Australia’s Federal Opposition is accusing the Government of a colossal missed opportunity, after Canada announced a new nuclear energy deal with India.
The agreement would see the start of new Canadian uranium sales to India, something Australia’s Government has banned.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh have promised to build a civilian nuclear trade between their countries, which will include uranium sales.
The deal has angered Australia’s Liberals, which agreed to start selling uranium to India before the party was voted out of office in 2008.
Julie Bishop, the Opposition’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, says the Australian Government’s policy is full of contradictions.
“On the one hand we export uranium to the world, and on the other, we ban uranium exports to India, even though Canada believes appropriate safeguards should be in place,” she said.
Even though Australia has more uranium in the ground, Canada last year became the world’s biggest exporter of the mineral.
The new agreement overturns a 1970s-era ban Canada imposed on nuclear trade with India.
Mr Harper, Canada’s leader, has indicated he believes sufficient safeguards are in place to pursue the deal. .
“We believe Canada and India have a prosperous civilian nuclear future ahead of us. We also have great faith in our Indian friends and partners,” he said.
“We are not living in 1970s, we are living in 2009.”
Mr Singh says India has already entered into civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the United States, Russia, and France.
“We will do all that is within our power to ensure safety and security of our nuclear installations,” he said.
“There should be no doubt about that, and we look forward to negotiating in the near future a very similar nuclear cooperation deal with canada.”
But Australia says it won’t start selling uranium to India until New Delhi signs the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which would require it to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was not available to comment on the matter.