Tony Abbot’s maiden visit to India as Prime Minister has been hailed as a huge statement on trust. The two-day visit beginning September 4 will culminate in the in the signing of a once seemingly unlikely deal for the sale of Australian uranium to India.
Abbott arrives on a day when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi returns from a ‘successful’ visit to Japan where he was able to secure the promise of a $35 billion investment from Japan.
With his Trade Minister Andrew Robb in tow, Abbott will also be hoping to convince Modi to give Australian firms an edge when it comes to the $100 billion worth of infrastructure developments that were at the heart of Modi’s election platform, the Age reported.
A slew of agreements are expected to be inked during Abbott’s talks with Modi on September 5. Ahead of his first visit to India as prime minister, Abbott told his parliament that he expects to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with the Modi government.
Abbott said 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”, pointing out that it was a “fully functioning democracy with the rule of law”.
Australia, which holds almost a third of the world’s known uranium reserves, had banned exporting uranium to India as New Delhi is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Australia supplies India with coal, gold, diamond and zinc, and India has inked a contract for long-term supply of gas from the Gorgon field in western Australia, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, India’s joint secretary (South) in the external affairs ministry, said at a briefing.
But the countries have been negotiating a nuclear safeguards agreement since 2012 and have held five rounds of “very fruitful” negotiations, said India’s external affairs ministry.
Abbott would hold delegation-level talks with Modi and call on President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice President Hamid Ansari. He would also visit Mumbai.
Abbott would visit a cricket stadium in Mumbai where he would meet cricketers Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist and Bret Lee who are organising a cricket club for children.
Robb said while India was Australia’s fifth biggest export market and a valued investment partner there was enormous scope to deepen the relationship.
“Our two-way trade is worth around $15 billion, however, our aim is to substantially grow this figure, when you consider our trade with China for example is worth more than $150 billion,” he said.
During his visit Robb will participate in four high-level business roundtables, including those focussed on mining and energy and will join the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, at a series of meetings and events.
Abbott is leading an Australian business delegation made up of 32 CEOS and business leaders from the resources, finance, transport and logistics, packaging, education and training sectors.
“Our aim is to both develop our existing ties but to also ensure that both Australian and Indian businesses are aware of existing and emerging opportunities,” Robb said.
“As an example, India’s growing demand for skills and vocational training across a range of areas is enormous and Australia’s world-class education and training providers are well equipped to help meet some of this demand.”