India, Australia to expedite talks on civil nuclear deal

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India and Australia today decided to expedite negotiations for a civil nuclear deal so that it can be finalised at the "earliest" as both the countries are keen to give further momentum to bilateral ties.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held bilateral talks with her Australian counterpart Julie Bishop during which both the leaders stressed that the civil nuclear deal should be finalised as soon as possible.

The proposed visit by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to India before the G20 summit meeting in November in Australia also figured in the talks held on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting here.

Relations between India and Australia have been on an upswing and the civil nuclear deal will pave way for sale of uranium to India by Australia.

Australia holds about a third of the world's recoverable uranium resources, and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes a year.

"They felt that the nuclear deal should be completed at the earliest. It is in the interest of both the countries," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

Energy-starved India is looking to nuclear power to supplement its existing options to fuel economic growth.

India has already concluded civil nuclear cooperation agreements with countries like Argentina and Kazakhstan.

India and Australia announced their intention to engage in talks on cooperation in civil nuclear energy during Prime Minister Julia Gillard's visit to India in October 2012.

This was preceded by the Australian Labour Party in December 2011 voting to lift a long-standing ban on the sale of uranium to India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.

Besides nuclear cooperation, Swaraj and Bishop discussed a number of key bilateral, regional and international issues including the upcoming G-20 summit which is likely to be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Both Swaraj and Bishop also deliberated on a calendar of bilateral visits by top leaders of the two countries.

They also discussed issues relating to immigration and Bishop assured Swaraj that Indians will not face any difficulty in that country.

The Indian side also raised the issue of reported seizing of a boat by Australian authorities which had Indian nationals along with people from Sri Lanka.

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