By Christopher Kremmer
The Head of the Disarmament and International Security Division of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, D.B Venkatesh Varma was guest of honour at a working lunch hosted by the Australia India Institute in Melbourne recently.
Ambassador Varma, who has been appointed as India's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Conference on Disarmament, briefed guests on the progress of negotiations towards a comprehensive safeguards agreement which needs to be drafted and signed before sales of Australian uranium to India can proceed.
Guests at the luncheon held on campus at the University of Melbourne included Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Susan Elliott, A.I.I. Director Professor Amitabh Mattoo, and a range of India experts from academia and beyond.
Mr Varma, who was in Australia for the latest round of negotiations on a safeguards deal, said talks at the officials level were proceeding well.
The free-flowing question and answer format of the event allowed a range of issues and perspectives to be shared. Participants emerged impressed by the Indian representative's command of detail and ability to place India's nuclear program in the context of wider issues and geopolitical developments in the Indo-Pacific region.
Professor Mattoo said access to such a high-level member of India's nuclear policy boded well both for the progress of the negotiations and the broader Australia-India relationship.