NATIONAL

Australia: difficult to supply uranium

Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI: Australia’s new government has said it would be difficult to supply uranium to India as New Delhi had not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Senior Ministers also said Australia had not finalised its stand at the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) from which India will have to seek a unanimous exemption before being permitted to join the global commerce mainstream.

In an interview to a TV channel, Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said Canberra supplying uranium to India was “an issue that the government still has to take.”

“I can’t pre-empt that but the fact that the [Prime Minister’s Special] envoy Mr. [Shyam] Saran came to Australia to make India’s case was an important recognition of the engagement with Australia,” he said.

He maintained that Mr. Saran did not come to argue the case that Australia should supply India to uranium. The issue of Mr. Saran’s visit was to give a deeper understanding of the issues behind an agreement that India is seeking to achieve with the United States in terms of their civil nuclear agreement.

The previous government had assured India that it would supply uranium provided it was cleared by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the NSG. The Australian government’s revised approach was spelt out to Mr. Saran when he called on Australian Foreign Minister earlier this week.

“India is not a nation state that is a party to the NPT. I don’t think there’s any expectation that India will become a member. And so I simply underlined and reinforced the Labor Party’s and the government’s longstanding position. It didn’t come as any surprise to Mr. Saran,” said Mr. Smith

Mr. Saran underlined the Indian government’s view about India’s role in the nuclear cycle and pointed out that India despite not having been a member of the NPT, there had been no proliferation of nuclear expertise or materials from India to other third parties.

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