Australian PM to visit India - energy, education, trade on table

Paritosh Parasher

Melbourne, April 6 (IANS) Energy, education and trade are likely to form the backdrop to the forthcoming three-day visit of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to India.

"My first visit to India as Prime Minister is a chance to further co-operate across a wide range of sectors including energy, education and trade," Turnbull said which delivering a speech at the Sydney Institute on Thursday night.

"But there are many more opportunities. India wants to provide energy security through a range of technologies, including nuclear, clean coal, natural gas and renewable energy. Australia is well placed to provide many of the raw materials, and some of the latest technology," he said in a reference to Australia being endowed with an abundance of natural resources including coal, uranium and natural gas.

Some commentators Down Under are interpreting this part of the speech as another testimony of Australian political leadership's support for a mega coal mine project planned by Indian mining and energy tycoon Gautam Adani.

Besides the powerful coal lobby, the Liberal Prime Minister's visit to India would be followed with avid interest by the Australian universities and vocational training institutes. In fact, Turnbull's visit would coincide with a visit by a large delegation of Australian universities and colleges.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham is leading a delegation of 27 university Vice Chancellors and officials visiting India to seek opportunities to train hundreds of young Indians under various programmes started by India's BJP government. The Australian universities are optimistic of getting a positive response as education happens to be Australia's second largest export to India.

Australia's education exports to India are worth $2.3 billion a year with more than 60,000 Indian students studying in Australia last year. Turnbull is likely to promote Australian universities courses to Indian students and also seek opportunities for Australian vocational training institutes to open shop in India.

Besides coal and education, the bilateral trade between the two Indian Ocean Rim countries is increasing at a healthy pace and has doubled to more than A$20 billion in the past one decade. The Australian policymakers are buoyed by the fact that the Indian economy is growing at 7 per cent a year and would draw level in size with the United States by about 2050.

"India is undergoing a dramatic economic transformation and our close partnership creates opportunities for both nations," Turnbull said.

"Alongside China, India is a land of immense opportunity for Australia," he added.

The Indian leadership is like to press the Australian leader to expedite the process to export uranium to India.

According to some media reports, the Australian Prime Minister would seek to rejuvenate the negotiations over a free trade agreement between Australia and India. The FTA talks have slowed down for various reasons in the recent past.

Turnbull, who is visiting India from April 9-12, would meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Delhi on Monday.

(Paritosh Parasher can be contacted at paritoshparasher@yahoo.com)

--IANS

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