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India and Australia Inching towards nuclear cooperation

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ind-aus.jpg Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard was on official visit to India; her visit is a landmark achievement towards the mutual progress of both the nations but is also important for peace and security of Asia. For Australia, her visit to India is her most important foreign visit of the year, and she also used the opportunity to make solid pitch to win over Indian hearts and minds.

Without any doubts in mind, we cannot deny the fact that it will give a new thrust to bilateral cooperation between both the nations which have been marred by some difficulties in recent past. It should here be noted that India-Australia relations have soured in the recent past because of ban imposed by Australia on the sale of uranium to India along with several unfortunate incidents of deadly attacks on immigrant Indians, mostly students. The recent visit of Julia Gillard has opened a new chapter in bilateral ties as both the nations have decided to commence civilian nuclear energy cooperation. In fact, it was only in the last year that Gillard’s Labour Party overturned the long-standing ban on selling precious uranium to India even for its on-going peaceful nuclear program, particularly for energy requirements and medical research. While the actual supply of nuclear fuel will have to await the yet to be concluded negotiations on a safeguards agreement, the important positive element for India is an implicit recognition of India’s solid non-proliferation record, as well as its role as a responsible key player in the region. It should here be noted that Australia, which holds an estimated 40% of the world’s uranium, already exports it to China, Japan, Taiwan, and the US. The country does not sell uranium to India because it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard during her visit to India pressed hard for enhancing defence relations with India. Both the nations raised the prospects of conducting full joint naval exercise. Enhancing defence relations are of mutual benefit for both the nations because both have common security interest. It should here be noted that India and Australia have a MoU in defence cooperation which was concluded in the year. The defence relations between both the nations have been on a rise since the first Defence Policy Dialogue was held between the two nations in the year 2010. The Australian leader also announced a desire for greater military cooperation for the Indian Ocean, which lies between the two countries.

Other areas of cooperation between India and Australia:

  1. In a significant development Australia’s industry skills council SkillsDMC has signed an agreement with India’s NSDC to impart training to 500 million people in key industry areas by 2022. SkillsDMC has signed a MoU with Indian counterpart National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) to support the establishment of the Indian Sector Skills Council for mining. It should here be noted that India has set an ambitious target to provide skills training for up to 500 million people by 2022 to enhance productivity, employment opportunities, and income.
  2. Both the nations discussed the possibilities of increasing cooperation in the field of education, agricultural development, and developing technology for producing clean energy.
  3. Both the nations agreed to the fact that Indian immigrants in Australia must be given appropriate safety and steps should be taken by the Australian government for checking hate crimes against Indians students living in Australia.
  4. Finally, both the nations decided to move fast ahead in forging greater economic cooperation to build on the fresh thrust in bilateral relations.
  5. The two countries also discussed the possibility of forging a free trade agreement, and pitched hard to attract more trade and investment. It should here be noted that at present, bilateral trade between the two nations stands at around $20 billion, and Australia wants to double that. Australia is rich in natural resources such as LPG and coal, and the country’s education and technology industries are also of great interest to the Indians.