Refusal to sell uranium is not anti-India: Oz

Australia`s refusal to sell uranium to India is "not anti-India" and it should not derail the growing bilateral relationship, Peter Varghese Australian High Commissioner to India has said.

Melbourne: Australia`s refusal to sell uranium to India is "not anti-India" and it should not derail the growing bilateral relationship, Peter Varghese Australian
High Commissioner to India has said.

"Our policy on uranium sale is not anti-India policy but pro-NPT policy and we ought not make the whole relationship hostage to just one issue. And I don`t think either government wants to see that," Varghese told a news agency here adding, "for the
moment our policy stands and we continue to talk to Indian side".

In the past, ties between the two countries have suffered because of two major issues- Australia`s refusal to sell uranium to India and violence against Indian students here.

Varghese, whose appointment came amidst overseas student attack issue in 2009, said Australia was now focusing on building a stronger relationship with India and post Indian student attack crisis it was evident that there was a clear
need to build a strong people-to-people relationship.

"I think we need to do a lot of work in regards to people-to-people relationship and student issue," he said.

Australia will be hosting cultural activities across India next year to promote the country to Indian youths.

"We are doing a big cultural promotion of Australia in India that will be held from September 2012 to January 2013. We are going to take Australian innovations and art, culture, design, architecture, to present Australia as a innovative and
creative country," Varghese said adding, the initiative would be structured to target Indian youths.

On geo-strategic dialogue with India, Varghese said, "We work well together in regional organisations that are addressing questions of Asian security and Asian integration. We are now working closely on Indian Ocean issues."

The diplomat said, "India has recently taken over as chairman of the body (Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation) and Australia has the vice-chairmanship. We will have two years to work very closely on Indian Ocean regional issues".

Further elaborating on the ongoing focus towards building the ties, he said after US and Russia joining the East Asian Summit, there was now right membership in place and there was a need for finding a matching mandate for the group during the summit.

"Building an agenda for the summit will be important and we see it as the single important regional institution as its inclusive not just for East Asia but also from US, India and Australia," he said adding that for the first time the summit will have a meeting of education ministers.

On multicultural cooperation, particularly G20, Varghese said the two sides were also working together.

"Australia and India will be part of smaller group of countries that are trying to get an outcome on Doha. So our trade ministers are consulting daily on how the negotiations are tracking.

We both are worried about a possibility of Doha round not concluding in time. we both recognise the risk to the international trading system if we don`t get a good outcome," he said.

Varghese also said that he was also keen to develop service to service linkages.

"We would like to see bilateral Naval exercise as held at least regularly," he commented.

Currently, naval exercises between the two sides are based opportunistically.

There was also interest to strengthened dialogue on defence and security issues to be held at senior official levels, he said.

Australia and India have also vowed to double two-way trade flows within five years and agreed to work out a far-reaching free trade deal to underpin further growth.

Australia`s trade with India has been growing rapidly, with exports, dominated by gold and coal, soaring from USD 11.8 billion to USD 20.0 billion over the past two years.

Trade is heavily in Australia`s favour, with imports in the past year of only USD 2.5 billion from India.

The Australian side has been particularly interested in improving the ability for Australian services firms to operate in India, while Australian farm producers want improved access to Indian meat markets.

Trade between the two nations is now worth almost USD 20 billion a year.


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