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Australian PM to visit India in November


Sydney : Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will visit New Delhi later this year, a minister said Tuesday, adding that there is a “desire on the part of both India and Australia to strengthen and broaden the relationship”.

Despite some “irritants”, Australia and India are embracing a closer relationship that will be cemented when Rudd visits the sub-continent later this year, The Age website reported Tuesday.

Trade Minister Simon Crean, who returned from India at the weekend, confirmed Rudd’s trip to New Delhi would take place in November.

Rudd’s visit to India is expected to take place before the APEC leaders’ summit in Singapore that begins Nov 14.

The government has ramped up contact with India ahead of the November trip and it is trying to take care of concerns about the safety and quality of Australia’s international education sector worth $15 billion a year.

A string of attacks had taken place on Indian students studying in Australia over the past three months. It had caused an uproar in India.

Crean said there was a commitment from both India and Australia that the education issue wouldn’t derail the relationship.

“(There is a) desire on the part of both India and Australia to strengthen and broaden the relationship,” he was quoted as saying.

“(Indian) Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh made the point he was looking forward very much to Mr Rudd’s visit and he was looking forward to strengthened relations between the two countries.”

The two countries could also soon begin working on another avenue to strengthen economic relations – negotiations for a free trade deal, the media report said.

A feasibility study on a free trade agreement was “near completion”, Crean said.

“Officials will meet again next week in Delhi to try to bring that to a conclusion.”