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India must sign NPT for getting Australian uranium: McCarthy

mccarthyAustralia, one of the world’s largest producers of uranium, is unwilling to export its uranium to India unless New Delhi signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), despite the Nuclear Suppliers Group’s (NSG)  go-ahead for the historic India-US nuclear deal,  the country’s envoy has said.

 Australia’s uranium reserves are the world’s largest, with 23 percent of the total. Production and exports average about 10,000 tonnes of uranium oxide (8500 tU) per year.

“The NSG decision cannot affect our policies and decisions. We are very clear that we would not supply uranium to any country that has not signed the NPT,” Australian High Commissioner to India John McCarthy said.

“The present labour government (of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd) is very particular about this issue and there is no chance of laxity in its stand,” the envoy added.

“In fact, the previous Prime Minister John Howard, was somewhat lenient and ready for negotiations with India. If this deal had happened during his government then the situation could have been different,” McCarthy said. At the same time, the uranium issue would not cloud trade ties between India and Australia, he maintained.

“However, this stance of Australia would not affect trade relations between the two countries. Our bilateral trade is increasing at good pace and our negotiations are on to increase it in coming days.” McCarthy said.

After India and the US signed their nuclear deal and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved India-specific safeguards, the 45-nation NSG in September gave its nod for lifting a global ban on nuclear trade with India, ending nearly 34 years of the country’s isolation.