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Indian, Australian Prime Ministers may meet twice this year


Melbourne : The Prime Ministers of India and Australia are expected to meet twice this year, in bilateral visits that are likely to put the talks on uranium sales back on track.

Visiting Union Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal told local daily ‘The Australian’ that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had extended an invitation to his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd to tour India and diplomats were hopeful of a visit in the second half of the year.

Rudd has also invited Singh to come to Australia, with the hope that it will happen this year, the newspaper said.

Sibal said India was confident that its negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be completed soon, resulting in an India-specific safeguards agreement that would allow nuclear trade with New Delhi.

“Our negotiations are still going on with the IAEA,” Sibal said adding, “hopefully they will bear fruit soon. We are very keen to get the IAEA agreement through.” The Indo-US nuclear deal would then move to the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, and it is here that Australia will play a crucial role.

Reversing a policy decision by the previous John Howard administration, the Kevin Rudd government had said last month that it would not sell uranium to India as New Delhi was not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Australia had also said it has not yet made up its mind on what position it will take within the NSG.

Meanwhile, Australia, keen to enhance its engagement with Asia pacific countries, has said it will support India and Japan to become permanent members of a reformed UN Security Council to reflect the modern world.

However, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Canberra did not want India to join the trilateral security dialogue involving Japan, Australia and the US.

Calling for reform of the UN Security Council, Smith said the Security Council should reflect the modern world.

“We need to be engaged much more in the United Nations and we also believe that United Nations itself should take much more of a central role in international affairs,” he told ABC television.

“We have a strong view that there should be, for example, Security Council reform of the United Nations, that the Security Council should reflect the modern world, which is why we’ve suggested for example that both India and Japan should become permanent members of a reformed United Nations Security Council,” he said.

Making it clear that it did not want to participate in the one off, four-way security dialogue involving India, Smith said Australia wanted to continue with the trilateral security dialogue between Japan, Australia and the US.

“Whilst we want to continue and proceed with the trilateral dialogue between Japan, Australia and the United States, we weren’t proposing to take part in what had occurred as a one off which was a four way conversation between ourselves, Japan, United States and India. And I think that’s a view that is shared by the other nation states concerned,” he added.