India, Australia ready for next round of nuclear talks

India, Australia ready for next round of nuclear talks

India and Australia are likely to have the next round of the nuclear talks by the end of 2013 in which both countries hope to settle the differences on bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement that will eventually lead to supply of uranium from Down Under for Indian nuclear reactors.

“The next round of talks on the safeguards agreement will happen by 2013-end. If the agreement can be wrapped up at the end of the negotiation, it would be wonderful. Both governments’ only intention is to conclude negotiations early as issues are dragging a bit,” Australian High Commissioner Patrick Suckling said here on Monday.

Within hours of new Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott picking leaders for his cabinet, Suckling said this government would continue with the same policy as the previous government on uranium supply to India.

“Uranium supply to India is subject to civil nuclear cooperation agreement to ensure that uranium will be used only for peaceful purposes. Once that document is negotiated, the framework on sale would be drafted. The actual sale of uranium would, however, be a commercial decision,” he said.

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

Though initially Canberra was against uranium sale to India, Australian position changed later with previous prime minister Julia Gillard arguing sale of uranium to India would help boost the economy and raise job opportunities.

Underscoring Australia’s significant relationship on security and strategic issues with India, Liberal Party leader Abbott said he would like to continue with that relationship. “We have made good progress. But we have not put a time-frame for the negotiations to conclude because sometimes even the straight-looking issues become complex,” Suckling said.

The erstwhile Liberal Party government of Australia decided to allow export of uranium to India when the latter had been working with the US to pave the way for the civil nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington. But soon after Kevin Rudd took over as the prime minister of the Labour government in December 2007, he reversed the decision of his predecessor John Howard.

The Labour government’s stand not to sell uranium to India has been criticised in Australia, too. The opposition Liberal Party questioned the rationale behind selling yellow cake to China, but not to India, which is the world’s largest democracy and has an impeccable non-proliferation track record.