Australia urged to sell uranium to India

March 26th, 2008 - 9:10 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, March 26 (IANS) The Kevin Rudd-led government’s firm resolve not to export uranium to India will put Australia out of step with the approach of the other leading nations, says one of India’s most distinguished diplomats. The new Labour government in Canberra has clarified it will not sell uranium to India unless New Delhi signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), reversing the initiative by the former John Howard Government to sell uranium to India for its civilian nuclear programme.

“I trust that the uranium issue will be given a deeper and more serious consideration as the new Government settles in,” said Lalit Mansingh, who has served as India’s foreign secretary, high commissioner to the United Kingdom and ambassador to the United States.

Emphasising the fact that India has had an exemplary record on non-proliferation, Mansingh said, “Australia will be hard pressed to provide the moral justification for selling uranium to China, which has been a major proliferator of nuclear technology (e.g. to Pakistan, North Korea, Libya and Iran) while denying access to India.”

Delivering the India Australia Strategic Lecture for 2008 at the Lowy Institute of International Policy here, Mansingh pointed out three important premises on which the Indo-US nuclear deal is based.

He said, “One, that the NPT should cease to be the pretext for punishing India since the violators of the treaty have been those who signed it, unlike India, which observed the obligations of the NPT even from the outside.

“Two, that the global non-proliferation regime will be vastly strengthened by bringing India inside the tent rather than treating it like a nuclear untouchable.

“And finally, that nuclear power is the most promising source for India’s massive energy requirements in the future. Diverting India (and China) towards nuclear power will help reduce global pollution and maintain a measure of stability in oil and gas prices.”

“The validity of these arguments has now been accepted by the IAEA and by the major powers including the US, Russia, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. If Australia remains firm on not exporting uranium to India, it will appear to be out of step with the approach of the other leading nations of the world”, said Mansingh, who is here on his first visit to Australia.

Canberra has welcomed the Indo-US nuclear deal and has hinted that it will support a waiver being issued by the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG). “Supporting India’s right to buy nuclear fuel from other sources through an NSG waiver, also contradicts the logic of not permitting uranium sales from Australia,” he said.

He said nuclear energy is emerging as the “most promising option for clean, abundant and affordable energy” to meet India’s massive demand for power.

Reiterating that India has been fiercely independent in its foreign policy, he said, “India is as much at home in the trilateral dialogue with Beijing and Moscow as with the quadrilateral cooperation with the US, Japan and Australia.”

Earlier, Australia’s new Foreign Minister Stephen Smith had made it clear that Australia wants to proceed with the trilateral security dialogue between Japan, Australia and the United States, but it didn’t want to take part in the one off, four-way dialogue between Australia, Japan, the US and India.

China had expressed its concern about the quadrilateral dialogue that included India and had seen it as an exercise to contain it.

Speaking on the emerging India-US relationship, Mansingh said, “Two of the happy outcomes of the Indo-US rapprochement have been the new partnerships established between India and Japan and India and Australia. India looks to Australia as a long-term associate in its economic growth and a principal partner for its energy security.”

Mansingh is in Australia as a guest of the Australia India Council, which was established by the Australian government to broaden and deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.

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