Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 10:01 | SYDNEY
Saturday 09 Oct 2021 | 10:01 | SYDNEY

A momentous day for India


Rory Medcalf


8 September 2008 11:30

The decision by the international Nuclear Suppliers Group on Saturday to end its 34-year-old nuclear trade embargo is momentous in several ways.

It is a turning point in the recognition of India’s emergence as a major strategic and economic player by the rest of the world, and especially by the other great powers: the US, France, UK and Russia found common cause in bringing India into the club of legitimate nuclear trade, and the rest of the NSG’s 45-nation membership following, however reluctantly.

Its implications for nuclear non-proliferation are mixed, and will be hotly debated. On the one hand, there is the perceived pro-proliferation ‘demonstration effect’ – that is, other current or would-be nuclear-armed countries outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty regime might take heart from the fact that a one-time outlaw is now seen as part of the solution. On the other, there is the benefit of having one of the key economic and strategic powers of the 21st century finally engaged as a recognised partner in global non-proliferation efforts, and moreover placing a large and increasing number of its civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards.

The NSG decision will again put the spotlight on the question of whether Australia should sell uranium to India for civilian purposes. Call it bad luck or call it good, but the timing of Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s (long-planned) visit to India this week means that he is bound to face tricky questions on this subject from the Indian Government and even more pointedly from the Indian press.