K. Antony’s visit to Australia in June this year when it was decided to hold a bilateral maritime exercise in 2015.
Ms. Bishop, according to an Australian High Commission statement, described advancing relations with India as a priority for the Australian government and felt her discussions with Mr. Khurshid followed the “very productive” talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Australian Premier Tony Abbott at Brunei on October 10. A “high quality CECA would underpin a further significant expansion of the trade and investment relationship to mutual benefit,” she added.
The two Foreign Ministers confirmed that the inaugural cybersecurity dialogue would be held in the first half of 2014 and reiterated the two countries’ commitment to work together to address threats such as terrorism and transnational crime.
Australia also welcomed plans to hold a major conference of persons of Indian origin, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, in the country in November. India is now Australia’s largest source of skilled migrants and the second largest source of international students. “Australia is pleased with that,” Ms. Bishop noted.