[Marxism] Australia's Uranium Sale to India Proposal Invites Protests

Sukla Sen suklasenp at yahoo.co.uk
Mon Aug 27 12:13:18 MDT 2007


http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=39020

AUSTRALIA: 'Uranium Sales May Fuel Asian Arms Race' 
By Stephen de Tarczynski

MELBOURNE, Aug 27 (IPS) - Australia’s deal to export
uranium to India -- which is not a signatory to the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or the
Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty -- will
strengthen India’s nuclear capabilities and could lead
to a heightened arms race on the subcontinent, say
activists. 

Dave Sweeney, from the Australian Conservation
Foundation (AFC), says that Australia is rewarding
unscrupulous behaviour. "In giving the go-ahead to
uranium sales to India, the federal government is
telling the world (that) if you break your promises,
breach international law and build nuclear weapons,
Australia will respond not with sanctions, but with
priority picks of our uranium," Sweeney told IPS. 

The deal, agreed to in principle by Australian Prime
Minister John Howard and his Indian counterpart
Manmohan Singh, signals a departure from Australia’s
hitherto policy of not exporting uranium to countries
that are non-signatories to the NPT. 

The agreement comes less than a decade after India
carried out several nuclear tests, followed closely by
Pakistan testing its "Islamic bomb", demonstrating
that both South Asian rivals had nuclear capabilities.


The deal follows an agreement in March between India
and the United States, which plans to provide India
with uranium and nuclear technology. Under the
agreement India is also allowed to reprocess fuel. 

It also comes after Australia’s agreement in January
to supply China with uranium. But unlike India, China
is a signatory to the NPT. 

In addition, Australia is currently negotiating a deal
to export uranium to Russia, with progress expected to
be made at September’s APEC meeting in Sydney. 

In a statement issued to the media, Howard said that
uranium exports to India will be subject to strict
conditions. These include an agreement between India
and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on
safeguards; a consensus among members of the Nuclear
Suppliers Group to make India an exception to its
guidelines regarding international civil supply; and
that Australian uranium would not contribute to any
Indian military purpose. 

However, activists argue that India’s military will
directly benefit from Australian uranium exports. 

Steve Shallhorn, chief executive of Greenpeace
Australia Pacific, says that providing uranium for
civil purposes will directly assist India’s nuclear
capacity by enabling Indian uranium to be used by the
military. 

India "refuses to open its nuclear programme to full
inspections and will use Australian uranium to free up
its own supplies for weapons production," says
Shallhorn. 

As the deal only involves civil nuclear sites, India’s
military nuclear facilities will not be subject to the
safeguards. 

Shallhorn points out comments made by Foreign
Minister, Alexander Downer, to ABC radio earlier this
month, in which the minister confirmed that eight of
India’s 22 nuclear facilities will not come under the
bi-lateral safeguards agreement between Australia and
India. 

"This would be like the tax office asking a known
criminal which bank accounts he wants them to audit
and which transactions to ignore," says the Greenpeace
chief. 

Shallhorn also hit out at the Australian government
for what he regards as a deal for short-term financial
gain at the expense of regional security. 

"The government is more interested in making a fast
buck for big mining corporations than in our
legitimate national security interests or stabilising
the already dangerous nuclear arms race on the Indian
subcontinent," says the Greenpeace boss. The AFC’s
Dave Sweeney argues that "India’s civilian and
military programs are intimately linked." 

"Australia selling uranium to India would directly
fuel India’s nuclear weapons program and contribute to
regional insecurity," says Sweeney. 

Shallhorn says that the deal will contribute to a
renewed arms race between India and Pakistan. 

"The regional nuclear arms race which continues today
will now be fuelled by Australian uranium," he argues.


It is also feared that an increase in India’s nuclear
weapons capabilities could lead to its other regional
rival, China, increasing its own nuclear capabilities
in order to maintain the status quo. 

Prime Minister Howard, in his statement, argued that
India -- rather than destabilise the region with
nuclear proliferation -- has a strong record of
nuclear non-proliferation. 

"As well as assisting India to pursue economic
development while addressing environmental challenges,
the decision recognises India’s strong
non-proliferation record and will help to bring India
more fully into the non-proliferation mainstream,"
said the Australian PM. 

This view of India’s non-proliferation record has been
criticised by political opponents of the government as
well as by members of civil society. 

Senator Christine Milne of the Australian Greens says
that "to claim that India has a clean record on
nuclear issues is wrong, disingenuous and dangerous." 

The Greens argue that India deliberately misused
civilian nuclear technology obtained under a
peaceful-use agreement by the U.S. and Canada to
provide material for its weapons programmes. This
enabled India’s 1974 nuclear weapon test, the first
nation outside the UN Security Council’s five
permanent members to have taken such a step. 

"Foreign Minister Downer also says that India is not a
proliferator, which is false," says Shallhorn, arguing
that India was one of the first countries to cause
nuclear weapons proliferation. 

The Washington-based Institute for Science and
International Security (ISIS), an anti-nuclear
watchdog, has raised concerns about India’s
proliferation record. 

While acknowledging that India has not provided
nuclear assistance to the extent that China did to
Pakistan or that Pakistan itself did through the AQ
Khan network, ISIS has identified weaknesses in
India’s non-proliferation record. 

In an April 2006 report co-authored by David Albright
and Susan Basu, ISIS expresses its concern that India
"has conducted illicit procurement for its nuclear
programme." 

Based on a July 2005 "European Intelligence
Assessment", ISIS argues that Indian "nuclear entities
and trading companies have procured nuclear dual-use
equipment and material overseas without specifying
that the end-user is an unsafeguarded uranium
enrichment plant." 

Based on a July 2005 "European Intelligence
Assessment", ISIS argues that Indian "nuclear entities
and trading companies have procured nuclear dual-use
equipment and material overseas without specifying
that the end-user is an unsafeguarded uranium
enrichment plant." ISIS stated that "proliferant
states are known to target Indian industries." 




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