Australia must export uranium to India now: Opposition (Lead)

July 23rd, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, July 23 (IANS) The Australian Labour government can and must reverse its decision on banning uranium sale to India, the opposition Liberal party has demanded. “It is disastrous politics. It is a position that is unsustainable. It can and must be reversed,” said Liberal foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb in a media statement issued Wednesday.

Tuesday night’s vote of confidence in the Indian parliament supporting an international agreement on the use of uranium for clean energy production means that “Australia must now correct the snub to India”, he said.

“India’s energy security and needs are the major issues in the relationship between 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,” said Robb, calling the US-India nuclear agreement “good for India, good for Australia, good for the region, good for climate change and good for nuclear non-proliferation”.

In August 2007, the former coalition government led by John Howard had agreed to sell uranium to India subject to the finalisation of a US-India nuclear deal and the conclusion of a bilateral Australia-India nuclear safeguards agreement, but the Kevin Rudd government overturned the decision after coming to power last November.

It is said as much as 35 percent of India’s total energy needs could be met by clean nuclear power plants by 2050 if the existing restrictions on the import of nuclear technology and uranium for peaceful power sources are removed.

Robb questioned the Labour government’s decision, stating that it makes absolutely no sense to sell uranium to China and Russia, and not to India.

“While the Rudd government is saying to our Indian friends that we do not trust them with our uranium, at the same time Mr. Rudd and Mr. Smith (Foreign Minister Stephen Smith) say they have not yet made up their minds on whether to veto sales of uranium to India by the 44 other members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

“This makes no sense. How can Australia refuse to sell our uranium to India, yet plausibly support the rest of the world supplying uranium? Either way, Australia will be adding insult to injury,” Robb added.

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