No uranium to India will cost Australia billions: opposition

September 9th, 2008 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Sep 9 (IANS) The Kevin Rudd government’s decision not to sell uranium to India would cost Australia billions of dollars, the opposition Liberal Party said Tuesday.”Australia’s relationship with India will be severely damaged if the Rudd government does not commit to selling Australian uranium to India, costing Australia billions of dollars,” said the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Andrew Robb as Foreign Minister Stephen Smith arrives in New Delhi.

“India’s energy security and needs are the major issues in the relationship between our two countries. This issue can strategically make Australia a very important partner to India. It is the thing India really wants from us. It is the big issue.”

Australia has 40 percent of the world’s known uranium reserves.

The Kevin Rudd-Labour government had last November reversed the initiative by the former John Howard-led coalition government to sell uranium to India for its civilian nuclear programme.

Despite supporting New Delhi at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) over the weekend, Australia has reaffirmed that it will not export uranium to India unless the latter signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“How can Australia be left in a position of supporting a third country doing what Australia itself supposedly strongly opposes? The hypocritical and contradictory position adopted by this weak and vacillating Rudd government will cost Australia billions of dollars, it will severely compromise a burgeoning relationship with India and is an international embarrassment,” said Robb.

The Liberal Party has been questioning the Mandarin-speaking prime minister’s rationale behind selling uranium to China and Russia but not to the world’s largest democracy.

With the NSG adopting a one-off waiver of the 34-year-old global ban on nuclear trade with India, allowing New Delhi and Washington to do business, countries and companies will be racing to exploit India’s lucrative civilian nuclear technology market.

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