India-Australia eco pact not to be inked during Turnbulls

first_imgvisitNew Delhi, Apr 6 (PTI) The much-delayed economic pact between India and Australia will not be signed during Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbulls visit which will see firming up of bilateral cooperation in key areas of security, trade and energy.Turnbull, who will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had earlier said Australia will be a reliable provider of uranium among other energy resources to India but there has been no official confirmation of inking of a commercial contract for the yellow cake during the visit.”The Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) will not be signed during this visit. Negotiations are underway but the pact will not be signed,” Australias High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu told reporters here.The talks for CECA were launched in 2011 and during the visit of former Australian PM Tony Abbott in 2014, the two sides had expressed the hope that the pact would be inked by the end of 2015, a deadline which has already been missed.However, the Indian side has reiterated its commitment to the free trade pact. Some of the sticking points in the negotiations include Indias high tariff structure for dairy and agri products as also Australian wine.On the much-delayed supply of uramium from Australia to India, Joint Secretary (South) in the external affairs ministry Jaideep Mazumdar said Australian parliament had cleared a legislation for the supply of uranium to India last year and now “commercial negotiations” for it are going on, indicating that there was no firming up of any such pact so far.advertisementWhile there is interest in Australian companies to be part of Indias nuclear market, there are concerns in that country over safety regulations in India.Australia has about 40 per cent of the worlds uranium reserves and exports nearly 7,000 tonnes of the yellow cake annually.Both the countries are likely to sign a number of MoUs covering a range of areas including defence and security, environment, renewable energy, sports and trade during Turnbulls visit.It will be Turnbulls first visit to the country during which India is also likely to raise the issue of security of Indians in Australia in the wake of incidents of attacks on some of them.With Australia is strongly backing Indias NSG membership bid, the issue is expected to figure during Modi-Turnbull talks that are being held ahead of Nuclear Suppliers Groups plenary meeting in June.The Australian government is involved in “lot of backroom negotiations” and engaged in “live conversations” with other members countries to garner support for Indias entry into the elite nuclear club, sources said.The volume of Australias investment in India is around USD 7 billion and Majumdar said the country wants to significantly ramp up its investment.”The relations between India and Australia is more robust and multifaceted than ever before…The extent of bilateral engagement will be in full view during the visit,” he said, adding security cooperation, particularly in the area of the maritime sphere, may figure extensively during the discussions.On the issue of a spate of attacks on Indians, he said safety and security of Indias citizens is a matter of concern for the government. But, at the same time, he added that India is satisfied with the steps taken by Australian authorities.At present, 60,000 Indian students are studying in Australia, the second highest in any country, and Majumdar said their welfare will remain Indias priority.Referring to the issue of maritime security, the MEA official said, “Australia is a key maritime nation. We have lot in common like keeping the sea lines secure.”Modi will also host a banquets for the Australian PM.Turnbull will also visit Mumbai where he will meet key business leaders including Gautam Adani, who has vast commercial interests in Australia.Describing India as one of Australias most important international priorities, the Australian envoy said the two sides are taking forward an active and ambitious agenda established under the strategic partnership. Both countries have robust counter-terrorism and security and defence ties as envisaged under the partnership.According to sources, the Australian government is also keen to rejoin Malabar naval exercise which is conducted by India, the US and Japan.The Australian leader will be accompanied by delegations from the fields of business and education. PTI MPB/PYK SClast_img