x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Australia should be 'equitable' in uranium sales, says Islamabad

Pakistan has said if Australia is allowing export of uranium to New Delhi then it should do the same for Islamabad.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan has said if Australia is allowing export of uranium to New Delhi then it should do the same for Islamabad.

Australia's ruling Labour party on Sunday backed Prime Minister Julia Gillard's move to overturn a long-standing ban on the sale of uranium to India, removing an irritant in the bilateral ties.

Abdul Malik Abdullah, Pakistan's high commissioner, said his country expected "equitable" treatment from Canberra.

"To me, the position that Australia had taken earlier on had put Australia at a high moral ground. Now if the Australian government is going to change the policy, all we would like to have is an equitable and non-discriminatory decision," Mr Abdullah told ABC television in an interview.

Pakistan has long complained about the world powers' perceived tilt towards India.

The country and India fought three wars since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and conducted tit-for-tat nuclear tests in 1998.

But both had been facing a global ban on civilian nuclear trade for their refusal to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The United States in 2008 spearheaded efforts to lift the ban on India after it agreed to open some of its nuclear facilities for international inspections. Washington also signed a landmark civilian nuclear deal.

But Washington, which Pakistan has criticised for its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan, has been reluctant to extend the same concessions to Islamabad because of international suspicions over its nuclear programme.

In 2004, Pakistan's top nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan admitted selling nuclear enrichment secrets to Iran, North Korea and Libya that could be used for atomic bombs.

Moreover, militant attacks across the country, including on supposedly secure military installations, have reinforced international concerns that militants could lay hands on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

In May, a handful of militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban stormed a naval base in the city of Karachi just a few kilometres away from where Pakistan stores its nuclear weapons.

The attack came about three weeks after US navy Seals killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a secret raid in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

Despite western concerns, Pakistan says it has taken adequate measures to secure its nuclear weapons.

Mr Abdullah said Barack Obama, the US president, at a nuclear summit last year said he was satisfied with how Pakistan's nuclear arsenal was controlled and secured.

"The question is, why Pakistan should be considered unstable. Pakistan is playing the front line state role in the war against terrorism. Because of that war, if Pakistan is in a difficult situation, should Pakistan be meted out a treatment which is discriminatory?" Mr Abdullah said.

He said Pakistan expected Australia, one of the world's largest uranium producers, to sell uranium to Pakistan to meet its growing energy demands.

Pakistan has about 80 atom bombs and fissile material for up to 150 more, international experts say.