Australia, India Intensify Talks on Uranium Sale and Nuclear Partnership

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 22, 2013 1:45 PM EST

After agreeing in principle in October 2012 to finally sell uranium to India, officials from Australia are expected to further intensify the nuclear partnership between the two countries in talks scheduled this coming March.

Salman Khurshid, Indian foreign minister, in a statement on Monday, said, Bob Carr, his Australian counterpart, as well as other representatives, will fly to India on March to pursue and discuss the details of the Civil Nuclear Energy Cooperation Agreement between the two nations. The meeting will be held in the Indian capital of New Delhi.

Australia, which now sees India "a key part of the nation's future," according to Mr Carr, declined selling uranium to the latter Asian country because it remained headstrong in refusing to sign the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). As defined by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, the NPT is "a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament." It was put into force in 1970.

But in 2008, Australia, along with members of the 46-country cartel called the Nuclear Suppliers Group including the U.S., recognising India's cooperation of non-proliferation despite refusing to sign the international accord, eventually conceded to allow the exports of nuclear-energy equipment as well as fuel to India.

"India is a key part of Australia's future," Senator Carr said on Mondays. "We want to add momentum to the progress signalled by our Prime Minister's visit and in that spirit I'm pleased at the announcement we're able to make today on the opening of talks on the civil nuclear co-operation agreement."

But Mr Carr stressed that exports of uranium to India will not begin until the talks on civil nuclear co-operation are completed. India is likewise required to promise that uranium will not be used to create weapons making facilities.

In her visit to India on October 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the uranium undertaking would help boost the annual bilateral trade between the two countries to $40 billion by 2015. Trade between Australia and India at present stand at $21 billion, according to government data.

The NPT is the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty's significance.

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