Australia ready to supply uranium to India as soon as possible: Malcolm Turnbull
New Delhi: Australia will start uranium exports to India as soon as possible, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Monday, referring to a a long-standing demand from Asia’s third largest economy which is looking at environment friendly fuels to power its growing economy.
Turnbull who is in India on a four- day visit made the remark in a statement delivered after talks with his host Narendra Modi.
Both the prime ministers felt that commercial export of Australian uranium could begin soon, opening up a new avenue for Australia to support India’s energy requirement.
“We’ve worked closely with India to meet our respective requirements for the provision of fuel for India’s civil nuclear programme, and we look forward to the first export of Australian uranium to India as soon as possible,” Turnbull said.
The Australian prime minister arrived in New Delhi on Sunday is on his first visit to India after taking over from Tony Abbott in September 2015. During his first year in office, Turnbull focused on improving ties with countries in the immediate neighbourhood with visits to Indonesia and major trade partner China. This is a far cry from the tempo of India-Australia ties set by Abbott, who visited India in September 2014—just months after Narendra Modi took office—and the Indian prime minister returning the visit in November 2014.
Modi and Turnbull have previously met bilaterally on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in China last year.
On Monday, the two countries signed half-a-dozen agreements including one to significantly expand counter-terrorism cooperation as Modi and Turnbull called for strong action against those financing and providing sanctuary to terror groups. The others were in the areas of health and medicine, sports, environment, climate and wildlife, civil aviation security and cooperation in space technology.
Turnbull and Modi also directed their officials to hold an early round of negotiations on a comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA), several rounds of negotiations for which have already taken place without a breakthrough.
“We took a number of forward-looking decisions to further strengthen our partnership, including the decision to soon hold the next round of negotiations on a CECA,” Modi said after talks with Turnbull.
Turnbull, on his part, did not set a date by which CECA negotiations were to be completed, but said: “I think it’s fair to say that progress has not been as fast as either of us would have liked.”
The two prime ministers have now asked negotiators on both sides to narrow their differences and list their priorities soon so that talks on it could move forward. Sticking points include India’s reluctance to open up the agriculture sector to Australian imports and high Indian tariffs on imported wines and spirits.
During their talks, the two leaders decided to expand their ties in several key areas including defence, trade, energy and education.
On cooperation in the maritime space, a joint statement issued by the two countries recognised the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as resolving maritime disputes by peaceful means, in accordance with international law. This is seen as a reference to China’s growing assertiveness in South China Sea.
Modi and Turnbull also welcomed “continued and deepened” trilateral cooperation and dialogue among Australia, India and Japan. In the talks, Turnbull pointed to Australia’s strong support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. He also said Australia supports India’s entry into the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, two key export control groups.
On terrorism, Modi and Turnbull “emphasised the need for urgent measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism and radicalisation and expressed their determination to take concrete measures to step up cooperation and coordination among the law enforcement, intelligence and security organisations,” the joint statement said.