Ending a long wait, India and Australia will begin talks for a civil nuclear cooperation agreement in March. The pact will enable Australia to sell uranium to India.
Australia’s known uranium resources are the world's largest — 31% of the total global find, and India takes this into account in its ambitious civil nuclear programme. “We shall be commencing negotiations on a Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement in March 2013,” external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said after talks with visiting Australian foreign minister Bob Carr. “Australian and Indian officials will be working to conclude the agreement which will enable the export of uranium to India,” Carr said.
Though Khurshid refused to give a deadline for the conclusion of the talks, he said, “A sense of urgency and purpose,” will guide the discussions. The Australian foreign minister also noted that India has a “target of 25% of base-load power generation to be nuclear by 2050”.
Australia had agreed to start negotiations on a civil nuclear deal during the visit of its PM Julia Gillard to New Delhi in October last year. In December 2011, Gillard’s Labour Party had overturned its long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India. It was a landmark turnaround in its position as Australia long resisted selling uranium to India, a non-signatory to the non proliferation treaty.