The Oz Decision

Last week, the Australian Prime Minister announced that Australia is considering reversing the ban on selling Uranium to India.

That is very good news for India. I think I had written about this irritant in the bilateral ties between Australia and India, which worsened when the previous Prime Minister of Australia was very vocal about not selling Uranium to India while at the same time seeking a better economic relationship with India.

Did it work ? Obviously not.

India viewed the ban with suspicion and as a morally righteous position (rather than a correct position), after it signed the Nuclear Agreement with the U.S. and then a series of similar agreements with Russia, France and the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Since Australia happens to be the biggest producer of natural Uranium in the world (with 38% of global production), its denial to supply forced India to seek alternate suppliers in South Africa and other countries.

And, why has Australia been reluctant to supply Uranium to India ? It cited the fact that India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). India has consistently maintained the same stand over the past 3 decades – that it would not sign a discriminatory treaty which protects the Nuclear Haves and discriminates against the Nuclear Wannabees. India rejected multiple attempts by world powers to force it to sign the treaty. It rightfully refused and stuck to its position. Had it signed and then violated by developing nuclear weapons, unimaginable things would have happened to India.

However, today India does not need Uranium for its nuclear weapons. It has already developed a sufficient deterrent of around 60 nuclear warheads against potential aggressors and has also developed a nuclear non-first use policy. It would not use nuclear weapons in a conventional war, but if the enemy uses nuclear weapons then it would not be constrained to decimate the enemy with nuclear weapons.

India now needs Uranium for its energy needs by developing nuclear power projects and connect to the power grid. It has an ambitious target of reaching 20 GW of Nuclear Power in the next 9 years, and that would require a massive supply of Uranium. If a country owning Uranium refuses to supply the same for the legitimate energy needs of the fastest growing democracy in the world, then that raises the suspicion about the intentions of that country. At the same time, it would be futile to expect a strong bilateral relationship in other matters of trade, economy and politics.

It is heartening to see the change in heart and mind on this matter in Australia. They have also realized that India is a peaceful country with no military agenda and wants good ties with all countries. Uranium supply to India will be very good for Australia as it would create more jobs and increase exports for Australia.


Vijay Srinivasan
20th November 2011


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