Oz and India to expand maritime ties
The navies of India and Australia have been tasked to expand and deepen maritime cooperation between the two countries significantly.delhi Updated: Dec 08, 2011 17:26 IST
The navies of India and Australia have been tasked to expand and deepen maritime cooperation between the two countries significantly.
This cooperation, said Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith, would include more bilateral exercises and bilateral, quasi-official defence and security dialogue.
Smith implicitly acknowledged that Australia's decision to lift the ban on uranium sales to India had opened the doors to a broader strategic relationship between the two countries.
"The lifting of the ban removed an irritant in relations," he said.
Officials on both sides, however, say New Delhi had seen the uranium ban as a major symbolic barrier to closer relations.
Smith did not rule out the idea of Australia rejoining the Malabar naval exercises. These exercises, seen by Beijing as a "quadrilateral alliance" aimed against China, presently encompass the US, Japan and India.
Australia withdrew in 2009. Asked if Australia would consider rejoining, Smith said, "We will leave it to the navies to decide."
Smith, who met his Indian counterpart AK Anthony, said the latter had agreed to visit Australia next year.
Noting that India did not presently need uranium, Smith said the two countries would nonetheless begin negotiating a safeguards agreement next year – a necessary prerequisite for uranium exports from Australia.