India hopes to persuade Oz on uranium supply

Canberra insisting on safeguard clauses

India hopes to move towards starting negotiations with Australia for a bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement when Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard visits New Delhi mid-October.

New Delhi is understood to be expecting that the Australian government would soon complete the procedural formalities to lift the ban on sale of uranium to India, setting the stage for launch of negotiations for civil nuclear cooperation agreement.

Gillard’s visit to India in October is going to be her first after she took over as prime minister of Australia in June 2010.

She last year led the ruling Labor Party to change its policy of opposing sale of Australian uranium to India. Her visit to India may be preceded by country’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr’s visit.

Past assurance

Canberra assured New Delhi that the Australian government was working towards lifting the ban on sale of yellow-cake to India.

The assurance was given when External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had a bilateral meeting with Karr in Phnom Penh on the sideline of a meeting of the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers.

Sources, however, indicated that even when Canberra would ask New Delhi to give “strong bilateral undertakings” and adhere to certain “transparency measures” in addition to the International Atomic Energy Association safeguards to ensure that yellowcake from Australia would be used only for peaceful purposes in India.

Though New Delhi secured a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in 2008, the Labor Party government in Australia till November 2011 remained firm on its stand of not selling uranium to India, particularly because the latter had not signed the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

Urge for review

India, however, has been keen to source some of the uranium required for its ambitious nuclear programme from Australia, which has nearly 40 per cent of the world’s yellowcake reserve. 

New Delhi also cited its impeccable non-proliferation record to urge Canberra review its policy.

Canberra has been ignoring repeated prodding by New Delhi, noting that its policy of not allowing uranium export to a non-NPT country was not specifically directed against India.

Gillard, however, made the Labor Party change its policy of not supplying Australian uranium to India.

Though the Australian government is in the process of lifting the ban on uranium sale to India, the change of stand by the Labor Party was criticised by anti-nuclear groups.

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