Julia Gillard is wrong, dead wrong. Ramming the policy change allowing the sale of Uranium to India through a deeply divided ALP national conference last weekend was not smart politics, but a failure of leadership.
At best, exporting uranium to India would allow use of more of its own uranium for weapons. At worst, Australian uranium could end up in nuclear weapons exploded in Pakistan or China. Uranium and its fission products will remain radioactive and potentially weapons-usable over aeons, an enduring legacy unaffected by the transitory comings and goings of fickle prime ministers and governments.
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on Monday strongly criticised Julia Gillard for amending the long-standing Labor policy to sell uranium to India calling it a “shameful abject submission to US pressure.”
In an opinion piece published in ‘The Age’, Fraser, who led the country during 1975-83 as a Prime Minister, said “Canberra’s abject submission to US pressure is shameful.”
A reason India wants access to nuclear trade including uranium is precisely to further its nuclear proliferation. Senior Indian military leaders have publicly said so. What is gained under the deal? Eight additional reactors, for a total of 14 out of 22, will be subject to safeguards. India can determine which facilities are designated civilian and subject to safeguards, and has not committed to make safeguards permanent or unconditional.
A nuclear war between India and Pakistan is not some theoretical possibility, but a real and growing danger. Between them, India and Pakistan possess 170 to 210 nuclear weapons. Both add more each year. Indeed, Pakistan has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal.
Contrary to claims by the Australian government, India has an appalling record on nuclear proliferation. In 1974, India detonated a plutonium bomb, violating agreements to use only for peaceful purposes nuclear fuel supplied by the US in a reactor supplied by Canada.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan is dramatically stepping up its production of both plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons, and blocking the Conference on Disarmament from working on a treaty to end production of these materials for nuclear weapons.
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