Rudd had planned to go to India in January, but Singh had a heart attack. Both Rudd and Foreign Minister Stephen Smith are determined to put India in the front rank of Australia’s foreign relations. Rudd is sure to visit India soon.
There is a good deal of growth and development in the Australia-India relationship that can go ahead even without Australia agreeing to sell India uranium. But if Canberra wants to move the India relationship to the next level of strategic engagement, that will be necessary.
Tim Flannery, with whom this column is not always in perfect agreement, has pointed out that if you are concerned about greenhouse gases it is bizarre to export coal to India but not uranium, and thereby delay India’s move to cleaner energy sources.
Moreover, the whole world is beating a path to India’s door right now. The only real play Canberra has at a genuinely strategic relationship with New Delhi is to become a critical energy supplier, and that means uranium. Further, with the long-running insurgency in Sri Lanka solved at last, India will lead an accelerating process of South Asian regional economic integration (Pakistan excepted).
We need as intimate as possible a relationship with India across all policy fronts: the economy, security, global governance structures, pandemic and health issues, cultural exchange, everything you can imagine. There is a Labor Party federal conference in June and uranium policy won’t be changed before then. But surely a government as sensible and pragmatic as Rudd’s will make the leap on uranium some time in the next year or two at the latest.