WHY AUSTRALIA SHOULD SELL URANIUM TO INDIA
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s declaration that his freshly minted labor
government would have Australia play an even larger role on the world stage provides
Australia with a second chance to profoundly recast its ties with an emerging 21st
century super power – India.
India, with over a billion people and the world’s largest democracy, a nuclear power and
strategically located in South Asia, is a country that is on the move. It is a country
whose people now sense that India’s emergence in an “idea whose time has come”.
New Delhi’s expectation – justifiably – that it should occupy a permanent seat on the UN
Security Council is further confirmation.
Average growth rate of 7-9 percent over the last five years have given India a respect
that had eluded this south Asian giant. But inextricably linked to India’s capacity to grow
its economy and reduce its rates of poverty, is the reliable supply of affordable energy.
As Prime Minister MANMOHAN Singh said in his speech “If we need to improve the
lives of our people, we need adequate energy at a reasonable cost…..if we have to free
them from drudgery and ill health, we need to address the issue of access to energy.
India’s huge dilemma is however that she cannot simply meet her energy demands from
current sources of petroleum, gas and coal. The clear alternative is imported uranium. –
a source of 17 percent of world’s electricity and as much as 23 percent for the OECD
The Indian governments policy position is crystal clear.. India’s uranium deficit had led
to India’s own brand of “energy diplomacy” – a a policy that has India’s foreign and
diplomatic activities oriented on securing reliable supplies of uranium from friendly
countries like the US and Australia.
This is where an Australian government with vision has an opportunity to cement
enduring ties with this re-emerging super power, Like the Bush administration, we can
and should acknowledge India’s role in the world’s changing architecture by calling for
an exception to compliance with Non Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Holding 40 percent of the world’s uranium, we are uniquely positioned to be a reliable
supplier of yellowcake at a time when India is clearly in the search of such supplies. The
environmental reasons alone make the case compelling, Electricity generated from the
nuclear reactors, has zero emissions and has the capacity to supply large population
The IAEA calculated that nuclear power annually avoids more than two billion tones of
CO2 emissions that would otherwise have been emmitted from fossil fuels. Expansion of
nuclear power could further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by between 1.9
to 2.9 billion tones of CO2 emissions according to the IAEA.
This rests on predictions that the world’s demand for nuclear energy will grow up to 120
percent by 2050. India’s global emissions are on target to be third in world ranking
within a decade. India is primed for such energy producing infrastructure that does not
compromise emissions reduction policy.
Add to this the unequivocal moral imperative of supplying crucial energy to 800 million
people in poverty, and the case for uranium sales is difficult to rebut. As for the
economic returns of supplying uranium, tens of billions of dollars would be earned from
exports for the country should focus the mind.
If uranium for Australia is oil for Saudi Arabia, then Australians must demand Rudd
return to the Howard government’s policy settings.
The Howard government had travelled down this path before signing off in August 2007,
on a deal to sell uranium to India for convergence to domestic usage energy only.
Regrettably, for entirely party-political purposes the Rudd government has now fully
reversed the decision.
The irony of it all is that the Rudd government has absolutely no qualms about selling
our uranium to China and Russia. This is intellectually, politically and strategically
The sale of Australian uranium to India in the hour of need would create the essential
pre-conditions for a future security framework with India for the 21st century.
Inter state tensions of tomorrow will invariably arise from hard energy deficits and soft
resource deficiencies. Australia’s energy collaboration now with India could be a
bedrock for international stability.
Kevin Rudd now has a unique opportunity to showcase his much feted diplomatic skills
in assessing the historical opportunity that beckons in our India relationship. If he is up
to it, the time to act is now.
(The writer is an opposition whip in Australia’s Parliament)
-DR. NAVRAJ SINGH SANDHU, www.navraj @gmail.com