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Oz should sell uranium to India to boost ties:Shyam Saran

Last updated: 23 September, 2011
Melbourne, Sept 23 (PTI) 13:57 IST

Australia should sell uranium to India to boost the rapidly growing bilateral ties between the two countries, former foreign secretary Shyam Saran has said.

"We would certainly like Australia to lift the ban on uranium sale to India but it is the decision to be taken by them in the context of better and rapidly growing relations," Saran told PTI on the sidelines of Australia India Institute Conference here yesterday.

He, however, said that as the position of both the sides was very well known to each other, there was no point for India expressing disappointment repeatedly on Australia knocking down its request on uranium sale.

"We already have access to international market of uranium so it's not a practical problem for us but it's the matter of political symbolism," Saran commented. Replying to a question on 'how people living in the areas of nuclear power site were to be convinced on safety issues post Fukushima disaster', Saran said: "there has been some opposition in some parts of India... this is why I say that it is incumbent upon the government to be able to explain to people..or what are the safety features, what are the strict regulations that have been put in place."

"The government has not done a very good job of responding to those anxiety and it needs to be far more transparent.. but at the end of the day I would like to say this is the industry and energy source which is relatively safe and secure if proper safety procedures in put in place."

India currently has 20 nuclear power plants spread around the country, and most are on the coastline because of the need for access to plenty of water for cooling. All other plants are newer which have been built in the 1990s and 2000s.

Saran pointed out that developed countries should treat developing nations differently in regards to emmission reduction targets. "If you impose emmission reduction targets on country like India, what do we say to those 400 million Indian citizens who do not have any access to commercial energy and the per capita consumption of electricity is very, very small still. Do we tell them sorry for the rest of your life you cannot have electricity because we have to meet these emmission reduction targets," he commented.

Energy was one of the biggest constraints on the ability to maintain a growth rate of 8 or 9 per cent which, he said, was vital to eradicate poverty in the country.
Saran also mentioned that though India was not a member of the NPT but it had an impeccable record as far as non-proliferation was concerned. He further said that he was questioned if India could use the uranium against Pakistan which was completely misplaced.

"Whatever uranium fuel we receive from any country, whatever technology or equipment we receive, all our destined only for the civilian program, not for the strategic program," he added.

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