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Australia PM heads to India with ambitious agenda

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 11:56 IST

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd heads to India and the World Economic Forum in Davos next week aiming to win support for climate action, and a greater role for G-20 developing nations to fight the global financial crisis.

Rudd, a former diplomat, popular with voters but derided also as a "nomad" for his frequent globetrotting, arrives in New Delhi ahead of the World Economic Forum talks and after attending Pacific crisis talks on military ruled Fiji.

But even as his government fights to avert near certain recession and rising job losses as financial shockwaves pound Australia, Rudd sees his India trip as too vital to delay, especially with difficult world climate talks late this year.

"The defining feature of the Rudd government's emerging foreign policy is its ambition. It seeks for Australia a shaping role in addressing a number of urgent international challenges," says Allan Gyngell, a foreign analyst who leads the respected Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Rudd, a China expert, faces a tricky reception in India after his government overturned the previous conservative government's plans to sell uranium ore to India despite its refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Rudd has tried to keep options and the promise of an Australian free trade deal with India alive by supporting US led efforts to win approval from nuclear supply countries to authorize sale of uranium and other nuclear goods to New Delhi.

He hopes also to persuade India to cut its greenhouse emissions expected to treble by 2050 and play a role in getting developing country backing for a post Kyoto climate deal at international talks in Copenhagen later this year.

Australia, itself one of the world's major per-head polluters, is also one of the countries climate scientists expect to be most affected by climate warming and is anxious for a strong global deal that will also not harm vital coal exports.


Rudd has set ambitious goals for Australia to be a "regional power prosecuting global interests", including a non-permanent place on the United Nations Security Council in 2013-14.

He hopes also to build support in Asia for an EU-style regional bloc minus the sensitive monetary, political and security union, yet still somehow bringing China, the United States, India, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Pacific together.

"Individually each of these objectives is a dauntingly difficult task for Australian diplomacy. (Rudd) genuinely wants to help shape the international system and he wants to play a part in this himself," says Gyngell.

In Davos, Rudd will argue for a stronger role for the Group of 20 leading world economies, tying Brazil, China and India with major nations, in responding to still unfolding global financial turmoil.

Governments must "look at the rules that govern financial markets for the future and to change them and to say that the days of casino capitalism have gone", Rudd said on Thursday.

Global reforms should include curbs on executive pay, stronger supervisory roles for governments and steeling the International Monetary Fund to give it authority to do prudential analysis and early warning, while recasting IMF governance, Rudd said.