Krishna to go to Australia, uranium sale, FTA on agenda

By Manish Chand, IANS
Thursday, January 13, 2011

NEW DELHI - India will press Australia to review its ban on the sale of uranium to New Delhi and discuss the contours of a free trade area (FTA) pact when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna goes to Melbourne on a two-day visit next week.

Krishna is expected to leave for Melbourne Jan 18, official sources told IANS. He will be accompanied by Latha Reddy, secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry and other officials of the ministry.

The visit is aimed at expanding the strategic canvas of the burgeoning bilateral relationship that will include discussions on the evolving East Asian architecture and India’s bid to join the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC).

Krishna will hold wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Kevin Rudd and will is likely to call on Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The two ministers are expected to discuss Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Australia and the the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) the country will be hosting later this year.

They are also expected to review steps taken by the Australian government to prevent allegedly racist attacks against Indian students that have shadowed their ties and to ensure their safety.

Krishna is likely to renew its request to Australia to sell uranium to India. Canberra is opposed to the uranium sale as New Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Gillard has continued the Labour government’s policy of not selling uranium to non-NPT countries since replacing Kevin Rudd as Labor leader in June last year. During her visit to India in 2009 when she was Deputy Prime Minister, Gillard had said that the policy was not directed specifically at India. As a principle, we dont sell uranium to countries that have not signed the NPT, she told the Indian media.

However, Australia may rethink its the ban in view of the powerful endorsement by leading members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, including the US, France and Russia, for India to join elite nuclear groupings like the NSG.

The two sides are also expected to discuss negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement. The two sides have agreed to accept the feasibility report on the proposed FTA. India is understood to have persuaded Australia to to keep extraneous issues like environment, labour and government procurement out of ambit of the FTA.

A joint study group, which included government officials and academicians from both sides, was set up in 2008 to explore the viability of the FTA.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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