Sign NPT if you want uranium, Canberra tells Delhi

Published: Friday 15 February 2008

-- In a volte-face, Australia's new government told an Indian envoy that it will not sell uranium to India unless New Delhi signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Reversing a decision taken by the previous government, Australia's foreign minister, Stephen Smith, told the Indian prime minister's special envoy, Shyam Saran, at a meeting in the Australian city of Perth on January 15: "We went into the election with a strong policy commitment that we would not export uranium to nation-states who are not members of the Non-Prolife-ration Treaty." Soon after the meeting, Smith told the media that "India is not a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. I don't think there is any expectation in the international community that it will become a member."

In August 2007, Australia's former prime minister, John Howard, agreed in principle to sell the nuclear fuel to India, saying the deal was subject to strict guarantees that the fuel would be used for electricity generation only. Howard had said that the sales would depend on the implementation of a civilian nuclear deal between India and the us, which is currently in limbo. Australia has 40 per cent of the world's known reserves of uranium, which it exports to 36 countries under strict restrictions. India has been lobbying Canberra for access to it. The 1968 treaty requires member nations not to develop atomic weapons and for nuclear-armed nations to reduce their weapons stockpiles. India, which became a nuclear power in 1998, has refused to sign it.

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