Australian Opposition vows to sell uranium to India

Cautioning against over-reliance on China, which is currently Australia's biggest trading partner, the Liberal party leader Tony Abbott said he also favours resuming a Free Trade Agreement and greater defence co-operation with New Delhi.

Charging that the ruling Labour government had "badly mishandled" relations with India, Abbott said, "One of the best things that we could do to boost our relationship with the region is to sell them uranium."

While in a poll warm-up television clash with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, the shadow Liberal minister, Julie Bishop announced "We will reinstate the in-principle decision to sell uranium to India as well as resume the Free Trade Agreement."

Australia has 40 per cent of the world's uranium reserves but, the Labour government has stoutly refused to sell uranium to India saying that India wasn't a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Key beneficiaries of a Liberal election win and push for uranium exports to India, are likely to include mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.

Rio owns 68 per cent of Energy Resources of Australia and operates the Ranger uranium mine in Northern Territory, while BHP owns the Olympic Dam uranium mine in South Australia.

Describing India as one of the "coming super powers," the Opposition leader Abbott said, "It is obviously going to have a very important place in our region as well as in the world."

While declaring that US and Indonesia would be at the centre of his new foreign policy, the Liberal leader at the same time called for greater engagement with India, which is currently Australia's eighth largest trading partner.

The Liberal leaders also saw India as a natural maritime partner of Australia, while calling for scaling down of engagement with China.

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