‘Australia will have to reverse ban on uranium sale to India’

March 31st, 2008 - 8:18 pm ICT by admin  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, March 31 (IANS) The Kevin Rudd-led Australian Labour government will be compelled to reverse its ban on uranium exports to India as one of the pillars of its foreign policy is to enhance cooperation with Asia, says opposition leader Andrew Robb. The new Labour government in Canberra has clarified that it will not sell uranium to India unless India signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), reversing the initiative by the former John Howard-led coalition government to sell uranium to India for its civilian nuclear programme.

“The Rudd government position is wrong and unsustainable. The decision also reflects confused and inconsistent policy priorities given that one of the supposed three pillars of Mr Rudd’s foreign policy is enhancing relations with Asia,” said Robb, the federal opposition foreign affairs spokesman.

“Ultimately, I expect that the Rudd government will need to reverse this decision not to sell Australian yellowcake to India,” he said while speaking on `Australia-India: Strategic Imperatives’ at the Sydney Institute, a not-for-profit current affairs forum.

In January, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith passed on the Rudd government’s view to Indian special envoy Shyam Saran.

Commenting on it, Robb said, “The decision and the amateur way in which the decision was communicated to the Indian government has left a very bitter taste in Indian mouths.”

In August last year, the former Howard government agreed to sell uranium to India subject to the finalisation of a US-India nuclear technology exchange deal and the conclusion of a bilateral Australia-India nuclear safeguards agreement.

Robb said, “It was proposed that Australia sell uranium to India according to the identical strict safeguards under which we sell uranium to China and Russia.”

“In years gone by, China has sold nuclear technology to Pakistan and North Korea - unlike India which has abided by the NPT obligations, even from the outside,” he added.

A point emphasised last week by India’s former foreign secretary and Ambassador Lalit Mansingh, who told the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, “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.”

Mansingh had urged the Australian government to give the uranium issue “deeper and more serious consideration”.

Robb emphasised that it is a critical moment for seeking “to cement an Australian-Indian strategic partnership - a relationship of great importance to Australia’s interests and Australia’s future”.

“It is a strategic partnership that can be built around the challenge of energy in an energy-hungry world, while simultaneously addressing two of the great challenges of our time - climate change and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Robb added.

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