Australia ready to support India’s case

P. S. Suryanarayana

Understands deal’s significance for India and U.S.

Ready to listen to any suggestions made in NSG, IAEA

SINGAPORE: Australia has indicated its willingness to support India’s case in the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, subject to a “careful, detailed consideration” of the issues at stake. Canberra has “not made a decision” at this stage.

According to Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, the move to consider India’s case “won’t lead to a change of policy [that] ... we only export uranium to those nation-states who are parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”

In a media interaction, after holding talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Perth on Thursday, Mr. Smith said: “India, of course, is not a party [to the NPT]. But we have always made it clear that we regard the so-called 123 Agreement, the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement, as [being] separate from that.”

Australia was now “looking at the [U.S.-India] arrangement with a positive and constructive frame of mind.” And, “we don’t regard, in any way our longstanding [Labour] party policy position on non-exportation of uranium as, in any way, standing between us and joining a consensus to support the arrangement,” he said.

Manmohan briefed

In remarks made public by the U.S. on Friday, Mr. Smith said Australia “understand[s] the significance that the arrangement has to both India and the United States.” This was already conveyed by him to External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee when he was recently in Canberra and to Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma on the sidelines of a regional security conference in Singapore earlier this week. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also briefed on these lines by his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd during the recent G-8 outreach meetings in Japan.

Strategic importance

Taking note of the “strategic importance” of the issues as viewed by India and the U.S., Australia would now “take a very careful look at the arrangement itself [and] also listen to any suggestions that we find [being] made in the forums of the NSG and the IAEA.”

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