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Australia supports the India-US Nuclear deal

March 16, 2006

Extract from the Joint Press Conference between Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. 

QUESTION: Dr Rice, And if I may also ask a question about another subject which was discussed and that was about India and nuclear cooperation with the US -would you like to see Australia supplying uranium to India? 

DR RICE: As to the India agreement, it is our view that the agreement strengthens security by expanding the reach of the IAEA to be able - now that there is a safeguards agreement with the Indians - to have access to Indian civilian nuclear facilities which it currently does not have. I noted that even Mohamed Eibaradei himself has not ed that this would be an important achievement for the non-proliferation regime. 

Secondly, everyone understands that a growing economy like India – this great democracy. India that is growing rapidly needs energy supply and civil nuclear energy is clean, it protects the environment, it can be plentiful and currently India is not capable of pursuing civil nuclear power to the degree that it will need to. 

Finally, the United States - and I know that the Prime Minister was in India just a couple of days after the President - India is a rising power in Asia and a democratic power that is rising. It is a multi-ethnic vibrant place that is finding its place in international economy and in international politics and we need a broad and deep relationship with this rising democracy and so on all those grounds that this is an important deal. I appreciate that the Australian Government, the Minister can speak for himself, has said that they think the deal itself is a good deal. I think the issue of whether or not one decides to participate in nuclear fuel supplies is quite a separate issue and it is one for the Australians to determine. But not one that is at issue with the United States by any means. 

MR DOWNER: I would just like to reinforce the view that I put to the Secretary, that Australia absolutely supports the arrangements that have been made between President Bush and Prime Minister Singh. We think it's an important step forward. It has been a difficult negotiation and there are very difficult issues - but we certainly support the logic of what the United States administration has done there. And agree with the broader arguments about the growing importance of India, particularly as the world's largest democracy and from Australia's point of view we have a lot of long-standing links with - we share the Indian Ocean together. So we are delighted to see, not only the growing relationship between ourselves and the Indians but the growing strength of the relationship between the United States and India which is pretty unprecedented really. 

In relation to nuclear policies in India, look, we don't have any plans to change our current policy. We've explained that. I explained that to the Secretary but she knew that anyway. We've said that - the Prime Minister and I - on a number of occasions over the last couple of weeks. But, having said that, we have some legal issues there, of course, in relation to obligations we have, but we think that the United States' deal that they have done with India is a good deal, and it takes forward this whole process of openness and transparency about at least many aspects of India's nuclear program. Is it perfect? I don't know that you could put together a perfect deal. Maybe the answer is that a perfect deal would be for India to give up its nuclear weapons program and sign up to the NPT. But no matter how idealistic and passionate we may be about that, that's a dream. That's actually not going to happen any time soon - if ever.