I was happy to know that Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Ms Julia Gillard is visiting India later this month and Prime Minister, Hon Kevin Rudd is going to visit India a bit later this year. He has already been to China, USA, Japan and Indonesia last year and I believe his Indian trip is 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. We are on a roll. The only thing which holds us down is the fact that we have a problem in regards to our energy supply. We need more and more energy for all our needs. It is essential not only for India but it is also essential for the health of the world economy.
We have been exploring all sources of energy supply as our local supply is far shorter than what we need. We have to import petroleum from the Arab countries and are 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. Paskistani 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, we can not rule out a war between India and Pakistan which will create problems in the transit of the gas.
We are therefore forced to explore the option of atomic energy. We have no choice. Thanks to the leadership of Mr Man Mohan Singh and Mr George Bush, we have an India-specific NSG exemption and India has been able to have bilateral nuclear energy deals with USA, Russia, and France. We need a similar deal between India and 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.
We should remind ourselves about what the former Australian PM 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. Chinese manuals were found even in Lybia which tried to buy things from disgraced proliferator 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 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.
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. 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.
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.
Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/23rd Aug, 2009