My post on the Australian uranium ban appeared on The Interpreter, the blog of the Lowy Institute for Public Policy, on December 2, 2011. An excerpt is below. Click here for the full text.
While cogent cases have already been made for reversing Australia's stance on diplomatic and security grounds, MV Ramana's criticism, citing non-proliferation concerns, is intriguing.
In the strictest sense, he is right: Australia on its own can't guarantee that India will adhere to world-class safety standards or non-proliferation norms. But he's incorrect in assuming that Australia won't make a difference. In fact, there's already been a shift in India's behaviour following the Nuclear Suppliers Group's decision to exempt it in 2008. India's approach to the non-proliferation regime at the Conference on Disarmament at Geneva on such matters as a fissile material cut-off is but one notable example.
India's shift in position has also helped convince a previously sceptical Obama Administration of the merits of the controversial deal brokered under George W Bush. Moreover, the US-India nuclear deal has not resulted in the dire predictions made by many non-proliferation specialists (including those cited by Ramana) about India rushing to build nuclear weapons once unencumbered by the global nuclear export regime. In fact, India's decision not to upgrade or even replace its primary sources of weapons-grade plutonium suggests a continuing commitment to its existing deterrent.