NEW DELHI (AP) — India and Australia will hold talks Wednesday to strengthen economic and strategic ties and explore cooperation in civilian nuclear energy.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, on a three-day visit to India, will meet with her Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh later Wednesday, Indian officials said.
The two leaders will discuss Australia’s decision to overturn a long-standing ban on exporting uranium to countries, including India, that have not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
Australia has 40 percent of the world’s known uranium reserves but it sells uranium only for power generation under strict conditions.
India has been desperately seeking uranium sources to run its nuclear power plants, and Australia’s refusal to sell the mineral has been a sore point in relations between the two countries.
Uranium sales to India will be possible once the two countries reach agreement on a nuclear safeguard arrangement, with India giving assurances that the uranium will not be diverted to its military program.
Gillard has said that she expects discussions on uranium sales to India to last one to two years.
Talks between the two leaders will also aim at boosting trade.
Gillard said Wednesday that the two countries were “very old friends” and she hoped to “achieve closer ties for the future during the visit.”
“We want to work together to strengthen our economic partnership and strengthen our strategic partnership,” she told reporters.
Trade between the two countries has grown from $4 billion in 2000 to more than $20 billion last year. India is Australia’s fourth-biggest market, and officials say trade figures are expected to touch $40 billion by 2016.