Former Australian prime minister John Howard has welcomed the rethink on the ban on uranium sales to India by the present government led by Julia Gillard in his country.
Fully endorsing the proposal, Howard said “this was something my government had also wanted to do.”
Howard, who was the prime minister from 1996 to 2006 but for the opposition Tory party, said he had always thought it was strange that Australia was prepared to sell uranium to China but not to a fellow democracy like India.
He was confident that this reform would go through as it would be fully supported by the opposition — his own party.
Howard, speaking as part of a panel at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit and at a press conference later on Saturday, said that while he knew India would not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, (NPT) he believed ways could always be found around that.
Howard also deplored the attacks on Indian students in Australia. He, however, said there was no evidence these were attacks specifically targeted Indians only.
“Indian students are welcome and protected in Australia,” he said.
Unfortunately, Howard felt, elements of the Indian media had inaccurately reported the nature of these attacks.
The former PM also denied an Australian media report that foreign minister Kevin Rudd had called for a strategic triangle between India, Australia and the US.
“He never said it,” Howard said flatly.
Asked whether he supported such an idea, he said it was best to let the relationship develop over time and see where it went.
In response to a question from the audience, Howard said that with great respect to Indians he had no doubt that Don Bradman was a greater batsman than Sachin Tendulkar.
“Bradman’s 99.9 average speaks for itself,” he said. But Tendulkar was easily among the greatest strokers of the willow as well.