Nusa Dua (Bali), Nov 19 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard met here Saturday for a brief interaction to take forward discussions on selling uranium to India and also to review their strategic partnership.
The unscheduled pull aside, on the sidelines of the India-Asean and East Asia summits, saw the two leaders interacting for seven-eight minutes.
“Prime Minister Gillard apprised on the steps she’s planning to take on selling uranium to India,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told journalists.
“I am taking the change of policy to my party conference in December,” the Australian prime minister was quoted as telling journalists after her meeting with the Indian prime minister.
The issue of Indian students also came up at the interaction here Saturday with Manmohan Singh appreciating how the issue was handled.
There had been a spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2009-10 but the problem was curtailed due to a series of measures announced by the Australian government.
Manmohan Singh and Gillard had spoken on the phone, a day after the Australian prime minister had signalled the plan to lift a long standing ban on uranium sales to India and pushed her Labour Party to change its stance, citing New Delhi’s growing economy and its ambitious atomic energy plans.
She had also written to him, citing three points for the proposal – India’s growing energy needs, its impeccable non-proliferation record and the strategic partnership between the two countries.
The final decision rests with Gillard’s Labour party, which will meet next month.
Gillard will be under pressure to get her party to agree to her proposal even though India is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
India had quickly hailed Gillard’s move, announced Nov 15.
“We must, of course, expect of India the same standards we do of all countries for uranium export – strict adherence to International Atomic Energy Agency arrangements and strong bilateral and transparency measures which will provide assurances our uranium will be used only for peaceful purposes,” Gillard had written in the Sydney Morning Herald.
For the past four years, the Labour government has linked uranium exports to India signing the 1970 NPT.
Gillard also held a press conference in Melbourne and pushed her Labour Party colleagues to change their stand on selling uranium to India.
She argued that selling uranium to India “will be good for the Australian economy and good for Australian jobs”.
Gillard went on to add that India plans to increase the share of nuclear power from its current three percent of electricity generation to 40 percent by 2050 – a fact that should benefit Australia, the world’s third largest supplier of uranium.
Secondly, she said the uranium sale will be “another step forward” in Australia’s relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy and a rising economic giant.
Thirdly, she argued that the US-India civil nuclear agreement has effectively lifted the de-facto international ban on cooperation with India in this area and added that in view of changed global circumstances, “for us to refuse to budge is all pain with no gain and I believe that our national platform should recognise that reality”.