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Aussie PM in India on Sunday

Expanding business ties and the signing of a civil aviation agreement top the agenda of Howard.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 23:43 IST

Two days after US President George Bush visited India, Australian Prime Minister John Howard arrives here Sunday on a four-day trip with his vision of cementing strategic ties with a nation emerging as "an increasingly influential global and regional player."

Expanding business ties and the signing of a civil aviation agreement top the agenda of Howard, who comes to New Delhi with a 20-member trade delegation, on his second visit in six years.

He will also visit Mumbai and Chennai.

During his visit, the two countries are expected to further deepen their "growing strategic partnership" straddling diverse fields, including trade, defence, technology and civil aviation.

Howard will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday on a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues that will include civil nuclear cooperation, especially in the light of Canberra's reservations about exporting uranium to India.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer Friday welcomed the India-US nuclear deal, but ruled out uranium exports to India until New Delhi signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Ahead of his visit, Howard struck an upbeat note about the future of bilateral ties.

"India is an increasingly influential global and regional player whose interests converge with Australia's," he said in a statement. "The discussions I will have while in India will add impetus to our growing strategic relationship."

During the visit, a revised civil aviation agreement will be signed allowing both countries to operate as many airlines as they wish.

"The revised air services agreement between India and Australia was agreed upon during the bilateral civil aviation consultations here on Sep 8-9, 2004," Information and Broadcasting Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi told reporters after a meeting of the cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Under the proposed agreement, designated airlines of both countries will be entitled to operate on agreed routes, which will be reviewed periodically.

First Published: Mar 04, 2006 23:43 IST