Oz minister says no to uranium deal with Pakistan

Melbourne / New Delhi: Backing the ruling Labour Party’s decision to export uranium to India, Australian Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, yesterday rejected a similar deal for Pakistan and said he looked forward to his visit to India that will focus on expanding maritime security between the two countries.

“India brought itself under the governance of the international nuclear regulators, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Smith said, before leaving for New Delhi.

“That has not occurred with Pakistan. There has never been a suggestion of (nuclear) proliferation from India,” he said amid Islamabad’s assertion that Canberra should export uranium to Islamabad as New Delhi has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“Regrettably, over preceding years, there have been serious concerns about proliferation from Pakistan,” he said.

This is the first ministerial visit from Australia since the Labor government reversed its ban on uranium sales to India.

Smith underlined that the uranium export decision reflected India’s global standing, and predicted it would become ‘one of the world’s three great powers’, along with the US and China.

Smith hoped that Pakistan would understand the decision and stressed that it would not affect military ties between the two nations.

“Pakistan would understand the decision and that it would not affect military ties between the two nations, especially in cooperation in the war in Afghanistan,” he said.

“I don’t see this decision as having an adverse outcome, so far as the Australia-Pakistan relationship is concerned. Nor do I see it in any way as being relevant to suitability in South Asia. We have a very good military-to-military and defence-to-defence relationship with Pakistan,” he said.

In New Delhi, Smith will hold wide-ranging talks with his Indian counterpart A.K. Antony. He will also meet the Indian service chiefs and other senior political leaders.

In Mumbai, he will visit the Western Naval Command and address the Asia Society India Centre on building strategic partnership between Australia and India.

In a statement before leaving for India, Smith said his talks will “take forward our shared strategic and security interests, including maritime security, cooperation in the Indian Ocean, and regional security.”

“I will discuss opportunities to expand defence cooperation activities that build on the 2009 joint declaration on security cooperation,” he said.

Under the declaration, Australia and India affirmed their shared desire to promote regional and global security, as well as their common commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

India is the current chair and Australia the vice chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).

Smith’s visit takes place days after India snubbed a proposal attributed to Australian Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, but was later denied by him, for a trilateral security pact between the US, Australia and India. The talks in New Delhi will help clear the air over this issue.