Melbourne, Mar.17 : Former Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer barred two Indian nuclear scientists from entering Australia on "health and character" grounds and over fears that they would learn information to assist "India's weapons of mass destruction program".
Documents reveal that Downer refused visas to Department of Atomic Energy scientists in April, even as the Australian Government was negotiating the sale of uranium to India, reports The Age.
In August last year, Canberra controversially agreed to export uranium to India although it was not a signatory to the NPT.
Former Prime Minister John Howard argued then that the uranium was intended only for power generation and would not contribute to nuclear proliferation. The Kevin Rudd Government has since overturned that decision.
The barring of the Indian officials is revealed in documents held by a high-tech Melbourne company involved in a longstanding dispute with the Commonwealth over the export of its equipment, which federal officials claim can be used in nuclear weapons programs.
The two officials from the Bahbha Atomic Research Centre were refused short-stay business visas to finalise the purchase of an X-ray machine from a laboratory. The machine is not subject to any export controls.
GBC Scientific founder and managing director Ron Grey told The Age the former government was being hypocritical by barring his Indian customers while it was negotiating to sell uranium to India outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty.