Aus defence mini supports uranium sales to India

Melbourne: Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith has backed Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s move to revoke the ban on uranium exports to India, citing New Delhi`s exemplary track record on nuclear non-proliferation. Smith also defended the Prime Minister for not formally consulting her cabinet before the major announcement on this policy shift, contending it was her prerogative to take the matter to the cabinet, or go it alone.

The Defence Minister said Gillard`s move enjoyed high-level support in the government, including from Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd. Arguing in favour of the sale of uranium to India, Smith said India`s nuclear track record was exemplary and the country had zealously guarded its nuclear expertise. "There`s no evidence over the years that India has in any way proliferated so far as uranium or nuclear materials or nuclear expertise (is concerned)," he was quoted as saying by AAP.

Most importantly, he said, the prime minister and foreign minister were in agreement about reversing the sales ban to India, which is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT). Gillard last week said she would take a proposal to allow India to buy Australian uranium to a Labor party vote next month.

Smith defended Gillard for not taking up the matter with the cabinet before making her announcement. "It`s not the case that the foreign minister had no notice. Just as my office was advised the night before, so he received some advice. I don`t regard that as a big point," he said. The Australian move marks a major shift in the nuclear policy of the country that had hitherto refused to lift the ban on uranium sales to NPT non-signatories.