Australian PM Julia Gillard Agrees To Sell Uranium To India

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Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised Labor's change of policy which allowed potential uranium sales "as recognition of India's energy needs as well as our record and credentials".

The agreement to begin safeguard negotiations came after a bilateral meeting between Dr Singh and Julia Gillard in New Delhi last night.

But it could take one to two years to hammer out. Such an agreement is needed before commercial negotiations can begin on uranium exports.

The two leaders also agreed to hold annual talks and to boost defence cooperation.

Ms Gillard again invited Dr Singh to visit Australia and in a joint statement the two leaders said the date of the visit would be finalised through "diplomatic channels".

"He said to me he'd love to come, it's a question of finding the time given the Prime Minister's busy program," Ms Gillard said.

The pair will meet annually either through bilateral visits or on the sidelines of international meetings.

Ms Gillard said the annual meetings would "keep momentum" in the relationship and provide a high level oversight of what more needed to be done.

Following her talks with Dr Singh, Ms Gillard said she did not think there were any outstanding obstacles in the relationship between the two countries.

"I do believe in terms of the obstacles that were there in our relationship that they have been dealt with, that we have reassured people about the circumstances for Indian students in Australia and we have changed our attitude on uranium," Ms Gillard said.

In a statement after the meeting, Dr Singh said he was "extremely satisfied" with the meeting and agreements signed yesterday would herald a phase of more intense and structured cooperation between the two countries.

The two leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on "student mobility and welfare".

The MOU will allow the exchange of information on student welfare issues and covers the regulation of education agents.

During the meeting Dr Singh "expressed appreciation for the continuing efforts of Australian authorities to ensure the welfare and security of Indian students studying in Australia".

"The impression I got from the Prime Minister was that he was recognising that we had gone to considerable efforts to reassure Indian students of their safety and welfare in Australia," Ms Gillard said.

She said the MOU was about student mobility which would allow occupation qualifications to be recognised in both nations.

 

Dr Singh announced India would establish chairs of Indian studies in five Australian universities.

Ms Gillard said she believed Australia's image in India was "better than it was" in 2009 at the height of the controversy over Indian student attacks.

Ms Gillard announced Australia would provide additional funding of $1.5m over three years for the Australia-India Institute and confirmed a grant to held establish a Nalanda University chair in Environmental Studies to begin next year.

Another MOU was signed on skills which will involve greater skills collaboration between India and Australia, particularly in the mining industry.

Two further MOUs were signed on space research and to promote trade in wool.

In a joint statement the two prime ministers pledged to enhance maritime cooperation including through continued joint naval exercises.

"We have an underdeveloped defence relationship with India now, so I think it is good that we have agreed future cooperation in Naval exercising," Ms Gillard said.

The Prime Minister said Australia currently had stronger defence ties with China than it did with India.

"So naval exercising is an obvious way of taking the relationship forward given our shared interest in the India Ocean.

"But we would be open to other forms of military to military cooperation, including exchanges and training."

In their statement they said India and Australia - as chair and vice-chair of the Indian Rim Association for Regional Cooperation the apex of the pan Indian Ocean multi-lateral forum - would work closely.

Key priorities included tackling piracy and enhancing maritime security, fisheries management, disaster risk reduction, tourism and cultural exchanges.

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