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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nuclear compromise puts India in the big league

INDIA'S emergence as a great power has been cemented by the decision of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group to grant it access to nuclear fuel and technology, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, says.

Mr Smith and India's Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, met in New Delhi yesterday.

Even though Australia bans uranium exports to India because it has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, the Rudd Government supported India's bid to gain access to global nuclear commerce.

Mr Singh "warmly thanked" Australia for supporting India's campaign to achieve a waiver that allows India to join the elite group of nations that have nuclear weapons and can trade nuclear fuel and technology.

"As time unfolds I think it will be regarded as a decision which crystallised the emergence of a great power this century," Mr Smith said.

Some members of India's foreign policy establishment have questioned the logic of Australia's ban on uranium exports to India following the decision by the suppliers' group.

But Mr Singh did not ask Australia to drop its ban when he met Mr Smith yesterday, saying he understood the sensitivity of uranium policy in Australia.

Last year the Howard government decided Australia would sell uranium to India if it was granted a waiver by the group, but the Rudd Government overturned the decision. The ban on exporting uranium to non-signatories of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty is backed by many in the ALP, especially in the party's Left.

During his first visit to India, Mr Smith has steadfastly defended the policy.

The waiver was a key step in a landmark nuclear co-operation deal between India and the United States that was sent to US Congress for final approval this week

However, a report in a US newspaper suggests Australia may not be alone in denying India supplies that could be used in India's nuclear industry.

The Washington Post said members of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group group was near consensus on a separate ban on the sale of sensitive technologies to countries that have not signed the non-proliferation treaty.

Mr Smith has been pushing the new International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament, to be co-chaired by the former foreign affairs minister Gareth Evans and Yoriko Kawaguchi, an ex-Japanese foreign minister.

(Source: The Sydney Morning Herald)

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