Australia not moved by India''s repeated pleas on Uranium

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Natasha Chaku

Melbourne, Jan 20 (PTI) Australia today refused toconcede to India''s repeated requests for revoking a ban onUranium sale to it, saying Canberra remains steadfast on itspolicy of not selling the yellow metal to NPT non-signatories.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna raised the issueof Uranium sale with Australia for a second day during hismeeting with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd but thelatter said his country''s stand remains unchanged.

He had yesterday taken up the issue with Australia''sResource, Energy and Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson.

Rudd acknowledged India''s clean record on nuclearproliferation, but maintained it was Australia''s nationalpolicy to not sell the yellow metal to NPT non-signatories.

Rudd said "Australia fundamentally respects India''slong standing credentials on the non-proliferation question".

Addressing a joint press conference here along withthe visiting Krishna, Rudd acknowledged that India has notbeen responsible for a single act of nuclear weaponsproliferation anywhere in the world.

"Something which we place on record again as being ourviews of India''s public policy posture and operationalbehaviour for a very long period of time," he said.

Australia is unwilling to sell uranium to Indiabecause it has not signed the Nuclear Non-ProliferationTreaty.

Rudd said the issue, however, has not damaged tiesbetween the countries.

"However, Australia''s stands on NPT remains. Wecontinue to discuss these matters as friends do," he saidemphasising on the strategic partnership that the twocountries shared.

"There is a huge amount underway in the Australia-India relationship at the political, security and economiclevels... There''s sufficient ballast in this relationship todeal with areas of periodic disagreement as there are in allrelationships," he said.

Commenting on the issue, Krishna said he has pleadedwith the Australian government to change the policy, stressingthat nuclear energy as a clean energy source was crucial tothe rising energy demands of India.

"If you have to have clean energy, then according toIndia the only option is to have nuclear energy, and if youhave to have nuclear energy, then you certainly need uranium,"he said.

On the question of the security of Indian students inAustralia, Rudd gave his full assurance to his counterpart.

He said as the Foreign Minister he takes the issue ofsecurity of any guest including international students''fundamentally and seriously''.

"I take the responsibility and that is our job," hesaid after holding the seventh ministerial dialogue withKrishna at a joint press conference here today. .

"Any student from any part of the world who runs into any security issue is one two many," Rudd said.

Appreciating the steps taken by the Australiangovernment, Krishna said Indian students were now feelingconfident and secure despite the fact that the number ofenrolments had dropped by almost half.

Krishna said when he visited the country in 2009 hewas carrying an "anguish and worry" in the backdrop of aseries of racial attacks on students in the country.

"But on this visit that worry is missing, that anguishhas disappeared," Krishna said.

"Indian students feel quite secure and feel quiteconfident, and they feel they can pursue their studies withoutany anxiety," he said.

He said though the drop in enrolement of Indianstudents has been given as 80 per cent, however according tohis understanding the drop was by 40 per cent.

On the economic ties between the two countries,Krishna said a Free Trade Agreement joint feasibility studywas already complete and the trade imbalance with Australiawas the second largest that India had with any of its tradingpartners.

He urged greater flexiblity and requested early actionon issues that impacted on India''s exports to Australia.

Krishna also urged Australia to give consideration tothe situation of Indian students who had suffered after therevision in skills criteria for permanent residency by thegovernment.

Rudd on his part highlighted that there were generoustransition arrangements for most holders of internationalstudent visa programme announced last year and said Australianresidency to any new immigrant was never a full gaurantee. PTINC

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