Prime Minister Tony Abbott has stated in the Parliament that if Australia is prepared to supply uranium to Russia, then surely it ought to be prepared to provide uranium to India under suitable safeguards
Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, accompanied by his Trade Minister, Andrew Robb and a supporting trade delegation arrived in India on Thursday, in the first leg of a short tour, at Mumbai. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has just returned, after a successful visit to Japan, will be meeting his counterpart, Tony Abbott, in New Delhi on Friday.
Australian exports to India, covering goods and services, amounted to $17.68 billion as against Indian exports of only $3.59 billion. During this meeting with PM Modi, Australian PM Abbott is scheduled to sign a nuclear civilian deal for supply of uranium to India.
It may be recalled that two years ago in 2012, Australia had agreed, in principle, to a civil nuclear cooperation with India, but this was not signed, as India had not singed the NPT - Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, after this agreement, both Australia and India began their negotiations to ensure that uranium (to be) supplied from Australia will not be used for making nuclear weapons or any other military purpose.
It would be interesting to note that, according to the information available from the World Nuclear Association, currently, Australia holds about 31% of the recoverable resources of uranium, estimated at 1.66 million tonnes. Other known sources include Kazakhstan at 12%, Russia and Canada 9% each and Niger at 8%.
About a week ago, while addressing the Australian Parliament, prior to his planned departure, Tony Abbott is reported to have stated that: “if Australia was prepared to supply uranium to Russia, then surely we ought to be prepared to provide uranium to India under suitable safeguards".
In the meanwhile, it may be noted that India has signed bilateral agreements with Argentina, Namibia, Canada, Kazakhstan, France, Republic of Korea, the Czech Republic and the USA for civil nuclear cooperation. Yet, official entry into the membership of NSG - Nuclear Suppliers Group - has been a contentious issue. With the proposed signing of the nuclear treaty with Australia, it is just possible that other NSG members would have to reconsider their approach to the membership issue.
India's 20 nuclear power reactors, with an installed capacity of 4,780 MW, are not fully operating due to shortage of fuel. Australian supplies would be great relief from now onwards.
Indian investments in Australia, in recent months, have gone up considerably. Only a short while ago, the Queensland State Government of Australia cleared the Galilee Basin Rail Line project to be executed by the Adani Group. Earlier, the Australian Federal Government gave environmental approval to Adani Mining's $16.5 billion Carmichael Coal Mine and rail infrastructure project in that state.
This 300 kms rail line would be a key link connecting the proposed Carmichael coal mine to the port of Abbot Point. More importantly, this project is expected to create additional jobs and boost export of coal to India, which, in turn, will supply electricity to an estimated 100 million Indians!
Thus the Indo-Australian cooperation is set now on a concrete footing and much more can be expected in the near future.
Couple of months from now, Australia will be hosting the G-20 summit in November, in Brisbane, where, PM Modi's presence is expected with great interest.
In this short visit, lasting for only three days, what else can Modi and Abbott achieve? For one thing, Modi would do well to seek full support and cooperation from Abbott to get the technology and assistance in obtaining the minting of polymer rupee currency notes to replace the easily counterfeitable rupee paper currency! Australia is the pioneer in polymer currency notes, which it introduced in its country more than 25 years ago, and many others have followed suit. India needs to join the polymer currency club!
has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)