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Decision on uranium sale to India significant: Australia

Press Trust of India
Dec 05, 2011 at 09:01pm IST

Melbourne: Calling the ruling Labor's decision to lift ban on uranium sale to India as "deeply significant", Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith on Monday said it would advance Canberra's interests and benefit its ties with the "emerging super power."

Asserting that the global community has come to accept that India would not sign Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty, Smith, who was among those who supported Prime Minister Julia Gillard's bold move to reverse the Labor policy on the issue, said he had no reservations over selling uranium to New Delhi.

"I think this is a deeply significant decision (of Labor)," he told ABC TV. "This will advance Australia's interest."

Decision on uranium sale to India significant: Aus

The Australian Defence Minister said uranium sale to India will benefit its ties with the emerging super power.

The Indo-US civil nuclear agreement had changed the nature of the discussion about exports of uranium, Smith said, adding that the accord was approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

"That effectively put India under the international nuclear regulators for the first occasion," he said.

India gave a series of undertakings, including a moratorium on future nuclear testing, signing up to the agency's additional protocol and splitting its civilian nuclear technology from the military programme, he noted.

Smith said that International community has come to accept that India will not sign NPT.

"This is the best way of making sure that India ... as it takes its rightful place as the largest democracy and one of the three countries that are emerging as a super power in this century - US, China and India - has voluntarily agreed to go under governance of International Atomic Energy Agency. That's a good thing. That's a progress. That's improvement."

"This whole game changed in 2008-09 when India agreed to place itself under the International Atomic energy agency and under Nuclear Suppliers Group. And what has occurred as a result of that is that for the first time we have India under that regulation and that is the essential fundamental point to those who don't agree with this decision (of Labor)," Smith said.

He further said that though there was a divide within the Labor on the decision, it would not affect the party.

"We have managed this decision well over 20-30-40 years period in terms of different views within our party. What we will now do... having made fundamentally important strategic decision for Australia's future and our region's future that is now sit down with India and work through a bilateral safeguard agreement," he said.

Smith said India has made it clear that it will not sign the NPT and international community has come to accept that and that was why in 2008-2009 the IAEA and NSG agreed that it was best to place India under the governance of the international civil nuclear regulators.

"That's what has changed arrangements here. So far as Australia exporting uranium to India is concerned, when we made our decision, our threshold decision in 1984 that we would export uranium we also required that the country of destination had to enter into a separate bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia and that will be the case with India as well," he said.

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