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India seeks Australia's help for nuclear power

Finance Minster Chidambaram pitches for Australian uranium for increasing the generation of nuclear power back home.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2006 17:12 IST

India on Sundaysought Australia's support for its plans to increase nuclear power generation and allow uranium exports to it.

"I would like Australia to support India in its nuclear case and supply uranium to India," Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who is here to attend the G-20 meeting said.

Chidambaram said India wants to lift the proportion of nuclear energy it uses to 10 per cent, from a current three per cent of its energy supplies.

Acknowledging that getting Australia's support would be hard, he said "Australia takes a very different view presumably because public opinion here is against nuclear power."

The Finance Minister said he spoke with PM John Howard last week about the nuclear issue and that the Australian leader had heard him out "carefully and patiently".

"We are a non-proliferator and India's record is impeccable," he said in an interview to the Australian Associated Press.

India earlier also sought uranium from Australia but Canberra said it has reservations on supplying uranium to countries which have not signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Australia has more than 40 per cent of the world's known reserves of uranium.

Chidambaram also said he would like to improve India's relationship with Australia, with more air traffic between the two countries.

"Tourism is booming between India and Australia and last year we issued 75,000 to 80,000 visas to Australians," he said adding that figure could increase fourfold in next few years.

The trade balance between the two countries was $5 billion in favour of Australia, he said.

"We have around 7,000 students who come from India to Australia every year and I believe the value they bring to Australia is far in excess of $250 million," he said.

"The argument about Australia outsourcing to India and losing in the bargain is completely misplaced," he added.

First Published: Nov 19, 2006 17:12 IST