Australia will sell uranium to India to fuel the nuclear reactors that help the South Asian giant keep pace with soaring electricity demand, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The government of Prime Minister John Howard decided to ban uranium exports to India when Australia had recently agreed to sell uranium to China.
The sticking point with India had been its refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). But Canberra has decided to follow the lead of the United States and skirt the NPT requirement by striking a bilateral safeguards agreement.
Howard had flagged a softening in a policy requiring importing countries be NPT signatories.
"Certainly our policy to date has been to prohibit sales to countries which are not signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," Howard said earlier this year. "But as time goes by, if India were to meet safeguard obligations, some Australians would see it as anomalous that we would sell uranium to China but not India."
Australia has 40 per cent of the world's known uranium reserves and is the top exporter.
The issue is divisive in Australia because the opposition Labor Party argues that selling uranium to India would undermine the NPT. Labor is well ahead in opinion polls and is seen as the likely victor in a general election expected in November.
Labor leader Kevin Rudd said that shipping uranium to India would undermine the NPT.
"This is a significant breach of the consensus of Australian governments in the past and I believe sends a bad message to the international community," Rudd said.
India, though not an NPT signatory, has a good record for not passing on nuclear technology. India refuses to sign the NPT because of concerns that it restricts nuclear weapons to those countries already in possession of such devices when the pact was drawn up in 1970.
China, which is an NPT signatory, is suspected by some of passing on nuclear secrets.
In April 2006, China signed a contract to import uranium from Australia.
Howard visited India in March 2006 and was pressed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to allow sales of uranium. He agreed to send a delegation to India and the United States to study the agreement between Washington and New Delhi to share nuclear-power technology.
Last Mod: 15 Ağustos 2007, 11:16