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John Howard to visit India in March

It will be Howard's first visit to India since 2000, during which he is expected to meet Manmohan Singh.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2006 18:40 IST

Australian Prime Minister John Howard will visit India in March, seeking to strengthen bilateral economic and defence ties.

It will be Howard's first visit to India since 2000, during which he is expected to meet his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.

Howard will be accompanied by a delegation of business leaders from the resources and finance sectors, 'The Australian' newspaper reported on Thursday without quoting any sources. It also did not mention possible dates of the visit.

Australia wants to capitalise on India's demand for minerals and fossil fuels and the close cooperation between the two countries in developing tsunami early warning systems. Canberra has also begun negotiating a trade and economic framework agreement with New Delhi, which would promote trade in areas like energy, mining, infrastructure and agriculture.

Two-way trade in goods totalled $7.3 billion in 2004, with exports of gold and coal dominating Australia's healthy trade surplus.

Australia also wanted to develop its defence ties with India, starting with naval exercises and extending to counter-terrorism exercises in future, the paper had earlier reported.

Defence Minister Robert Hill had said Canberra was keen to develop its defence relationship with New Delhi. "But we are moving very much at India's pace," he was quoted as saying.

Hill said one of the big shifts had been the improvement in India's relations with Pakistan and China, which had seen New Delhi more focussed on the wider region. "India has been contributing to stability in the region. We have regular defence talks with them and we are also talking about defence procurement opportunities."

First Published: Jan 12, 2006 18:40 IST