Indo-Aus ties touch new high with end of uranium irritant

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Australia
Melbourne, Dec 25 :  Australia took a leap forward in pushing its relationship with India to a new high by reversing a long-standing ban on the export of uranium to it despite domestic opposition, paving the way for removal of a major irritant in bilateral ties.

The bold decision by Prime Minister Julia Gillard came despite strong protests within her Labor party, but she pushed the move, saying it move would help Australia take advantage of the "Asian century".

"We are at the right time in the history of the world to seize a new era of opportunity in this, the Asian century," Gillard had said, justifying her decision to sell uranium to India despite it being a non-signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"We need to make sure that across our regions we have the strongest possible relationships we can, including with the world's largest democracy, India."

"It's good for trade, it's good for jobs, it's good for the nation." She had said it was not rational that Australia sells uranium to China but not to India.

India welcomed the decision, saying bilateral cooperation in energy sector is one of the important aspects of India's multi-faceted ties with Australia.

With the "uranium irritant" out of the way, a visit to India by Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith this month has resulted in initial moves to strengthen military cooperation and boost trade.

However, his reported statement suggesting that India would be roped in to a trilateral security pact including the US, drew strong reaction from New Delhi. Later, Australia clarified that it had made no proposal for a trilateral security arrangement.

PTI

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