India's top nuclear negotiator Shyam Saran is optimistic about securing Australian support for the supply of uranium and other sensitive nuclear technology, saying nuclear deal between the two countries would be a "very important" component of their economic relationship.
In an interview with an Australian daily Herald, Saran, the Prime Minister's special envoy, said opening up India's civilian nuclear power industry would give a major boost to the trade relationship with Australia.
"If supply of uranium becomes possible, this will become very quickly a very important component of the economic relationship between our countries," he said.
Saran is leading a push to secure international agreements which would open the way for imports of uranium to fuel a civilian nuclear power industry.
As Australia is one of the world's biggest uranium-producing countries, its attitude will be critical to India's efforts to open up trade in nuclear materials.
Saran said India would need a special exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the grouping of 45 uranium and nuclear-exporting countries which includes Australia.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Friday that it was likely Australia would support India's civilian nuclear aspirations.
But he maintained Australia would agree to supply uranium only to countries that had "appropriate and enforceable and effective safeguards" to ensure nuclear materials were used for peaceful purposes.