Australian ban on uranium sale inconsequential to India: Ruud

Melbourne: Ahead of an Australian Labour Party (ALP) plenary on the revision of policy on sale of uranium ore to non-NPT signatories, notably India, ALP notables may be increasingly veering round to the view that party's rigid ideological stand on this issue may be out of place in today's world. Next to China, India has perhaps the most ambitious civil nuclear use policy and has been trying to lock-in uranium ore supplies.

In keeping with a recent trend amongst ALP notables to suggest that the party's hardline ideological stance on the issue of export of uranium ore to India needs to be junked, Australian foreign minister Kevin Ruud, said yesterday the ban on uranium sale to India was not holding back the Asian giant's civil nuclear programme.

He pointed out that the Asian country was not dependent on supplies from here.

The issue is expected to be a topic of discussion on the sidelines of this week's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth. India has opted to send vice-president, Hamid Ansari, to the meet instead of prime minister Manmohan Singh, who has cried off on the grounds of excessive foreign engagements.

Though there may be some truth behind Delhi's contention about PM Singh's foreign engagements, the move has been interpreted as a snub to the Labour government in Canberra. The previous ALP government under Kevin Ruud had acted with alacrity in overturning Conservative prime minister John Howard's move to sanction uranium exports to India.

"Each of you go back home and work out where India currently sources its uranium from around the world," he told reporters when asked about the issue. "There is no problem in global supply. Let's just be very, very blunt about this. If you hear an argument from an Indian business person that the future of the civil nuclear industry in India depends exclusively on access to Australian uranium - that is simply not sustainable as a proposition."