Although Australia's Labour government has reversed the earlier ban on sale of uranium to India, exports from the uranium-rich country are not likely to start in a hurry, perhaps dashing the hopes of the Manmohan Singh administration.
A leading Australian expert on international law pointed out on Monday that unless India agrees to open its military facilities to nuclear inspectors, sale of uranium by Australia to India will be a breach of the government's obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty.
"Australia would be in breach of the so-called Rarotonga Treaty if India does not change its stand," Donald Rothwell of Australian National University said in a written legal opinion.
The Rarotonga Treaty bans uranium sales to most countries unless they agree to "full-scope safeguards" defined by the treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the NPT.
India has consistently refused to sign the NPT on the ground that it is discriminatory. The five nuclear powers established in 1967 – the US, the UK, France, Russia, and China – are not subject to it. Nor is Israel, an unofficial nuclear power. However, all other countries are expected to throw open their nuclear facilities to international inspection.
"The five nuclear weapons states aren't required (to expose their nuclear facilities) and that is the crux of why India thinks the NPT is discriminatory," Rothwell admitted.