Australia may support n-deal

July 10th, 2008 - 11:59 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 10 (IANS) Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd came just short of giving Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh an assurance that Australia would support the US-India nuclear agreement in the 45-country Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) and announced he would visit India at the end of the year. With India securing G8 backing for civil nuclear cooperation and approaching the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to work out an India-centred safeguards agreement, the ball would soon be in the Australian court as to whether it would reverse its decision to export uranium to India despite the latter not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“What I’ve indicated is that we in Australia would of course examine the content of that IAEA safeguards agreement with the Indians once it’s concluded. I’ve indicated that Australia will examine that document and of course we would do so given the interest which the United States and India attach to it. We would examine it constructively, but we need to see the document first,” Rudd told journalists at the conclusion of the G8 meet in Toyako, Japan.

Rudd thanked Manmohan Singh for extending an official invitation to visit India at the end of the year.

“I look forward to taking that up. I had a very long and good conversation with the Indian prime minister, both prior to today’s (Wednesday’s) meeting, during today’s meeting as we were sitting next to one another and in a subsequent bilateral,” Rudd told journalists.

During the bilateral talks, the two prime ministers discussed the importance on the part of both governments in broadening and deepening the Australia-India relationship and expressed their commitment to doing that across a gamut of areas including the economy, political dialogue and also broader security and defence cooperation.

As Australia warms up to India, uranium has been a contentious issue. While the former John Howard government had decided to export uranium to India to meet its growing energy needs, subject to the finalisation of the India-US civil nuclear deal and the conclusion of a bilateral India-Australia nuclear safeguards agreement, the Labour government headed by Kevin Rudd reversed the decision late last year.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb, told the local media Wednesday: “It is hypocrisy to lecture India on making serious commitments on climate change while at the same time stymieing India’s ability to produce greenhouse gas-free power.”

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