Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Australia to break Non-Proliferation Treaty?

Well, I don't always like confirming my own predictions, but today, The Australian is reporting that Australia has sent a top-level delegation to Delhi to clear the way to sell uranium to India, a country that is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and has stated that it has no intention of becoming one. If such a deal goes ahead, it will fly in the face of earlier statements from Alexander Downer that to sell to one non-signatory is to invite overtures from the other two major non-signatories, Israel and Pakistan.

The argument that Australia would demand safeguards as strong as those it demanded in the recent uranium deal with China is beside the point - like arguing that it's OK to permit certain people to drive a without a licence as long as you yell `Now, drive safely, y'hear!' as they head off. The NPT is based on three principles: disarmament, non-proliferation, and the peaceful use of nuclear technology. We should not deal with countries who decide they would like to pick and choose which of these principles will apply to them.

Critics of the NPT argue that some signatories of the treaty - Iran is a good example - clearly don't have a lot of respect for those three principles. But, to use the analogy of a drivers' licence once more, this is the point of having such a nation working within rather than outside a framework. When one party steps out of line, it is much easier to subject them to oversight. If you're driving badly, a policeman pulls you over, checks your licence, docks you a few demerit points.

As I predicted, the mooted Australia-India uranium deal has reportedly used a similar India-US nuclear technology sharing deal being negotiated in the US as its jumping off point. It's expected the deal will remain stalled in US Congress until after the mid-term Congressional elections, at which the Democrats are expected to be in a better position to negotiate changes or even scuttle it - which, given the concerns expressed by anti-proliferation experts, is not out of the question. Thus, it's possible that Australia could be out on its own as a sole breaker of the NPT. It wouldn't be easy, but it would be possible. It would also, in my opinion, be an international embarrassment.