`Aus’ U-turn on uranium to India under US prod`

The US seems to have influenced Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s U-turn on uranium exports to India, as the Obama admin viewed the long-standing ban was a roadblock to greater engagement with New Delhi.

Melbourne: The United States seems to have
influenced Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s U-turn on
uranium exports to India, as the Obama administration viewed
the long-standing ban was a roadblock to greater engagement
between Washington and New Delhi.

"Gillard`s decision to open the door to uranium exports
to India came after talks with the Obama administration, which
viewed the ban as a roadblock to greater engagement between
Washington and New Delhi," The Australian newspaper claimed.

The Prime Minister yesterday signalled she would use the
Labour party`s national conference next month to reverse a ban
on exporting uranium to India, a non-signatory of the Nuclear
non-Proliferation Treaty.

"There`s nothing to be read into it, coming as it does
the day before President (Barack) Obama`s visit, other than it
suited me as the day to make the announcement," she said,
adding "So it`s my decision, my announcement and it was made
because of my logistics as today is the appropriate day."

The paper said it was understood that Australian and US
officials have been involved in intense strategic discussions
about India and the Indian Ocean for several months.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has been in India this week
for a meeting on Indian Ocean co-operation and Defence
Minister Stephen Smith is expected to visit India early next
month to boost bilateral defence co-operation.

The Obama administration has been pursuing a closer
partnership with India and considers Australia an integral
part of its strategy, the paper said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said early this
month that the US-Australian alliance had been transformed
from "an Asia-Pacific alliance to an Indo-Pacific alliance".

The paper said the US has reconfigured its military
commands so that the US Pacific Command embraces
responsibility not only for the Pacific but for India and the
Indian Ocean.

This is in line with sustained argument from Australian
officials and ministers over many months urging the Americans
to consider the Pacific and Indian oceans as a single unified
theatre of operations, it said, adding in response, the
Americans have urged deeper engagement with India for
Australia but this required the end of the ban on uranium
exports.

Discussions have taken place in several forums, including
the AUSMIN ministerial meetings and the joint working party
formed by the US and Australia to feed into the US Global
Force Posture Review, due to report soon.

This is expected to encompass both the greater US
presence in northern Australia, to be announced in Darwin
tomorrow, and a higher US priority for the Indian Ocean.

Gillard yesterday said selling uranium to India would
boost the economy, create more jobs and strengthen ties with
the world`s largest democracy as it attempted to meet its
target of supplying 40 per cent of its electricity through
nuclear generation by 2050.

She also pointed to the US-India civil nuclear agreement
of 2008, which lifted the "de facto international ban" on the
sale of uranium to India.

"Given that change in diplomatic circumstances around the
world, for us to refuse to budge is all pain and no gain. And
I believe our national platform should recognise that
reality," she said.

However, Gillard ruled out any move to embrace nuclear
power.

PTI

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