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Australian PM Flies to India to Soothe Diplomatic Tensions

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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has arrived in India on a mission to enhance bilateral ties and to soothe diplomatic tensions following recent attacks on Indian students in Sydney and Melbourne.

Kevin Rudd meets Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his cabinet ministers Thursday in India for wide-ranging discussions.

Ties between the two nations have deteriorated in recent months following highly publicized attacks on Indian students in Australia. Some of the attacks are thought to have been racially motivated.

Mr. Rudd is expected to tell his hosts that despite the assaults, the most recent of which took place a few days ago, Australia remains a relatively safe place for young Indians looking to study overseas.

Indian politicians and some media outlets have accused the Canberra government of not doing enough to curb the attacks, which occurred in Sydney and Melbourne.

Climate change, the global economic meltdown and the fight against extremism are also likely to be on the agenda. India is expected to urge Mr. Rudd to allow it to buy Australian uranium, a move likely to be rejected because Canberra refuses to export supplies to nations that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Rory Medcalf, an analyst with the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, says the Rudd government wants closer ties with New Delhi.

"Australia is beginning to look more to India as a key player in the constellation of powers in Asia that we will need as a security partner and an economic partner and, indeed, as part of the social fabric of Australian society in the future," Medcalf said.

Australia is keen to build its trade relationship with India, given its burgeoning population and rapid economic development.

Like China, India is likely to be crucial to Australia's economic growth over the coming decades.

The two countries are considering a free trade agreement to consolidate their economic ties.

Mr. Rudd's brief visit, his first to the subcontinent as prime minister, begins in Mumbai, where he will watch a cricket match between India and Australia.