Australia lauds India’s nuclear record, but no uranium sale

Thursday, January 20, 2011

MELBOURNE - Australia Thursday acknowledged India’s non-proliferation credentials but did not budge from its stand of not selling uranium to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) saying periodic disagreement could exist in even close relationships.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna raised the issue at the framework dialogue with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd and made a strong pitch for nuclear energy as clean energy.

“If you have to have clean energy, then according to India the only option is to have nuclear energy, and if you have to have nuclear energy, then you certainly need uranium,” Krishna said at a joint press conference.

However, the clean energy pitch did not cut much ice with Canberra which acknowledged India’s clean record on nuclear proliferation, but stuck to its stated position of not selling uranium to non-NPT signatories.

“Australia fundamentally respects India’s long standing credentials on the non-proliferation question,” said Rudd.

Rudd agreed that India has not been responsible for a single act of nuclear weapons proliferation anywhere in the world. “Something which we place on record again as being our views of India’s public policy posture and operational behaviour for a very long period of time,” he said.

“However, Australia’s stand on NPT remains, he said, pouring cold water on India’s hopes for any imminent breakthrough on the issue. Rudd stressed that the disagreement over the uranium issue should not affect the entire relationship, which is experiencing a fresh ballast.

“There is a huge amount under way in the Australia-India relationship at the political, security and economic levels… There’s sufficient ballast in this relationship to deal with areas of periodic disagreement as there are in all relationships,” he said.

Australia reiterated its support for India’s candidature for an expanded UN Security Council. The ministers noted that Indias participation in both the G20 and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in 2011-12 presented an opportunity for increased cooperation to meet global challenges. Rudd reiterated Australias strong and long-standing support for a permanent seat for India on the UNSC, said a joint statement.

Ahead of Krishna’s visit to Australia, India had hoped that Australia would revisit its stated position and stressed that the access to Australian uranium was a core issue for New Delhi, but those hopes were belied.

“While the relationship is progressing well, I think it is important to realise that the strategic partnership will not reach its full potential without some progress being made in the area of nuclear energy,” Krishna said here before beginning the dialogue to discuss a wide swathe of bilateral and regional issues that will include prospects of uranium sale.

Krishna is on a three-day visit to Australia from Tuesday.

He also announced that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would visit Perth in Australia to attend the next Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting in October this year and hold a bilateral summit.

“Your prime minister has invited our PM to attend and to combine this with a bilateral visit. Our prime minister has accepted the invitation in principle and is looking forward to the visit. We very much hope that this works out,” he said.

“If this visit takes place, it would be a very important visit - the first prime ministerial visit to Australia in 25 years,” he said, adding the trip “would provide a significant opportunity to take our bilateral relations to a significant level”.

The two ministers discussed a wide array of regional and international issues, including terrorism, climate change, the East Asia Summit, Indian Ocean security, the G20 process and reform of the UN and international financial institutions.

“Looking forward to the next meeting of the bilateral Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism in 2011, they noted the need for practical cooperation in areas such as intelligence, police cooperation, terrorist financing and money laundering, said a joint statement.

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