India and Australia on Monday moved towards further cementing their strategic partnership as they agreed to begin negotiations here in March on a nuclear pact besides broadening trade and economic relations.
External affairs minister Salman Khurshid and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr, after 90-minute bilateral talks, agreed to hold the first round of negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in March in Delhi. “We shall be commencing negotiations on a civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement in March 2013," Khurshid said.
“India is a key part of Australia's future," Carr said, announcing the first round of talks for the nuclear cooperation agreement would be held in Delhi in March.
Khurshid said the external affairs ministries of both the countries would conduct the talks. The agreement would enable the export of uranium from Australia to India, Carr said. Australia has about 40% of the world's uranium reserves.Khurshid said India would also host a meeting of the Joint Commission of Commerce Ministers, which would give impetus to trade relations between the two countries. The bilateral trade is at present 21 billion Australian dollars. "Our trade negotiators have been engaged in broadening understanding towards a mutually beneficial Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA)," he said.
During the parleys, it was decided that defence minister A K Antony would visit Australia sometime in March for further discussions on cooperation in defence and security sectors.
This would be the first ever visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Australia.