India and Australia agreed to begin civil nuclear trade talks for the first time, opening a new chapter of cooperation between the two nations.
The countries didn’t set a time to start the negotiations, which may lead to Australia selling uranium to the world’s second-most populous nation to meet its growing energy needs. The announcement was made at the end of a three-day visit by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
“I have expressed to Prime Minister Gillard India’s appreciation of this development,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at a press conference in New Delhi today. “This is a recognition of India’s energy needs as well as our records and credentials.”
Australia, the world’s third-biggest uranium supplier, previously banned sales to India because it isn’t a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The South Asian nation signed civil nuclear agreements with countries including the U.S., France and Russia after a three-decade ban on trade with India was lifted in September 2008 by the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is charged with reducing proliferation by controlling the transfer of materials.
At the end of last year, Australia’s governing Labor Party overturned a ban on uranium exports to India.
Earlier in the day, Gillard said that the failure to begin nuclear trade with India had been a “source of tensions” between the two nations. “It was an idea whose time had come,” Gillard told a group of business leaders.
India’s government plans to spend about $175 billion over the next two decades as it seeks to curb power shortfalls crippling the economy. Power cuts are hurting industrial production amid an average 9 percent shortfall in peak power demand, according to the Central Electricity Authority.
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