Canberra and New Delhi are moving closer to a civil nuclear agreement that could pave the way for the sales of uranium to energy-hungry India as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard arrives in the Indian capital to start discussions on the deal.

The agreement is a potential breakthrough for Australia’s nuclear trade which previously banned the sale of uranium to India during its ‘nuclear pariah state’ status. Australia has agreed to consider the sale following the ruling center-left labor Party’s decision to revoke the ban last year after a lengthy debate on nuclear weapons and safety after watching Japan’s nuclear crisis unfold.

Gillard is set to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss ‘preliminary negotiations’ on the civil nuclear deal, including “how safeguards would be guaranteed,” according to an Australian official.

“The whole process will take some time,” an Indian government official told AFP.

India is seeking to fill a gap in its coal-generated electricity supply that has plunged the country in darkness. According to The National, India’s government plans to spend about $175 billion over the next two decades to build 30 nuclear reactors.

Australia sees India as a key trade partner and upgraded their relationship to a “strategic partnership” with greater security cooperation in 2009. India is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.