Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Australia: Time for Australia to Modernise Its India Uranium Policy

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard's public support for safeguarded uranium exports to India is 'welcome and overdue', says senior Lowy Institute researcher Rory Medcalf, a longstanding advocate of improved Australia-India relations.

"It is high time the Australian Labor Party developed a contemporary policy on allowing safeguarded uranium exports to help India produce much-needed electricity," Mr. Medcalf said today (15 November).

"With President Obama about to visit Australia, it is also right to be sending a signal that we recognise India as a vital and trusted part of a stable Indo-Pacific regional order."

Mr. Medcalf, a former diplomat, has long been an advocate of safe-guarded Australian uranium exports to India, and has been calling upon the Labor Party to change its policy since early 2007. According to his assessment, published today on the Lowy Institute blog The Interpreter

Australia's foreign policy, security and economic interests are all served by a change of uranium policy towards India – on track to be the third-largest economy this century, and the world's biggest democracy. The Howard government recognised this in 2007, when it announced it would be prepared to sell India uranium once appropriate safeguards were negotiated.
The existing Australian policy exporting only to countries that have joined the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is unsustainable. The NPT only allows countries that tested the bomb before 1967 to possess nuclear arms, so India would need to surrender its small atomic arsenal before signing, which it cannot do whilst China and Pakistan possess nuclear arms, even though it has a better non-proliferation record than those countries.

Australia should export uranium to India only under strict safeguards that it is for civilian use. The most important step is for Canberra to signal an in-principle willingness to negotiate such an agreement.