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Ex-Oz PM decries India uranium ban decision

Last Updated: Monday, December 12, 2011 - 08:54

Melbourne: 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

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."

He said Gillard has been "dead wrong" in doing so and
changing the policy through a deeply divided ALP national
conference last weekend was not smart politics, but a failure
of leadership.

"The unequivocal longer-term consequences of this policy
backflip are aggravating India`s nuclear arms race with
Pakistan and eroding the already failing brakes on
proliferation of nuclear weapons," Fraser said, adding that
nuclear war between the south Asian neighbours was not some
theoretical possibility, but a real and growing danger.

He reminded of war between the two in 1998 in Kashmir and
said, "In any crisis, deliberate or inadvertent nuclear
escalation could occur. The possibility that some of
Pakistan`s nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of the
Taliban adds concern."

The former prime minister said that the two nations have
170 to 210 nuclear weapons and both add more each year.

"Indeed, Pakistan has the world`s fastest growing nuclear
arsenal. The consequences of any such war would be global,"
Fraser said, adding that Australia would also not be spared.

He further said 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.

Nuclear trade with India trashes a founding principle of
the nuclear non-proliferation treaty: nuclear trade should be
limited to states that have for sworn nuclear weapons by
joining the treaty, he said.

"A more effective way to undermine the incentive for
countries to honour their non-proliferation obligations could
hardly have been crafted. And on what consistent basis could
Australia deny uranium to Pakistan, or Israel, or Iran?" he

"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," he said.

Fraser said that the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free
Zone Treaty, of which Australia was a founding signatory,
allows uranium exports only to countries that have full-scope,
comprehensive nuclear safeguards in place.

"India has consistently refused full-scope safeguards,
thus selling uranium to India would breach our international
treaty obligations," he said.

"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," Fraser said.

The former prime minister added that 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.


First Published: Monday, December 12, 2011 - 08:54

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