Reverse policy of not selling uranium to it: India to Oz

Melbourne: Citing its growth and huge energy requirements, India today pressed Australia to reverse the policy of not selling uranium to it, even as authorities here insisted they would not budge from their stand on the issue.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who is here on a three-day visit, met Australia`s Resource, Energy and Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson and renewed India`s long-standing request for buying the Australian uranium.

Krishna urged the Australian government to reverse its policy of not selling uranium to India.

Australia`s ruling Labor refuses to sell uranium to countries which have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

After the meeting, the External Affairs Minister said the talks were by and large in the context of India-Australia relationship, with particular reference to the energy aspects.

"With a kind of growth that we have been seeing in India in the last few years, our energy requirements are increasing by the day, as a result of which now we have various possibilities of collaborating with those countries which have uranium, coal and other facilities," Krishna said.

"So we discussed the entire gamut of the energy requirement of India and what Australia can do in term of helping us out," said Krishna, who was accompanied by Indian High Commissioner Sujata Singh and Secretary (East) Vijay Latha Reddy.

Australian High Commissioner to India Peter Varghese was also present during the meeting.

However, the Australian government maintained its stand on not selling uranium to India as the country was not a signatory to the NPT.

"Regarding the export of uranium to India, the policy of the Australian government is clear – we will only supply uranium to countries that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and have signed a bilateral agreement with Australia," Ferguson, who discussed with Krishna a range of energy sector issues, was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press.

"This is not a policy specific to India, it applies equally to all countries," he said.

Ferguson said he welcomed Krishna`s visit here.

During the meeting, Australia conveyed its willingness for Indian companies to invest in its coal and energy sector, apart from assuring additional supply of coal to India, Indian officials said.

Australia also expressed its interest in funding infrastructure projects in India, they said.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who will meet Krishna tomorrow for the seventh ministerial Framework Dialogue, said that Australia`s relationship with India was one of its most important.

"India is the world`s largest democracy and a major power," he said, adding "this annual minister-level dialogue is testament to the strength of the bilateral political and economic relationship."

A key focus of the talks will be moves toward a new regional architecture, piracy, people-smuggling and education.

Krishna is also likely to raise the issue of security of Indians in Australia, numbering half a million, the fourth largest immigrant community.

The minister is also expected to meet Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.