Gillard intends to visit India before yr-end

Melbourne: Having led the ruling Labor to positively reverse its policy on uranium sale to India, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard intends to undertake her maiden official visit to New Delhi before the year-end.

The Australian federal government is keen to develop ties with India, Gillard said, addressing the India-Australia Friendship Fair in Sydney yesterday.

"I intend before the year is out to make a personal difference to those ties by visiting India," she was quoted by AAP as saying.

Gillard did not give the exact dates for her India visit. Earlier in Delhi, official sources had said that Gillard would pay a three-day official visit to India from October 15.

In December last year, Australia`s ruling Labor led by Gillard cleared the way for export of uranium to India after a strong debate on the floor of its 46th national conference.

Despite resistance from opponents, the landmark policy change was carried out, paving the way for the first Australian country-to-country agreement to sell yellow cake to a nation outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Apart from civil nuclear cooperation, ways to boost bilateral trade ties and other other strategic issues are expected to be discussed during the visit of the Australian Prime Minister to India.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who also took part in the annual India-Australia Friendship Fair, lauded the role of Indians in Australia.

"India is a great country and Indian-born people are great citizens of Australia," Abbott said.

The India-Australia Friendship Fair was part of the Independence Day celebrations organised by Sydney-based Indian community leaders. Also present on the occasion were New South Wales Premier Barry O` Farrell and Indian High Commissioner Biren Nanda.

In Melbourne also, hundreds of Indians gathered yesterday to participate in a two-day music and dance festival, a special part of the Independence Day celebrations.

The festival showcased an eclectic mix of traditional and modern Indian music and dance, including a solo performance by renowned Odissi dancer Rajshree Behera.

The festival, a joint initiative of Australia India Institute and Federation of Indian Associations of Victoria (FIAV), also featured Indian art and craft and a Bollywood dance workshop.

The main aim behind this annual event is to create awareness about Indian culture and heritage, FIAV President Vasan Srinivasan said.