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Uranium sale: Oz seeks to mine ties with India

world Updated: Nov 20, 2011 00:29 IST
Jayanth Jacob

It was an unplanned pull-aside meet, lasting just eight minutes. But, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's efforts to overturn ban on selling uranium to India seem to have brought in a new high in bilateral ties.

Gillard on Saturday reiterated her determination to move forward on uranium sale as she held meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of ASEAN and East Asia summit.

"I am taking the change of policy to my party conference in December," the Australian PM told media after the meeting.

Giving indications of overturning Australia's long-held position, Gillard on November 15 had said, "The (ruling) Labor Party's current platform prevents us from selling uranium to India, because it (New Delhi) is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I believe the time has come for the Labor Party to change this position."

She cited three reasons for her decision. Firstly, exporting uranium to India would be good for the Australian economy and help create jobs. Uranium currently contributes over 750 million Australian dollars to the Australian economy.

Secondly, she said. "Australia faces a unique set of opportunities in this - the Asian century, where we live in the right region of the world which will see strong economic growth and India as a rising giant will be part of that strong economic growth, so put simply, our best possible partnership with India is also good for Australian jobs."

Gillard also added dropping Australia's ban on uranium exports now "makes sense" when there was a "widely supported international strategy to bring India into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty... but the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement changed that strategy, it effectively lifted the de-facto international ban on cooperation with India in this area."

New Delhi has every reason to cheer-as Gillard takes note of three factors in changing the mind. "They are India's growing energy needs, impeccable non proliferation and its strategic partnership", MEA spokesperson Vishnu Prakash noted.