|Tony Abbott in Indonesia
on Wednesday. (AP)
Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam), Oct. 9: Manmohan Singh will tomorrow meet new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and is also likely to hold bilateral talks with Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to speedily ink pacts critical to India’s nuclear power strategy.
Both Abbott and Abe have indicated support for nuclear trade with India, shifting away from the relative reluctance of predecessor regimes, and Singh will seek their support for early negotiations, senior government officials said today.
Singh’s talks, especially with Abe, will likely be followed as closely in Beijing as in New Delhi, Tokyo and Canberra because of Chinese fears that the ultra-nationalist Japanese Prime Minister is trying to draw India into an anti-China axis.
The three leaders are in Brunei for the East Asia Summit tomorrow.
Abbott’s Liberal Party has traditionally been warmer to nuclear trade with India. Australia holds 31 per cent of the world’s known uranium deposits and New Delhi began talks for imports of the mineral that fuels nuclear reactors when the Liberal government of John Howard was in power.
But the Labour Party came to power in Australia by the time India earned a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group — critical for nations to trade in nuclear technology or fuel with India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation agreement.
The Labour party eventually overcame much of its traditional reluctance to nuclear trade with India, but was itself booted out of power before negotiations with New Delhi were concluded.
“We expect nuclear talks to proceed more smoothly under the Liberal government,” a senior official said.
Abe has also pressed for closer ties with India. Multiple defence deals inked by the nations when Singh visited Tokyo this May triggered concerns in China, already on tenterhooks over the US move to re-pivot towards Asia.
While Australia offers India a source of uranium, a nuclear deal with Japan is critical because most of the American, Russian and French reactors it hopes to buy to buttress its nuclear energy capacity depend on Japanese components.