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Supply of Aussie uranium to India “can begin immediately”

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Sydney, November 29  (IANS): After eight years of intense negotiations, bureaucratic hurdles and incoherent nuclear policy, Australian government has finally given green signal to the export of uranium to India.

There is a reasonably good chance that the supply of the precious fuel for India ’s nuclear power plants can begin immediately.

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The Australia-India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement permits Australian companies to commence commercial uranium exports to India , an important milestone in Australia ’s relationship with India , a media release from the Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

While the previous Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quite gung-ho about the supply of uranium to India, the current incumbent Malcolm Turnbull would get the credit for sealing the deal to export uranium (also called yellowcake) to power hungry South Asian country.

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“The supply of Australian uranium will help India meet its rapidly growing electricity demand and improve the welfare of its people,” Julie Bishop writes in the media release. “The administrative arrangements have been signed and uranium exports can begin immediately,” the Australian Foreign Minister’s media release said.

Lot many observers of the bilateral ties would agree with the Australian Foreign Minister’s assertion that the export of uranium to India is a milestone in the bilateral relations.

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It was a Liberal Prime Minister John Howard who first agreed to sell uranium to India in 2007 in spite of the refusal by New Delhi to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which has been a pre-requisite to receive Australian uranium. It is believed that Australian PM was coerced by the United States to sell uranium to India soon after the finalisation of the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement (also called 123 Agreement or, simply, Indo-US Nuclear deal) was finalised in July that year.

The Labor PM Kevin Rudd reinstated the ban on export of uranium to India as it had not signed the NPT. The next Australian PM Julia Gillard, who deposed Kevin Rudd in a bloodless party-room coup, made a historic shift in her Labor party’s policy by agreeing to export uranium to a non-NPT signatory in 2012. She was much more pragmatic than her predecessor as she admitted that a refusal to sell uranium to India had been an “obstacle” to getting a larger slice of the benefits of the booming Indian economy.

Australia is also keen in exporting coal to India to run her conventional power stations. But it was the nod to the uranium deal which was being awaited anxiously by New Delhi watchers in Australia .

Besides India , Australia has also finalised Australia ’s Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the United Arab Emirates for use in developing a nuclear power program.

Rekha Bhattacharjee

Rekha Bhattacharjee can be contacted at [email protected]

The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia

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