INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Sharif ShujaNews Weekly
Australia's uranium sale to India
, September 15, 2007
Australia's uranium deal with India depends on the outcome of a planned nuclear co-operation pact between India and the United States, writes Sharif Shuja.Prime Minister John Howard has recently announced the sale of uranium to India under "strict conditions". He said they would include a bilateral safeguards agreement to ensure Australian uranium was used only for peaceful purposes.
But the India deal faces significant hurdles before exports can begin. The Howard Government has already faced questions about whether there are sufficient safeguards to sell uranium to a country which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The Australian deal also depends on the outcome of a planned nuclear cooperation pact between India and the United States.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has pledged that uranium would be used for nuclear energy, which was the key to the country's prosperity, and warned that without it there was no hope of achieving the targeted 10 per cent annual economic growth.
He appealed to all parties to accept the importance of a sound energy-security strategy, saying, "From a long-term perspective, nuclear and solar energy can play an important role in addressing our energy needs.
"India is on the move and must be able to address its growing energy demands."Nuclear deal
The first opinion poll, published in The Times of India
, showed 93 per cent of respondents favoured the civilian nuclear deal with Washington.
The overwhelmingly positive response to the nuclear deal was reportedly based on a belief that the deal was essential for India's future energy needs.
India is emerging on the world stage as the largest economically powerful, culturally vibrant, multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.
With a population of over one billion people, an expanding middle-class of up to 300 million and GDP growth rates of over 7 per cent, India cannot be ignored. It has become an important country for both Australia and the USA.
In 2006, the number of Indian students choosing to study in Australia increased by a staggering 42 per cent. Over 160,000 people of Indian origin have made their homes in Australia, enriching our society and culture.
An article in the US's Armed Forces Journal
noted that the US, after its political and military fiasco in Iraq, needed new friends, especially in Asia, to deal with an increasingly assertive China and an unstable West Asia.
"Give New Delhi the nuclear technology it wants, our diplomats argue, and the US gets access to India as a strategic partner of a billion citizens," writes Henry Sokolski in the journal.
India is being treated as an equal and independent state, unlike many of the smaller states with less global influence.
The United States sells military hardware to India on different terms than it does to most other states, such as neighbouring Pakistan; and President George W. Bush has bent his position on India's adherence to the NPT.
The US allows India to purchase military hardware from other countries, without imposing conditions, as it would on client states.
The new India, which has embraced globalisation, is a far cry from the India of Nehru. Earlier this month, India participated in quadrilateral military exercises involving the US, Japan and Australia. (See News Weekly
, September 1, 2007).Global stature
The global stature of India today as an emerging power is a result of its recent economic growth, its nuclear tests and capability, and its search for a greater role in the international community.
Australia's Lowy Institute August 2005 survey comparing India and China says a "democratic India that grows at 6 per cent a year should be congratulated for having succeeded better than a brutal anti-democratic China which grows at 10 per cent a year".
Many Indians believe that their country's regional pre-eminence - its size, centrality, defence capability, substantial economic potential and political stability - is a positive factor that would help consolidate future India-Australia as well as India-US relations.
The US's underlying strategic view is that India is a second Asian giant - capitalist, multicultural, secular and democratic - which will exert a gravitational pull that is bound to limit China's aspiration to global hegemony.
This is a recently conceived US position for the long-term, and it does not assume that India can overtake China.
India has huge military capacity, is a nuclear power and is committed to democracy; but to date its record on nuclear non-proliferation has been poor.
Although India has "weaponised" its nuclear capability, the US has reconciled itself to India's nuclear-weapons status coupled with its relatively strict nuclear export controls.
Besides, India is a "strategic partner", which Washington wants to "help become a world power".
The United States has struck a historic deal with India under which India will be permitted to acquire civilian nuclear technology internationally while retaining its nuclear arms.
Although India will remain outside the NPT, US officials say that the accord will "bring India close to treaty standards".
Under the accord, India will be permitted to buy nuclear-reactor fuel and components from the US and other suppliers.
But in return it will have to allow international inspections and safeguards of its civilian nuclear program, and to refrain from any further nuclear weapons testing and transfer of arms technology to other countries.
Nicholas Burns, the Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, has said: "Obviously, it's the wish of the United States that all countries will join the NPT. India has not made a decision to do that.
"So, we deal with the situation where a partner of ours, a friendly country, a very large country with significant energy needs, is willing now to commit itself to undertake all of the quite invasive measures to safeguard its facilities.
"That is a benefit, not just for the United States; it's a benefit for the non-proliferation community."
Meanwhile, in return for America's bending the rules on nuclear trade, India will put more civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards, and stiffen its anti-proliferation resolve.- Sharif Shuja is a lecturer and coordinator of Issues in Contemporary Asia subjects at Victoria University.