Australia – India Civil Nuclear Deal Finalised Amidst Warnings

In 2014, India and Australia signed the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement during then Australian PM Tony Abbott’s visit to New Delhi. Now, his successor, Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, told PM Narendra Modi on Sunday that procedure for the deal had been completed and could now be implemented.

“PM Modi thanked the Australian PM and said the nuclear agreement is a milestone and a source of trust and confidence. With the completion of procedures, including administrative arrangements, the Civil Nuclear Agreement will now enter into force,” Ministry of External Affairs (India) spokesperson Vikas Swarup told the media.

This was Modi’s first meeting with Turnbull after he took over.

Former Australian PM Julia Gillard paid a state visit to India in October 2012. The decision of the Australian government to supply uranium to India was taken during her time and on September 5, 2014, India and Australia signed a MoU for “Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” during Abbott’s visit.

The significant part of the civil nuclear cooperation agreement was that Australia agreed to become “a long-term reliable supplier of uranium to India.”

Australia is considered to have the largest reserve of recoverable uranium. World Nuclear Association and the Australian government say that Australia ranks third in terms of production of uranium. Kazakhstan and Canada produce more than Australia. If it opens new mines, which it plans to, its production may increase, and it might become the top producer in a few years. Australia produces uranium basically to export as it does not operate nuclear power plants. So, Australia may become the most important uranium supplier to India.

The uranium supply is important for India’s plans to expand nuclear energy. The current nuclear expansion plan needs uranium and India has concluded agreements with Canada and Kazakhstan among others.

However, a Huffington Post piece suggests it was only around two months ago that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties delivered a well-considered report into Australia’s controversial plan to sell uranium to India. The government-controlled Committee identified a number of practical steps & recommendations needed to address safety, security and legal uncertainty around the deal.

According to Dave Sweeney, earlier this week, the government chose to ignore these recommendations — emphatically stating that “the Government does not accept the Committee’s recommendation that exports of uranium to India should be deferred.”

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