Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull today said his country is ready to start export of uranium to India as soon as possible, two-and-a-half years after the two countries signed a civil nuclear cooperation deal. Soon after holding wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Turnbull said cooperation between the two countries in the energy sector has been on an upswing and Australia would like to assist India in generation of nuclear power.
“We are working closely with India to meet our respective requirements for the provision of fuel for India’s civil nuclear programme,” he said, adding Australia was looking forward to supply of uranium to India as soon as possible.
On his part Modi said Australia is now ready to export uranium to India with the passage of a legislation in the Australian Parliament with bi-partisan support. A joint statement issued after the talks said Modi and Turnbull reiterated their support for continued bilateral nuclear cooperation and that they anticipated commercial export of Australian uranium to India could begin soon.
Australia has about 40 per cent of the world’s uranium reserves and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes of yellow cake annually.
India and Australia began talks on the Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in 2012 after Australia lifted a long- standing ban on selling uranium to energy-starved India. The agreement was signed during a state visit to India by Australia’s then prime minister Tony Abbott in September 2014.
India, which has nuclear energy contributing just 3 per cent of its electricity generation, will be the first country to buy Australian uranium without being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
In the talks, Turnbull noted Australia’s strong support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The Australian side also expressed its support for India’s membership of the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Arrangement, the two export control regimes.
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Resolving to deepen maritime cooperation, the two prime ministers recognised that India and Australia share common interests in ensuring maritime security and the safety of sea lines of communication.
“Both leaders 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, including UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea),” said the joint statement. The comments are seen as an reference to China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.
“The two Prime Ministers highlighted their shared desire to ensure that Indian Ocean architecture keeps pace with regional issues and addresses emerging threats and challenges in the region,” the statement said. Modi and Turnbull agreed that the bilateral maritime exercise first held in the Bay of Bengal in 2015 will be repeated off Western Australia in the first half of 2018.
On defence ties, the statement said both countries remain strongly committed to the breadth of their defence ties and recalled the Special Forces Bilateral Exercise conducted in October 2016.
“They also welcomed a decision for the first bilateral Army-to-Army exercise to take place in 2018. They looked forward to the inaugural secretaries’ defence and foreign affairs dialogue in the ‘2+2’ format as a new mechanism to build on the deep strategic partnership.”
Modi and Turnbull also emphasised on the need for an early peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process; and called for ending external support for terrorism. On the issue of students, the Australian prime minister said he will ensure that they get outstanding opportunities.
The two leaders also decided to deepen efforts to “deter and disrupt” human trafficking, including to ensure the return of persons, subject to verification by Indian and Australian authorities. Turnbull reiterated Australia’s support for India’s membership of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC).
In the meeting, Modi also welcomed Australia’s continuing support for India as a permanent member in a reformed United Nations Security Council.
Recognising India’s strong economic trajectory, Turnbull informed Modi he would commission an India Economic Strategy to define a pathway for the Australian business community to collaborate with India on its reform agenda. The statement also said India and Australia are keen to secure a timely conclusion of a high-quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The Australian prime minister also congratulated Modi on his leadership in setting up of the International Solar Alliance and announced that Australia intends to join the alliance. On India’s skill development programme, Turnbull said Australia’s industry-led vocational education and training system can play a key role training 400 million Indians by 2022.
On the sports sector, Turnbull invited “elite” Indian sports teams to train in Australia ahead of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.