Singh, Gillard meet in Bali; discuss uranium sale issue

Julia Gillard-Manmohan Singh
Kaul Bali, Nov 19: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard today (Nov 19) made it clear that she would take forward her proposal to lift ban on uranium sale to India as she met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here.

Singh and Gillard, who are here to attend the ASEAN and East Asia Summits, had a 'pull-aside' meeting during which the issue figured.

"I am taking the change of policy to my party conference in December," the Australian Prime Minister told reporters after the meeting.

Giving indications of overturning Australia's long-held position, Gillard on November 15 had said, "The (ruling) Labor Party's current platform prevents us from selling uranium to India, because it (New Delhi) is not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. I believe the time has come for the Labor Party to change this position."

She gave three reasons for her decision. Firstly, exporting uranium to India would be good for the Australian economy and help create jobs. Uranium currently contributes over 750 million Australian dollars to the Australian economy.

Secondly, she said. "Australia faces a unique set of opportunities in this -- the Asian century, where we live in the right region of the world which will see strong economic growth and India as a rising giant will be part of that strong economic growth, so put simply, our best possible partnership with India is also good for Australian jobs."

Gillard also added that dropping Australia's ban on uranium exports now "makes sense" when there was a "widely supported international strategy to bring India into the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ... but the US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement changed that strategy, it effectively lifted the de-facto international ban on cooperation with India in this area."

"Consequently given that change in diplomatic circumstances around the world, for us to refuse to budge is all pain with no gain and I believe that our national platform should recognise that reality," she had said.

After making the decision, Gillard had called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the next day on November 16 during which she informed him about the move. Apparently she had also written a letter to him earlier this month in this regard, sources said.

Gillard's decision has created divisions in her government, with Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd expressing opposition to the move.

"I was not consulted," Rudd, who was in India when Gillard made the decision, said yesterday, adding the Prime Minister did not speak to all her ministers before declaring her position.

Indian government sources have described the move as "better late than never" but said New Delhi will wait to see the final decision that Canberra would reach on the issue in view of differences within the ruling Labour Party.

"They have to first argue among themselves... First let them decide," the sources had said after Gillard's announcement, adding it would be decided later as to whether or not a civil nuclear deal would be required or just a contract would do.


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