New Delhi: Australia would have been selling uranium to India if he had been re-elected in 2007, former Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on Saturday.

He welcomed moves by current Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to lift the ban on sale of uranium to India but voiced disappointment over the loss of four years in the process.

Gillard's Labour Party, which came to power in December 2007, had overturned Howard's moves to lift the ban citing that India was not a signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty.

"If my government would have been re-elected, we would have been selling uranium to India," Howard said at an interactive session at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.

"The consequent government changed that, but I am very pleased that they are coming back," he said.

Howard said he had reached an understanding with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on sale of uranium during his visit to India in 2006 and accordingly announced his intention to change the policy next year.

"It always seemed absurd that we could sell uranium to China and Russia, but could not sell uranium to the largest democracy in the world," he said.

Howard said he acknowledged the argument that trade in uranium cannot take place as India was not a signatory to the NPT.

"But there are ways to replicate the non-proliferation treaty outside the original treaty. That is what we were planning to do," he said.

Howard said the Labour Party's fresh indication on policy change would lead to bipartisan efforts in Australia on the issue.

"I strongly support the indication given by the current Australian government that it would lift the ban that was placed on uranium exports to India," he said.

"The only disappointment is that we have lost four years in the process," he added.

Australia has 38 per cent of the world's uranium resources which could be easily recovered.

"Australia is a reliable supplier," he added.

Australia's Labour party is expected to vote tomorrow at its convention on Gillard's proposal for overturning the uranium ban on India.

India has launched massive expansion of its nuclear power generation capacity to take it from 4,780 MW at present to 63,000 MW by 2032.

On attacks of Indian students in Australia, Howard said the media here got a lot of its reports "wrong" on the incidents in his country.

(Agencies)