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Nuclear impasse risks Free Trade Pact

As New Zealand Prime Minister John Key plans his first official visit to India, he and his officials must be aware of the sensitivities surrounding the nuclear issue and more importantly, the country’s need for uranium supply.

External Affairs Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna returned home from Australia last week without convincing Canberra to supply uranium.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd declined to reverse Australia’s ‘No supply Policy’ of uranium to countries that are not signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Mr Krishna was in Australia to attend the Seventh Round of Foreign Ministers’ Framework Dialogue’ held in Melbourne on January 20.

While India disparately needs uranium to produce clean energy, its refusal to sign the Treaty has been thorny issue.

Mr Key would be able to assess the mood in Delhi and get to know if the Indian Government equates Nuclear Disarmament with Free Trade Agreement, negotiations for which are currently in progress.

He will find the increased pace of the nuclear disarmament pitch, with calls for revisiting the ‘Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for Nuclear-Weapon Free and Non-Violent World Order.’

Paradigm shift

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh appointed recently a new panel on Nuclear Disarmament under the chairmanship of former Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar.

The political spin in India is to cut costs of maintaining nuclear weapons and spend more money on the poor.

This is a paradigm shift in India’s policy since May 1998, when the then ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party decided to conduct nuclear tests for its political survival. It is an irony that the contentious theory of ‘Second Image Reversed’ by Harvard University Professor Peter Gourevitch could find some validity in Indian politics.

Editor’s Note: In a Presentation Paper called, Second Image Reversed: The International Sources of Domestic Policies, Professor Gourevitch argued that international relations and domestic politics were inter-related and hence should be analysed simultaneously, as a whole.

The NWS Status

India’s official policy is to have a credible minimum deterrent, with ‘No First Use of Nuclear Weapons’ approach and maximum retaliation if attacked by other nuclear powers. India stands for international peace but not at the cost of its own security and safety.

Delhi has long argued that the NPT in its present form was discriminatory and hence untenable. If accorded the Nuclear Weapons State (NWS) status, India may sign NPT.

New Zealand’s Stand

India may ask New Zealand to use its strong disarmament credential to block the China-Pakistan Civil Nuclear Agreement, which must be ratified by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

New Zealand wields power in the 46-member NSG and could even assist in India to become a member of the Group, which was in fact formed after its first nuclear explosion in 1974.

The fact that international policy could be linked to Free Trade is true of New Zealand as well. Former Prime Minister Jim Bolger had spoken about the US-New Zealand discord over Wellington’s ban on US Nuclear ships entering the New Zealand waters.

In an article in the New Zealand Herald titled, Bury the Hatchet and Talk, he had said, “It is false to discuss trade agreements without discussing New Zealand’s Anti-Nuclear Legislation and the US reaction to it these past 20 years.”

It will be interesting to see if the FTA and Nuclear Disarmament get inter-linked.

India needs New Zealand’s support to become a member of the NSG.

Balaji Chandramohan is our Delhi Correspondent.


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