Australia to back India in NSG, consider uranium sale | india | Hindustan Times
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Australia to back India in NSG, consider uranium sale

Australia, an influential member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group which was earlier sceptical of the India-US civil nuclear deal, on Tuesday "congratulated" India on the 123 bilateral agreement.

india Updated: Aug 01, 2007 04:48 IST

Australia, an influential member of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group which was earlier sceptical of the India-US civil nuclear deal, on Tuesday "congratulated" India on the 123 bilateral agreement and indicated it will consider selling uranium to New Delhi.

"The Australian foreign minister informed me that the Australian Cabinet will soon be considering the issue of the sale of uranium to India," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after a meeting with his Australian counterpart Alexander Downer on the sidelines of an ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Manila.

"We also agreed that the Foreign Ministerial Framework Dialogue between India and Australia should be scheduled in Canberra in the near future," he said.

"Australia said it will cooperate in the NSG group with us," Mukherjee added.

Downer said in a briefing to Australian journalists, "I said with this agreement now having been initiated - of course, it has ratification processes to go through - that we will begin to look at this whole question of exporting uranium to India."

"We discussed the nuclear agreement between India and the United States and I congratulated the foreign minister on the agreement," Downer added.

Exports (of uranium) could go ahead if India agrees to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Downer said.

"He (Mukherjee) saw Australia as a good source of supply, and I said 'well I'll have to consult my cabinet colleagues, but it's a possibility that we may agree to enter into negotiations over a nuclear safeguards agreement,'" he said.

The controversy over Mohammed Haneef's detention has clearly not clouded ties between India and Australia with Mukherjee emphasising strengthening of defence and security cooperation on the challenges posed by counter-terrorism and maritime security.

"We are also strengthening the framework for legal cooperation through negotiations on a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters and an Extradition Treaty," Mukherjee said.

Meanwhile, participating in the East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, Mukherjee called for creating a regional architecture for cooperation and deeper integration in the Asia-Pacific region.

He also spoke about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's vision of an Asian Economic Community stretching from the Himalayas to the Pacific, which would be an "arc of advantage" and would facilitate the free flow of peoples, ideas, trade and investment across the region.

India is to host a meeting of the EAS, the 16-nation dialogue forum, on disaster management in November in New Delhi.