Australian Minister upbeat on clearing snags in n-deal

Julie Bishop said her government expected the opposition to back the deal in the Senate. Photo: R.V.Moorthy

Julie Bishop said her government expected the opposition to back the deal in the Senate. Photo: R.V.Moorthy

The Australian government is confident of resolving issues over the civil nuclear deal when officials meet next week, said visiting Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. “Given that the United States and Canada have come to an understanding with India that satisfies their requirements, I don’t see why Australia cannot,” Ms. Bishop told journalists during a closed-door interaction in Delhi. The Foreign Minister also said she hoped the framework for uranium trade could be concluded in 2015.

India and Australia signed the >civil nuclear deal in September 2014, which would have enabled Australia to supply uranium to India, once the treaty was ratified by Australian parliament. However, the deal has run into opposition at the parliamentary committee level in Canberra, where the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has yet to submit its report on the deal. In February this year, the committee held several hearings with nuclear experts opposed to the deal because of India’s refusal to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation treaty). However, Ms. Bishop said her government was confident of its numbers in the House of Representatives, and said her ruling Liberal party “expected” that the opposition Labour party would support the deal with India in the Senate, where it has the numbers. Ms. Bishop will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday as part of the annual strategic framework.

'India a trusted user of nuclear energy'

Ms. Bishop has said outstanding issues regarding the civil nuclear deal will be resolved when officials meet next week. On the contentious issue of “tracking and flagging” nuclear requirements, to check where the supplied material is used in India, which was raised and resolved with the US during President Obama’s visit , Ms. Bishop only said, “I understand there is a way that Australian concerns and India’s position can converge.” Under Section 51(2) of the Australian safeguards law, it is mandatory for the government to account for all Australia-Obligated Nuclear Material (AONM), in terms of “location, quantities and intended use,” verified on an annual basis. However, India insists it will only submit to checks by the IAEA, which tracks the material, but doesn’t require a break-up of the material according to the country of origin.

Concessions to U.S.

US officials have said India had made a concession on data sharing, allowing US inspectors as part of the IAEA team, which had allowed for the nuclear breakthrough on the issue of tracking. It remains to be seen whether a similar concession will be made when Australian and Indian nuclear negotiators meet next week. “We are not going to allow the agreement (nuclear deal) to fail for lack of creative thinking,” Ms. Bishop told The Hindu .

Hailing India as a “trusted and reliable” user of nuclear energy, she said Australia wants to be “the partner nation of choice for India’s energy security for coal, gas, and uranium”. Ms. Bishop will meet External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday and will also meet Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. During her meetings, all aspects of the bilateral relation, including energy, Free Trade Agreement negotiations, defence partnership and maritime exercises, as well as MoUs on tourism and culture will be discussed. Ms. Bishop will travel next to Chennai where the new Australian consulate would be inaugurated.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2022 3:39:30 am |