By Rekha Bhattacharjee
Sydney, (IANS) Prime Minister Julia Gillard has reiterated that Australia will not agree to export uranium to Pakistan, which is imploring Canberra to make a similar policy change as done recently for India.
This policy is an exception which recognises the compelling rationale and national interest for a change in relation to India only, Gillard told IANS in an interview.
“In the case of Pakistan, the issue does not arise as it does not have an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” she said.
Gillard also indicated that the US might have played a significant role in Australia overturning the ban on the sale of nuclear fuel to India.
“Not selling uranium to India made sense when it was part of a widely-supported international strategy to bring New Delhi into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),” she said in answer to a question about the primary reason behind the lifting of the ban.
“But the US-India civil nuclear agreement of 2007 changed that strategy,” Gillard added.
Against that background, it made little sense for Australia to stand alone as a country that would not consider nuclear trade with India, said the country’s first woman prime minister.
Gillard has been lauded by some sections of the Australian media for the resolute posture she took while persuading the Labor National Conference to overturn the decades old ban on uranium exports to India.
Australia does not sell uranium to nuclear power countries which have declined to sign the NPT.
The exception made in India was not only due to the US prodding but also because of close links between the two prominent democracies, she said.
A number of Australian political observers have been criticising the ban for hampering the relations with India.
Australia and India have strong and deep ties from trade and investment to education and science, Gillard said.
“We also share significant people-to-people links that underscore the closeness and warmth of our relations.
“Yet, despite these links, in one important regard we had treated India differently in relation to selling uranium for peaceful purposes.”
The Labor Party has been debating the uranium trading ban since 1977 but had failed to reach consensus to allow any such export till National Conference in Sydney in December.
There was a genuine, passionate debate around the issue, Gillard said.
The lifting of the ban just over a month back has seen a perceptible change in attitude in New Delhi as far as Australia is concerned.
Gillard hoped that bilateral ties with Australia’s fourth largest trading partner would continue to grow.
“The breadth and potential of our relationship is enormous as we continue to strengthen our ties. Together, we have a bright future ahead in this Asian Century,” she said.
(Rekha Bhattacharjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)