I was happy to see that Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Ms Julia Gillard and several federal ministers have visited India recently and now Prime Minister, Hon Kevin Rudd is visiting India in a couple of days. He has already been to China, USA, Japan, Indonesia and many other countries, and I believe his Indian trip was truly overdue. His previous planned visit to India had to be postponed for various reasons. India is an important country for Australia on multiple fronts. Indian students’ issues aside, both countries enjoy friendly relations with one another. We, Indians, in Australia, have a keen interest in seeing good relations between these two countries. We know that both Indian and Australian Governments are working seriously to fix the problems involving the Indian students.
Both countries must consider the interests of one another while doing business with one another. There are too many things which bind us together. These are our democracies, rule of law, multi-cultural societies, love of Cricket and memberships of the Commonwealth to name a few.
Australia and Australians are accepted as friends by India and Indians. I do not think the recent problems which our students faced, are going to cause a lasting damage to Australia-India relations.
Indian economy is growing and will keep growing for years to come. India is on a roll. The only thing which holds India down is the fact that it has a problem in regards to its energy supply. It needs more and more energy for all its needs. It is essential not only for India but it is also essential for the health of the world economy.
India has been exploring all sources of energy supply as its local supply is far shorter than what it needs. India has to import petroleum from the Arab countries and is debating about the gas supply from Iran. Iranian Gas is however problematic as it has to transit via Pakistani territory which is a problem in itself. Pakistani Govt authorities will never be able to guarantee a secure transit due to its weakness and the presence of the “non-state actors” there who are anti-India. In addition, India can not rule out a war between India and Pakistan which will create problems in the transit of the gas.
India is therefore forced to explore the option of atomic energy. It has no choice. Thanks to the leadership of The Prime Minister, Mr Man Mohan Singh and US President, Mr George Bush, India has an India-specific NSG exemption and India has been able to have bilateral nuclear energy deals with USA, Russia, France and some more countries. India needs a similar deal with Australia which will allow the Uranium sale to India. Australia has about 40% of world Uranium and sells it to China. NPT should not be an obstacle for Australia to sell Uranium to India after the NSG’s India specific exemption and with India’s impeccable record in nuclear non-proliferation.
We should remind ourselves about what the former Australian PM, Mr John Howard had said about such sale. He said that it would not be fair to sell Uranium to China and deny that to India. PM Howard was dead right.
It is therefore unfair for the ALP Gov to deny Australian Uranium to India. NPT issue is not relevant in regards to India as India has an impeccable records in these matters. Australian Foreign Minister Mr Stephen Smith’s press conference in New Delhi is worth going through. It is available through DFAT website. India has never been involved in nuclear proliferation unlike Pakistan and China. China is a NPT signatory but its record in these matters is not that great. Every body knows the nexus between China and Pakistan. We should not forget how North Korea got its atomic bombs. Pakistan would not have supplied anything to North Korea without the consent of China. Manuals in Chinese language were found even in Lybia which tried to buy things from disgraced proliferater AQ Khan of Pakistan.
Simply put, it makes no sense for Australian Uranium going to China but not to India. In fact, there is more justification for Uranium sale to India. It is fully justifiable if ALP drops it objection to selling Uranium to a non-NPT signatory country like India because India has a fault-free records in proliferation matters and this fact has been recognised by the world with the India specific NSG waiver. Australia itself supported this exemption actively.
I therefore urge the Australian PM and ALP to give India a “fair go”. This is what is expected from a friendly country. It is not fair to bind Australia with the NPT dogma and not see the whole issue in a realistic way. A friend has to see the problems of the his/her friends properly. Australia is a friend of India. It showed it by supporting the NSG exemption for India in Vienna last year. It shows it by supporting a permanent position for India in UNSC. It is about time that we see it once again by seeing Uranium trade between Australia and India. As we understand, it [ALP] would not have any political fall out from its decision to sell Uranium to India because the Coalition is already in favour of doing so. It should not be a problem to amend Atomic energy Act, giving an India-specific exemption for Australian Uranium sale to India.
I urge my Australian Indian friends to lobby with their local MPs on this matter. We need to pool our energies in persuading the Australian Gov to sell Uranium to India.
I and thousands of my friends in Australia do believe strongly that Australia should sell Uranium to India. We find this refusal to sell Uranium to India to be unfair and illogical. India needs new and cleaner sources of energy generation and nuclear energy is at the top of its list. Nuclear energy will not only help India but it will help the whole world as it will reduce pollution and carbon emission.
A time has come when Australia sees the issues properly and does the right thing. That right thing is to sell Uranium to India. PM Mr Kevin Rudd has a perfect opportunity to declare Australia’s intentions during his visit to New Delhi in a couple of days.
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/09-11-09