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Nuclear ambitions generate new equations

New Zealand’s stand against nuclear proliferation, coupled by its vehement attitude towards countries that are nuclear capable, has earned for it a reputation of a ‘responsible state with a responsible attitude.’

However, the emergence of India and Pakistan as nuclear capable states, with the former insisting on ‘Nuclear Weapons State’ status and the nuclear ambitions of the so-called ‘Rogue States’ (or ‘Axes of Evil’) of Iran and North Korea, have changed the international landscape. More importantly, these developments have shaken the ‘Nuclear Clean’ theory to its roots, with many questioning its sustainability today.

It would be interesting to observe the extent to which New Zealand Prime Minister John Key would be able to emphasise India’s signature to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a move forward to further engagement including a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). His visit to India (due to occur anytime now) will underscore a number of economic and political issues (see Businesslink in this issue).

At the NPT Review Conference held in New York in May 2010, the New Zealand team, led by Disarmament Minister Georgina Te Heuheu called for adoption of concrete and practical steps to eliminate nuclear weapons.

However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to New Zealand in November saw a shift in the US policy towards Asia Pacific.

The ANZUS Treaty

With China’s increased assertiveness in the South Pacific, which includes a ‘Blue Water’ Navy, the US decided to court old allies and revisit the Australia New Zealand United States (ANZUS) Treaty (signed in San Francisco in 1951).

The Treaty, involving New Zealand, lapsed when the Labour Government of David Lange passed the ‘Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act’ in 1987.

The sinking of the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior off the Auckland Port in 1985 by the French intelligence service DGSE had its rippling effect. The Greenpeace environmental organisation was protesting against the French nuclear test in South Pacific. New Zealand reacted by calling off diplomatic relations with France (restored later) but this had its effect on ANZUS.

New Zealand banned nuclear-armed ships on its shores and when ‘USS Buchanan’ refused to declare the presence or absence of nuclear weapons (in 1985, it suffered the same fate), creating diplomatic turbulence.

The ANZUS Treaty was called off. New Zealand facilitated the ‘South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Rarotonga)’ in the same year.

Opposition Leader and Former Disarmament Minister Phil Goff has been advocating the establishment of a ‘Nuclear Weapons Convention’ along the lines of the existing treaties covering chemical and biological weapons.

An uphill task

Against such a background, it would be hard for India to convince Australia and New Zealand, which are members of the Nuclear Supply Group (NSG) on related issues, including supply of uranium.

India has asked Australia to withdraw from the ‘Nuclear Umbrella’ provided by the ANZUS Treaty and block any US nuclear submarines in its backwaters before talking about global Nuclear Non-Proliferation.

India’s stand is that it had advocated ‘Nuclear Free Zones’ even before the NPT came into place and that it had supported Nuclear Free Zones till 1978.

In 2010, New Zealand had, in a way, compromised the ‘Zone of Peace’ sentiment when the Government decided to strengthen its defence ties with the US.

New Zealand favoured the Civil Nuclear Agreement in favour of India at the July 2008 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Geneva.

Historically, New Zealand had staunchly opposed countries that are signatories to NPT availing nuclear energy but the July 2008 accord changed the scenario.

This may have been the result of improved Indo-Kiwi relations beginning with the visit of the then Prime Minister Helen Clark to India in October 2004.

Balaji Chandramohan is our Delhi Correspondent and Editor, Asia for World Security Network and Correspondent for World News Forecast.

mohanbalaji2003@gmail.com

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