Australia has reiterated its desire to conclude a free trade agreement (FTA) with India by the end of the current year.

This issue (FTA) was the main subject of discussion at a meeting between Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley here on Monday.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott had last year approved of such an agreement, signalling that political will existed at the top for the FTA.

The interest on signing a FTA had gathered momentum since last year after Modi-led Government assumed power in May 2014 and Abbott taking steps to strengthen Australia’s relations with India.

As part of the enhanced bilateral relations, Australia will start naval exercises with India this year.

Earlier in the day, Bishop — who began her three-day official visit to India on Monday — said India-Australia relationship was now at an “unprecedentedly high level”.

It was in respective interests that both countries grow and prosper, she added.

Meanwhile, the uranium issue is expected to come up for discussion on Tuesday between Bishop and her counterpart Sushma Swaraj during the 10{+t}{+h} framework dialogue between the two countries.

NGO funding

Bishop began her official trip by visiting an Australian government funded project in Nizamuddin Basti here on Monday.

At the Nizamuddin Basti, she announced grant of ₹ 7.5 lakh to the Aga Khan Foundation for supporting child nutrition through a women group — Zaika-e-Nizammudin managed by the foundation.

Speaking on the occasion, Bishop said, “Investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do”.

This is the second round of funding to the Aga Khan Foundation from the Australian government through the Australian High Commission here under its ‘direct aid’ programme. The first happened last year.