India, Australia to finalise uranium safeguards agreement?
Melbourne: India and Australia are likely to initiate talks on a nuclear safeguards treaty during Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's visit to New Delhi next week that would eventually open up uranium sales to the Asian giant.
Gillard will arrive in New Delhi on Monday for a three-day visit.
She will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other senior government ministers, apart from calling on President Pranab Mukherjee and Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi. She will also meet leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj.
According to a report in 'The Australian', it was understood that during her visit to India Gillard would be looking at opening up negotiations on a safeguard treaty that would be required before uranium exports could commence.
The report quoted official sources as saying that a significant amount of work would still be needed despite Australia's agreement to open the door to potential uranium sales to India.
"Any treaty would include the same safeguards as contained in the treaty, as well as strict rules on access to nuclear facilities in India," it said.
In December last year, Australia's ruling Labour Party led by Gillard cleared the way for export of Australian uranium to India after a strong debate on the floor of the party's 46th national conference.
Despite resistance from opponents, the landmark policy change was carried out, paving the way for the first Australian country-to-country agreement to sell the yellow cake to a country outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Australia's known uranium resources are the world's largest - 31 percent of the world total. In 2011-12 Australia produced 7,700 tonnes of uranium oxide concentrate. It is the world's third-ranking producer, behind Kazakhstan and Canada, according to the World Nuclear Association.