Mumbai: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott started his India visit from Mumbai where he arrived early Thursday, heading a 30-strong business delegation. His day, full of engagements, started by paying homage to the 26/11 terror attack victims at Hotel Taj Mahal Palace where he is staying in south Mumbai. Later, Abbott called on Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao at the Raj Bhavan.
On the first day of his two-day visit during which he is expected to sign a long-awaited deal to sell uranium to the energy-starved nation, the Australian PM said that India offered an “abundance” of opportunity.
“The purpose of this trip, as far as I’m concerned, is to acknowledge the importance of India in the wider world, acknowledge the importance of India to Australia’s future,” he told business leaders in Mumbai.
“There is an abundance of opportunities here in India. I am determined to make the most of them.”
He is also slated to speak to students at University of Mumbai. During Abbott’s two-day visit, India and Australia would look at ways to deepen strategic ties and strengthen two-way trade and commerce.
During his day-long visit to the financial capital, his first port of call, Abbott will also attend the launch of the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan in India and be present for felicitation of young cricketers by Oz cricket greats Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee at Cricket Club of India. India’s cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar will also attend the ceremony. Abbott is expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in the field of sports but details of the MoU have not been disclosed so far.
A big-ticket item on Abbott’s agenda as he leaves for the national capital in the evening, however, would be a civil nuclear deal with India efforts for which have been underway since 2012 after Labor party reversed its decision to ban the sale of uranium to India because of New Delhi not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“I am hoping to sign a nuclear co-operation agreement that will enable uranium sales by Australia to India,” he told Parliament on the eve of his visit to India. Abbott had said on Tuesday that if Australia was prepared to sell uranium to Russia then “surely we ought to be prepared to provide uranium to India under suitable safeguards”, noting it was a “fully functioning democracy with the rule of law”. India is not a signatory to the NPT, but Abbott has stressed that Australia will ensure adequate bilateral safeguards before any deal is signed.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who is travelling with Abbott, said Canberra is now happy with India`s precautions to ensure Australian uranium exports would be used only for peaceful purposes. After failure to conclude a civil nuclear deal with Japan during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to that country, if inked, the pact with Australia, which has about a third of the world’s recoverable uranium resources and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes a year, would boost India’s energy sector.
Abbott is scheduled to hold talks with top Indian leadership in Delhi including President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday. A clutch of pacts in areas including mining, finance and education could be signed. After being accorded a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the morning, Abbott will lay wreaths at Rajghat and India Gate before meeting Prime Minister Modi at Hyderabad House.
(With Agency inputs).
Courtesy : zeenews.india.com