Australian PM to visit India by year-end

April 17th, 2008 - 10:42 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, April 17 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith will visit India before the end of the year to enhance bilateral ties and take it to a “new and different level”. Smith told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Radio that both he and Rudd would visit New Delhi before the end of the year.

“I think our relationship with India is underdone, and both Australia and India want to take that relationship to a new and different level, because of India’s role in our region and because of India’s emergence as an economic and a strategic player in the course of this century,” Smith said in an interview to ABC Radio.

“I’ve spoken to a number of senior Indian officials and made the point that there’s not enough contact, leader to leader, minister to minister, official to official. We need to enhance not just our economic relations, but also our people to people exchanges,” he added.

Indian High Commissioner in Canberra, Sujatha Singh, told IANS: “We are really looking forward to their visit to India. Both the Australian foreign minister and prime minister have indicated their strong desire to take the bilateral relationship with India to the next level. We are working on dates for their visit.”

The last Indian prime minister to visit Australia was Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 when a Labour government was at the helm led by Bob Hawke. The growing Indian diaspora is eager to see the Indian prime minister visit Canberra soon.

United Indian Association in Sydney president Raj Natarajan told IANS: “We are looking forward to welcoming the Indian prime minister on Australian shores. Former prime minister John Howard had visited India last year and now Mr Rudd has said he would be visiting India this year. Hopefully, we will see Dr Manmohan Singh here in the near future.”

Australia will also support India and Japan’s bid for permanent membership of the UN Security Council and will make lobbying for a non-permanent membership for itself the focus of its foreign policy.

Smith told ABC Radio: “We strongly believe that India and Japan, for example, should both be permanent members of a reformed Security Council. We want the Security Council and the United Nations to reflect the modern international era, not to be a reflection of the 1940s or the 1950s.”

Saying that Australia has not been as active a player as it should have been in the international arena, Smith told ABC Radio that winning a seat on the Council from 2013 forms the centrepiece of his plans to boost Australia’s role in international affairs.

Australia has also expressed its desire to become an additional member to the six-party international talks aimed at dismantling North Korea’s nuclear programme.

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