Australia moves to lift uranium ban on India

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday indicated her plans to allow uranium sales to the country.

Melbourne: Calling the Labour party`s
long-standing policy banning uranium exports to India as
outdated, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday
indicated her plans to allow uranium sales to the country.

In a write up in `The Age` report on Tuesday, Gillard has
indicated her plan to push for party policy at next month`s
Labour national conference to lift the ban, bringing Australia
into line with America`s thinking.

Gillard declares that it is "time for Labour to modernise
our platform and enable us to strengthen our connection with
dynamic, democratic India."

It is said that the Labour party`s most radical foreign
policy initiative to date, would boost relations with India,
which has greatly resented that Australia discriminates
against it - because it is not a signatory to the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty - while being willing to sell to
China.

"Just as I have said to the nation that we must analyse
and understand the opportunities and challenges of this Asian
century, the Labour Party too has to focus on our long-term
economic goals and be prepared to confront difficult questions
about maximising prosperity and the strength of our
relationships in our region of the world," she said.

"One of our nearest neighbours is India. Long a close
partner. The world`s biggest democracy. Growing at 8 per cent
a year. Yet despite the links of language, heritage and
democratic values, in one important regard we treat India
differently. We will not sell India uranium for peaceful
purposes - though Canada is preparing to - while policy allows
us to export it to countries such as China, Japan and the
United States," Gillard said.

The Australian prime minister said that it is time for the
party to modernise their platform and strengthen its
connection with dynamic, democratic India.

"As in other areas, broadening our markets will increase
jobs. We must, of course, expect of India the same standards
we do of all countries for uranium export - strict adherence
to International Atomic Energy Agency arrangements and strong
bilateral undertakings and transparency measures that will
provide assurances our uranium will be used only for peaceful
purposes," she wrote.

The Australian prime minister declared that it is "time
for Labour to modernise our platform and enable us to
strengthen our connection with dynamic, democratic India."

Her remarks indicate a major shift in Australia`s policy
with regard to uranium sale to a country which is not a
signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

She said India was in a class of its own, unlike Israel
and Pakistan. The three countries have not signed the treaty.

"As in other areas, broadening our markets will increase
jobs. We must, of course, expect of India the same standards
we do of all countries for uranium export - strict adherence
to International Atomic Energy Agency arrangements and strong
bilateral undertakings and transparency measures that will
provide assurances our uranium will be used only for peaceful
purposes," she said.

"One of our nearest neighbours is India. Long a close
partner. The world`s biggest democracy. Growing at 8 per cent
a year. Yet despite the links of language, heritage and
democratic values, in one important regard we treat India
differently. We will not sell India uranium for peaceful
purposes - though Canada is preparing to - while policy allows
us to export it to countries such as China, Japan and the
United States," the Australian prime minister said.

"Just as I have said to the nation that we must analyse
and understand the opportunities and challenges of this Asian
century, the Labour Party too has to focus on our long-term
economic goals and be prepared to confront difficult questions
about maximising prosperity and the strength of our
relationships in our region of the world," she said.

However, Labour’s Left faction has conceded it does not
have the numbers to prevent a reversal of the party`s ban on
uranium sales to India. But, Resources Minister Martin
Ferguson, a strong supporter of the move, said that he
expected the Labour conference to back Gillard.

Left faction convenor Doug Cameron said a reversal of the
policy is a fait accompli because it has the backing of the
powerful Right faction.

Senator Cameron was, however, not convinced with Gillard.
He said that it was his understanding that India did not have
sufficient uranium to meet both its energy and military needs.

"We`ll simply be exporting uranium to India and that will
free up uranium within India for the military programme," he
said.

The Australian Greens and conservation groups are of a
similar mind. Greens leader Bob Brown warned that selling
uranium to India would add to the "nuclear arms race".

"This is a country that has intermediate-range missiles.
It`s developing a plethora of nuclear submarines with nuclear
weapons," he was quoted as saying by local media.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith defended the move saying
the US supplied uranium to India under a bilateral deal signed
in 2008. The Nuclear Suppliers Group, an alliance of nuclear
supplier countries, also had approved the deal.

"This is a sensible thing to do," Smith said, adding that
it was an important step that reflected India`s rising
stature.

Ferguson said that it was hypocritical for Australia to
sell uranium to China and Russia but not India which is also
one of the 10 largest economies in the world with huge
purchasing power.

Meanwhile, India has welcomed the development. External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said the move is in recognition of India`s energy needs and its impeccable non-proliferation record.

PTI

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