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Australia PM moves to lift uranium ban on India

Press Trust of India
Nov 15, 2011 at 09:35am IST

Melbourne: Calling the Labor party's long-standing policy banning uranium exports to India as outdated, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Monday indicated her plans to allow uranium sales to the country.

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

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

Australia PM moves to lift uranium ban on India

The Australian prime minister said that it is time to strengthen its connection with dynamic, democratic India. (Associated Press)

It is said that the labor 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 Labor 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.

However, Labor'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.

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, a strong supporter of the move, was meanwhile quoted by local media as saying that

he expected the conference to back Gillard.

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

The Australian prime minister has said India will have to meet the same standards that now apply to importers of

Australian uranium.

That means strict adherence to International Atomic Energy Agency arrangements and strong bilateral and transparency

measures which provide assurances that Australian uranium would be used only for peaceful purposes.

However, Senator Cameron was not convinced, saying 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 by media report.

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.

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