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There is a flurry of activity in the Indian Foreign Office! State visit of Prez Bush.. and Aussie PM Howard.
India has officially asked the Federal Government to consider lifting its export ban on uranium, and while that request has not been agreed to, India has not been flatly refused either. The move has been interpreted on the Indian side as suggesting that the door for exports may be open, somewhere down the track. Facing questions about his uranium policy on his trip to India, the Prime Minister John Howard again restated that current Australian policy dictates that sales only go to countries that sign up to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
On his visit the Aussie PM signed a Defense Pact.
The MoU, signed by Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt and and Australian High Commissioner John McCarthy in the presence of PM Manmohan Singh and his visiting Australian counterpart John Howard, proposes cooperation in military joint-training, maritime security and defence R&D. The pact also envisages an India-Australia joint working group (JWG) on defence.
The agreement is something of turnaround on the Australian government’s part. While the five years since 2000 have seen landmark defence exchanges after decades of Cold War isolation, Canberra has traditionally made no secret of its concern over India’s strategic intentions. The proposed agreement, incidentally, includes a significant cooperative clause on maritime security in the sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) in the Indian Ocean.
While Australia made no bones about criticising India’s maritime acquisitions from Russia in the 1980s, the post-tsunami scenario appears to have provided the atmosphere for a rethink. More recently, Australia openly expressed its reservations about Indian warships escorting US vessels in the Malacca Strait in May-August 2002, and was also uncomfortable with the inclusion of aircraft carrier INS Viraat to the South-East during Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash’s visit in June last year. In December last year, however, the navies of both countries concluded a milestone pact to cooperate initially in mine warfare and clearance diving, and then move onto larger joint exercises.
The MoU signed on Monday provides a platform to further those nascent proposals. Australia’s largest maritime partner is currently Indonesia, though the country also has expansive defence ties with Beijing which some say partially accounts for the suspicion of New Delhi’s intentions in the Indian Ocean.
And Indian Prez visit to Myanmar – about which the China State Daily reports thus:
Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalamis due to start a three-day official visit to Myanmar on Wednesday to push relations between the two countries to a new high.
At the invitation of Chairman of the Myanmar State Peace and Development Council Senior-General Than Shwe, Kalam will be the first Indian head of state coming to Myanmar in decades.
Observers here believe that relations between Myanmar and India have been warming up rapidly since late 1990s.
Indian Vice-President B.S. Shekhawat visited Yangon in 2003, while Than Shwe toured India in 2004. These visits have paved way for increased political, economic and cultural cooperation between the two countries.
During Than Shwe’s New Delhi visit, three memorandums of understanding were signed, of which the cooperation in non-traditional security issues stressed that both sides were committed to jointly combat terrorist activities in the border region and Myanmar reiterated that it would not allow insurgent activities against India from its soil.
Over the period from 1997 to 2003, India extended to Myanmar 50million U.S. dollar credit for industrial development under the economic and technological cooperation. In July 2004, a memorandum of understanding was generated on India’s provision of a line of credit worth over 56 million dollars for upgrading Myanmar’s rail transportation.
India has invested 4.5 million U.S. dollars in Myanmar so far since 1999. Its bilateral trade including the border trade with Myanmar amounted to 425.82 million dollars in the fiscal year 2004-05, Myanmar statistics show.
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