Sydney: The new Australian government will scrap a landmark deal to sell uranium to India for its nuclear energy programme, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith indicated on 15 January.
The deal was struck by former premier John Howard last August, shortly before his conservative government was ousted in elections by prime minister Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party.
Smith said he had told a visiting Indian envoy that the new government would not sell the nuclear fuel to any country which had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“It’s a long standing commitment of the Australian Labor Party that we don’t authorise the export of uranium to countries who are not parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said.
“India is a nation state that is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I don’t think there’s any expectation in the international community that it will become a member.”
Smith made the remarks at a news conference after talks in Perth with Indian envoy Shyam Saran which he described as a “good and friendly meeting”.
“The Australian government is very much looking forward to taking the relationship with India to an even better level,” he said.
Howard had defended his government’s decision to sell uranium to India, a nuclear weapons power, saying the deal was subject to strict guarantees that the fuel would be used for electricity generation only.
Howard, a strong supporter of US President George W. Bush, also noted that the sales would depend on the implementation of a landmark civilian nuclear deal between New Delhi and Washington.
The deal would allow India to buy civilian nuclear technology while possessing nuclear weapons, making it an exception under the NPT.
Australia has the world’s largest known reserves of uranium.