Ahead of External Affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit, Australia on Friday ruled out any change in its stand of not selling uranium to India, but sought to placate New Delhi by saying ties with it go far beyond this 'single issue' and voiced strong backing for its claim to a permanent seat in UN Security Council.
"The Australian government fully appreciates how central India is to our future," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a speech at the University of Western Australia, his alma mater, while making a strong push for closer ties in social, economic and defence sectors.
Acknowledging that India had a strong record on non-proliferation, he described the government's policy of not supplying uranium to countries, which are not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as 'long standing and well known'.
The important point to note, however, is that Australia's relationship with India goes far beyond this single issue, Smith said.
He said the two nations shared the same position on promoting nuclear disarmament it would be 'of great assistance' if India could sign up to the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.
Australia strongly believes that India, with its firm commitment to multilateralism, should have a permanent seat on a reformed United Nations Security Council, the minister said while also backing New Delhi for APEC's membership when the moratorium on new members ends in 2010.
Australia, he said, is developing a mature and broad-ranging relationship with 'economic and strategic giant' India, 'one that can and does accommodate differences of opinion on particular issues, and one that still moves forward constructively and positively'.
However, the Opposition reacted angrily to Rudd-government's decision of not allowing uranium sales saying it made 'no sense' and would harm Australia's economic interest while depriving India of clean energy.
"They have already got a great record, India, in this regard, and for us to sell uranium to China and to Russia [Images], but not sell it to India makes absolutely no sense," Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Andrew Robb said.
"It will seriously undermine India's capacity to provide greenhouse free electricity in the decades to come."
Smith, who stressed on the potential economic gains for Australia from a strong relationship with India, said, "While many commentators have been focusing on the rise of China, not enough attention has been paid to the rise of India."
"India's rising strategic, economic, political and cultural influence means it will be a key player in shaping the world in the 21st century," he said, pointing that the size of the Indian economy exceeded $1 trillion.
For the last several years, it has been growing at 8-9 per cent annually. Some economists predict that, by 2025, India will be the world's third-largest economy.
Last year Australia and India decided to undertake a joint feasibility study into a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, which would be completed by the end of this year.
Mukherjee will travel to Australia this weekend to take part in Australia-India Foreign Ministers Framework Dialogue.
Pointing to the joint military exercises and other engagements in the defence sector, Smith said the two countries can also cooperate in the sector of law enforcement and scientific and technical cooperation.
"I plan to take these ideas forward and to advance practical initiatives in talks with Minister Mukherjee," he said, adding that Australia is looking forward to attend meetings of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to which it has sought an observer status.
link:Uranium NO but UNSC seat YES: Aus to India
This comes days before Mr.Mukherje's visit to Australia. I think,Aussie Uranium refusal is primarily to create pressure on India to pass the Nuke deal, and the Unsc seat is a great prospective.