India's engagement with Australia on the contentious issue of sale of uranium ore is moving apace though shrouded in secrecy. Publication of a confidential briefing note to the Australian resources minister indicates that Canberra and Delhi have already begun a ''dialogue'' that is likely to advance the cause of ore sale to India should the Australian Labour Party (ALP) junk its ideological opposition to the trade at the party's national conference in December.
The briefing note prepared for minister, Martin Ferguson, in February says the dialogue ''may prove a useful avenue to communicate any policy shifts on the issue'' of uranium exports, which are banned to India under government and ALP policy.
''The dialogue could be elevated in the future as conditions allow agreement on exporting uranium to India,'' the note from his department says.
Ferguson is expected to lead a push to rework Labour's uranium policy at the annual conference.
Earlier this year, Ferguson declared that India has a ''very, very good history of nuclear non-proliferation'', despite its refusal to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
However, Ferguson cautioned against reading ''too much'' into the briefing note, clarifying that his department was ''simply noting all potential eventualities, as departments do''.
The confidential note was obtained by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, using freedom-of-information laws. The Campaign now says it is alarmed with the revelation that a formal dialogue is in place.
''The threat of a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan is real. Selling uranium to India runs counter to Australia's own security interests, and makes a mockery of its stated commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons,'' said its Australian director, Tim Wright.