Indian PM Modi, Ist Indian PM to Visit Australia in 28 Years, Fiji in 33 years

November 11
10:22 2014

The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi with the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, at the Ceremonial Reception, at Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on September 05, 2014.

Australia, New Destination for India to source Uranium and Gas

By TN Ashok   Diplomatic Editor

New Delhi, November 10: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will become the first Indian premier to visit Australia in 28 years as his government reengages with this pacific Asian nation for trade and investments and identify it as the new suce for Uranium and Gas.

Modi  pays a bilateral visit to Australia from 16-18 November 2014 (after G-20 Summit). This will be the first PM visit to Australia since 1986 and the second meeting between the two PMs this year, Secretary East in the External Affairs ministry Anil Wadhwa told newsmen today.

Australian PM  Tony Abbott visit last September saw four agreements signed on Civil Nuclear Cooperation, Sports, Skills and Water. Modi  will have delegation level talks with PM Tony Abbott and address the Parliament in Canberra, have political, business and community meetings in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne and attend a dinner hosted by  Abbott.

A number of agreements are to be signed and announcements made on initiatives. A strong delegation of CEOs will accompany PM to highlight India’s economic interests with Australia and in the APAC region. .

Wadhwa said the PM’s visit would be an important landmark in re-engaing Australia and its business and Indian communities and   strengthen contacts in the Pacific region, which will be fortified by the visit to Fiji on 19 November, 2014. India and Australia share a strategic partnership based on shared beliefs; overlapping economic interests, especially in the resource sector; and people-to-people contacts.

India has grown as a factor in Australian policy making, facilitated by economic engagement, flow of skilled migrants from India and our growing profile in the emerging Asian and global architecture. For us too, there are growing complimentaries in supply of resources, particularly energy, our enterprises have investments and they host a growing population of persons of Indian origin, including students.

Australia is a major source of coal, gold, copper, diamond and can emerge as a source of uranium and gas. Indian investments in the resources sector in Australia have grown over time, totalling over US $ 10 billion. We have obtained a long-term stake for gas in the Gorgon field of Australia. The negotiations on the Administrative Arrangements for Civil Nuclear Energy are proceeding smoothly and this will open the way for trade in uranium with Australia. There is interest in Australia to engage in our mining sector, he said.

On the economic side, India’s trade in goods declined from US$ 17.5 billion in 2011-12, to US$ 12.5 billion in 2013-14. To address this we seek to (i) conclude mutually beneficial CECA at an early date (ii) hold a Make in India Show 2015 in Australia and (iii) reconstitute CEO Forum to step up economic engagement. We are also looking at greater flow of services, including IT, investments, tourism, Wadhwa said. .

The Secretary East said India ‘s political engagement is strong with annual summits, including in margins of multilateral events and regular dialogue. “ We have close cooperation on regional issues, especially in EAS, G-20 and IORA. Our defence cooperation is growing and we hold the first bilateral maritime exercise in 2015, continue training, regular exchanges and R&D”, he said.

The secretary pointed out that India would also be working  with Australia on on World War I commemorative events, including on Gallipoli. On security issues, we have good working relations in counter-terrorism and transnational crimes. We have finalised text of Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Persons and MOU on Combating Narcotics which will help our common efforts, he said. .

Education and S&T are progressive areas of cooperation. The Strategic Research Fund, which has been successful in promoting joint projects, has been extended by 4 years. PM will visit some projects in Brisbane. The Water Partnership has also been extended and we are exploring opportunities in the Ganga project. The cooperation in mining and geology technology has also yielded favourable results. “ We are exploring close coordination, including collaboration for Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad with Australian partners, ” Wadhwa said.

Indian students migration to Australia has touched  36,000, with more and more opting for higher education. g for Joint research, joint degrees and collaboration is being promoted between universities.   IITs and IIS already having  strong collaboration. “. We are exploring cooperation for a Sports University and training. Australia has contributed $ 1 million to Nalanda University for a Chair on Environmental and Ecology Studies. Australia  has launched the New Colombo Plan for India to commence in 2015.

Indian residents population in Australia  is currently over 450,000. Last year, India contributed the largest share of technically qualified migrants to Australia, overtaking China for the first time. PM will have a major event with the Indian community in Sydney. We are establishing a Cultural Centre in Sydney. We plan to have a Festival of India in 2015 to step up cultural diplomacy, Wadhwa said. .

PM’s visit to Fiji takes place after a gap of 33 years. Indira Gandhi was the last PM to visit Fiji in 1981. PM’s visit is an opportunity to re-establish contacts with the new Government in Fiji, express solidarity with the Indo-Fijian community, expand on our development cooperation programme and reach out to the Pacific community.

PM’s visit will have three components – meeting with PM and address to Parliament, meeting with Pacific leaders and meeting with local Fiji community. With the recent elections in Fiji, this is an opportunity to deal with Fiji as a democratic nation. Moreover, this gives strength to India’s approach to deal with Fiji as the hub of the Pacific region.

Fiji held democratic elections on 17 September, 2014 which ended the period of an interim Government established by a military coup. Bainimarama was elected PM with a big mandate. India supported the election process by providing indelible ink and training; we also participated in the Multilateral Observer Group (MOG) as co-Chair (with Australia and Indonesia). The MOG in its interim report after the elections held that the elections were credible and results broadly reflected the will of the people of Fiji.

India’s linkages with Fiji go back to 1879 when Indian labour was brought here under the indenture system to work on sugarcane plantations. Between 1879 and 1916 around 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji. By early 20th century, Indian traders and others had also started arriving in Fiji.

India’s bilateral trade in 2013 was US $ 51 million with India’s exports being US $ 49 million and imports US $ 1.9 million. Our development assistance to Fiji is considerable. “We have supported the up gradation and modernization of the sugar factories, which are the mainstay of the agricultural community. We are now embarking on a co-generation plant to improve efficiency. Our technical assistance has improved productivity and enhanced the value of the sugar produced. “the secretary pointed out.

Fiji also looks for support in health, education, agriculture and other areas. Fiji sources medicines from India and could become our hub for the Pacific.  The great distance from India has its own challenges. We are looking at ways to improve connectivity and visa facilitation. This would be of great interest to other island countries in the south Pacific region who use Fiji as a hub, Wadhwa said. .

The meeting of Pacific Island Leaders will bring together all 14 island countries in a first ever summit with India. We hope to make this a regular process to improve dialogue and cooperation. India and the Pacific Islands share similar challenges of climate change but also have great opportunities for cooperation in our development efforts. We have been participating in UN related bodies as well as in the Pacific region for a while with the island states and we share a warm understanding. They look forward to our leadership role and support for policy, development assistance and capacity building. The meeting will help develop new initiatives and a roadmap for our joint efforts, Wadhwa said. .


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