New Delhi, Oct 17 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday toasted Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her pathbreaking initiative to start nuclear deal negotiations with India and lavished praises on her for opening "a new chapter" in bilateral ties.
"Prime Minister Gillard is an ardent advocate of a closer and more vibrant relationship between India and Australia," Manmohan Singh said at a gala banquet held at Hyderabad House. He proposed a toast to the health and personal well-being of the Australian prime minister and ever closer friendship and cooperation between India and Australia
"She has led personally from the front in giving new meaning and direction to our relations. I believe her current visit will set the tone for a much more intensive relationship between our two countries."
"It was again under your personal initiative that the Australian Labour Party reviewed its policy on uranium sales to India last year, enabling us to agree tonight on beginning negotiations for a bilateral agreement on civil nuclear cooperation."
Marking a transformation of bilateral relations, India and Australia announced the launch of negotiations for a nuclear deal, marking a departure from Canberra's stated policy of not selling uranium to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
More praise flowed from Manmohan Singh for the Australian prime minister who took an audacious initiative in December last year to persuade her ruling party to reverse an earlier policy of not selling uranium to countries which have not signed the NPT.
"Prime Minister Gillard personifies the freedom and equality of opportunity that India and Australia stand for. In her focus on education, health and employment policies, we see a reflection of our own priorities at home," he said.
Manmohan Singh's praise for Gillard comes at a time when the Australian prime minister is facing attack from critics back home for a slew of domestic policy missteps.