Aus Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in India

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Bishop visits Delhi, Chennai and talks uranium supplies, Free Trade Agreement and cultural exchange

Australia is not reconsidering its position regarding uranium sales to India, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters in Chennai during her tour of India this week.

Bishop said Australia is not stipulating that India sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to be a part of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
“There is no rethinking by Australia on supplying uranium to India,” she said.

Bishop explained that certain legal provisions, including the civil nuclear agreement signed between Australia and India, have to be ratified by Australian parliament before the uranium supplies can be transported abroad.

Bishop said she expects the process to be completed by the end of this year and the first consignment of uranium to India would depend on further agreements between the Australian supplier and Indian buyers.

Queried about the Adani group’s coal mining project in Australia, Julie Bishop said approvals are under way. She told NDTV, the Australian government “welcomes Foreign Direct Investment from India” and is “confident” the project will go ahead.

While in Chennai, Bishop met with the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, O Panneerselvam and officially opened the new office of the Australian Consulate-General.

Earlier in the week, Bishop held talks with her Indian counterpart, the Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj as part of the 10th India-Australia Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue (FMFD).

Both leaders recognised the importance of finalising the India-Australia Free Trade Agreement, known as the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), to further encourage strong business links between the two nations.

Bishop, who also met with Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said the CECA between Australia and India is likely to be finalised by the end of this year.

Both Bishop and Swaraj also highlighted the imperative role the Make in India Show, to be held in Australia later this year, will play in ensuring mutually beneficial commercial enterprise.

As part of the Dialogue, the leaders also discussed cooperation in the area of skill development as well as measures to further enhance regional cooperation in defence and security.

Prior to the talks, Bishop said Australia wants to be the “partner of choice for India’s energy security” and, with both countries sharing “similar views” on China’s territorial ambitions and on unimpeded maritime rights, they could work together with ASEAN to push to conclude the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea which will govern maritime negotiations.
Bishop said Australia wants to be “a useful partner for India as it emerges on the world stage”.

Swaraj and Bishop agreed to strengthen cooperation to upgrade the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad, establish a Sports University in India and exchange expertise for water management projects, including the Clean Ganga program.

Sushma Swaraj also emphasised the need to expedite investigation on the tragic stabbing of Prabha Arun Kumar, an Indian IT consultant, on March 8 in Sydney.

After also meeting with India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Bishop announced a joint naval exercise for Indian and Australian defence forces later this year.

Julie Bishop extended an invitation to Swaraj to visit Australia, which she accepted, so we may see another Indian ministerial visit to our shores soon.

Prior to the FMFD talks on 14 April, Julie Bishop met with India’s Culture and Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma, following an agreement on promotion of arts and culture signed between the two countries during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Australia last year.

“It was also decided to hold a ‘Festival of India’ in Australia in 2015, which is a significant step and needs to be taken forward,” Bishop said.

Sharma said the dates of the ‘Festival of India’ in Australia will be finalised soon.

Bishop also announced one of India’s most important art treasures will travel to Australia in May.

The National Gallery of Australia will host a touring exhibition of The Story of Rama: Indian Miniatures before the works travel to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne.

The exhibition of 101 paintings from the National Museum in New Delhi is the first major initiative to take place under the Australia-India Memorandum of Understanding on Arts and Culture, signed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Australia last year.

While in India, as part of her role as Foreign Minister, Bishop also delivered the inaugural Indo-Pacific Oration at the Observer Research Foundation. She also presented at St Stephen’s College in Delhi, along with Amitabh Mattoo of the Australia India Institute, on the benefits from the roll out of the New Colombo Plan to India this year.

Bishop said that with the coming to power of the Narendra Modi government, there is “new energy about India” and Australia is keen to progress the two nations’ “ambitious bilateral agenda”.