Aus PM Abbott in India, nuke deal likely on agenda
Amid indications that a nuclear deal could be in the offing, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrived in Mumbai on Thursday morning on a two-day India visit during which the two countries would look at ways to deepen strategic ties and strengthen two-way trade and commerce.
Prime Minister Abbott landed in the financial capital, his first port of call, on a day-long visit during which he will interact with business leaders and select Indian CEOs.
He will also attend the launch of the Australian Government's New Colombo Plan in India and be present for felicitation of young cricketers by Oz cricket greats Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee at Cricket Club of India. India's cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar will also attend the ceremony.
Abbott is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of sports but details of the MoU have not been disclosed so far.
He will also lay a wreath at the memorial for the victims of 26/11 attacks at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace, one of the scenes of the ghastly terror assault in 2008.
A big-ticket item on Abbott's agenda as he leaves for the national capital in the evening, however, would be a civil nuclear deal with India efforts for which have been underway since 2012 after Labor party reversed its decision to ban the sale of uranium to India because of New Delhi not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
"I am hoping to sign a nuclear co-operation agreement that will enable uranium sales by Australia to India," he told parliament on the eve of his visit to India.
Abbott had said on Tuesday that if Australia was prepared to sell uranium to Russia then "surely we ought to be prepared to provide uranium to India under suitable safeguards", noting it was a "fully functioning democracy with the rule of law".
India is not a signatory to the NPT, but Abbott has stressed that Australia will ensure adequate bilateral safeguards before any deal is signed.
After failure to conclude a civil nuclear deal with Japan during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to that country, if inked, the pact with Australia, which has about a third of the world's recoverable uranium resources and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes a year, would boost India's energy sector.
Abbott is scheduled to hold talks with top Indian leadership in Delhi including President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tomorrow.
A clutch of pacts in areas including mining, finance and education could be signed.
After being accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning, Abbott will lay wreaths at Rajghat annd India Gate before meeting Prime Minister Modi at Hyderabad House.