No Australian uranium for India, vital treaties signed

June 23rd, 2008 - 10:28 am ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Canberra, June 23 (IANS) Australia’s Labour government will not lift its ban on uranium exports to India as long as the latter doesn’t sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told Sky News Monday: “We’ve had as a party (Labour) a long standing policy position of only exporting uranium to countries who are party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. India for its own reasons is not a party to that.”

“Australia’s relations with India needs to be taken to a new level and as I have said in the last few days, a new relationship for a new century. Now uranium is just one small part of that,” Smith said.

At the fifth Australia-India Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue held Monday morning, Australian Foreign Minister and India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee underlined the strong bonds and enduring shared interests that underpin this bilateral relationship.

Smith and Mukherjee signed Monday an Extradition Treaty and a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, underscoring the willingness of the two countries to collaborate and address criminal matters in a practical way.

In a joint statement, the ministers reaffirmed the two governments’ commitment to taking bilateral links to a new, higher level. Smith announced he will be visiting India in September.

The ministers reiterated their strong support for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The two countries decided to establish regular chief of defence force level talks with the inaugural talks scheduled to take place in Australia in the near future.

Both ministers agreed to strengthen intelligence cooperation, including on counter-terrorism issues. They noted the need for practical cooperation in areas such as intelligence, law enforcement, border security and counter-terrorist financing and money laundering.

The ministers discussed at length existing and new forms of cooperation in a wide range of areas, which exemplify the growing depth and breadth of this partnership.

The issues discussed include enhanced regional cooperation between the two countries, including in the context of the East Asia Summit. On Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s ‘Asia Pacific Community’ proposal, Mukherjee said he would “follow with interest Australia’s initiative”.

While reiterating Australia’s strong support for a permanent seat for India on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Smith highlighted Australia’s firm support for India’s membership of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping when the membership moratorium ends in 2010.

Mukherjee welcomed Australia’s bid for a non-permanent UNSC seat for the 2013-14 term and said India supported Australia’s application for observer status at meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

The other issues where India and Australia could cooperate include the current food security, energy security and climate change challenges facing the world. The ministers announced the creation of a new bilateral water dialogue to share ideas about the best way to tackle scarce water resources.

Australia will allocate up to A$10 million for targeted technical assistance to build public sector linkages between the two countries. Projects funded under the scheme will address pressing public policy issues in the field of agriculture, climate change, water and resource management.

Smith and Mukherjee also announced a new forum, the Australia-India Roundtable convened by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute for International Policy and the New Delhi-based Indian Council for World Affairs, to extend the political partnership between the two countries.

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