Australia will “continue to discuss” with India its “differences” on whether to allowaccess to Australian uranium for civil nuclear purposes.
The discussion will now take place “within the framework” of the “strategic partnership” that Canberra established with New Delhi in 2009, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said after holding talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna in Melbourne on Thursday.
The two leaders reviewed the whole gamut of bilateral relations and discussed international issues under a bilateral “framework dialogue.”
Mr. Krishna was assisted by Secretary (East) Latha Reddy, High Commissioner Sujatha Singh and Adviser Raghavendra Shastry.
Mr. Krishna later told The Hindu from Melbourne that he suggested to Mr. Rudd that Australia would be “well advised to revisit its policy” of not selling uranium to countries such as India, which did not accede to the discriminatory Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The issue was “discussed in all its implications,” especially in the perspective of India's “developmental angle and climate change angle.”
As for Australia's response, Mr. Krishna said: “I wouldn't put it in terms of assurances either being asked or being given.” He emphasised that “the strategic partnership is on track.”
At a press conference that the two foreign ministers addressed after their talks, Mr. Krishna said he was pleading for “a larger public debate” in Australia on its current policy about uranium sale.
Mr. Rudd, however, emphasised that Canberra's “policy continues into the future.” At the same time, “Australia fundamentally respects India's longstanding credentials on the non-proliferation question. India has not been responsible for a single act of nuclear weapons proliferation anywhere in the world.”
Ruling out “assumptions” and forecasts about whiffs and winds of change in Canberra's policy towards India, Mr. Rudd said Australia would, however, take note of India posture in the light of non-proliferation and climate change concerns.
On the protection of Indian students in Australia, Mr. Krishna said the situation had “drastically improved” and “confidence-building measures have been taken.” The old “anguish has disappeared,” he added.
During his meeting with the Indian community in Melbourne, he said no complaints about the current situation had been brought to his attention.
On the new Australian immigration rules, Mr. Rudd said that “particular cases of hardship,” if any, would be addressed.
In a television interview on the sidelines of the India-Australia talks, Mr. Krishna said New Delhi “will certainly consider” any request from Myanmar for help in the civil nuclear energy sector. He also described Pakistan as “the epicentre of terrorism in our region.”