Krishna to renew pitch for uranium sale in Australia

Monday, January 17, 2011

NEW DELHI - India is set to renew its pitch to Australia, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, to review its reservations on selling uranium to New Delhi when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna goes to Melbourne on a three-day visit beginning Tuesday.

Krishna will hold the third round of the framework dialogue with his counterpart Kevin Rudd in Melbourne Wednesday, official sources said.

He is likely to call on Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The two sides are expected to discuss a swathe of bilateral and global issues, including closer collaboration on security issues in Asia and in multilateral bodies like G20. They are also likely to discuss the evolving East Asian architecture and India’s bid to join the Asia Pacific Economic Community (APEC).

The two ministers are expected to discuss Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Australia and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) that Perth will be hosting later this year.

The two ministers will also review steps taken by the Australian government to prevent attacks against Indian students that had shadowed their ties and to ensure their safety.

Krishna is expected to renew India’s request to Australia to sell uranium to New Delhi. Canberra has a long-standing policy of not selling uranium to those countries who have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Gillard has continued the Labour government’s policy of not selling uranium to non-NPT countries since replacing Kevin Rudd as Labor leader in June last year.

Ahead of Krishna’s visit, Australian High Commissioner to India Peter N. Varghese said his country was ready to discuss uranium sale if India brought it up. He, however, reiterated that there was no change in Australia’s position on not allowing uranium sale to India as India was not a signatory to the NPT and admitted that it remained an unresolved issue in the bilateral relationship.

India is, however, hopeful of a change in Canberra’s policy in the not-too-distant future, sources said. Australia may rethink the ban in view of the powerful endorsement by leading members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, including the US, France and Russia, for India to join elite nuclear groupings like the NSG.

Economic diplomacy will be high on the agenda. The two sides are also expected to discuss negotiations for a proposed free trade agreement. Canberra has made it clear that the ball was in India’s court to start negotiations.

The two sides have agreed to accept the feasibility report on the proposed FTA. India is understood to have persuaded Australia to keep extraneous issues like environment, labour and government procurement out of the ambit of the FTA.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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