Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Australian Prime Minister Calls for Nuke Commission, Reiterates Position on Nuke Trade with India

During a talk today in Kyoto, Japan, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the creation of a new International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. According to Rudd, the goal of the Commission is to forge a global consensus on how to breathe life into the NPT in the lead-up to the 2010 NPT review conference.

“We can’t afford for that (2005 experience) to happen again and for the NPT treaty simply to die the death of a thousand cuts,” the prime minister said. “We’ve got to work on it.” Admitting that such a task would not be easy, Rudd argued, “It’s time for us also as Australians to reconstitute our global disarmament credentials…. There’s no guarantees of success. But you’ve got to give it a huge shove.”

Though Australia has a history of thinking seriously about eliminating nuclear weapons (see the Canberra Commission, which the new Commission is meant to pick up from), the prime minister’s announcement illustrated the impact Schultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn have made on the global debate about nuclear weapons. Rudd explicitly cited the Wall Street Journal op-eds by the “Four Horsemen,” noting that the “men were not peaceniks, but experienced global negotiators.”

Rudd also used the occasion to reiterate his government’s commitment not to export uranium to India so long as it refused to sign the NPT:

Our policy platform on that is clear. We’ve indicated that we believe it’s important to maintain the integrity of the NPT….I understand full well the arguments put by the Government of India….I’ve had presentations on this matter from the Government of the United States about the importance of India's particular circumstances. However, I would remind you of where our policy stands and it comes off the back of the platform of the Australian Labor Party.
The Rudd government’s position on this issue represents a significant and positive reversal from the government of former Prime Minister John Howard. Howard had stated that Australia would supply uranium to India once (1) New Delhi negotiated a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, (2) the NSG rule prohibiting nuclear trade with India was changed, and (3) the U.S. Congress approved the U.S.-India 123 agreement.

In contrast, Rudd appears to have put the integrity of the nuclear nonproliferation regime ahead of the prospect of financial gain (though it is important to point out that the Rudd government maintains that it would give “thoughtful and serious consideration to joining a consensus” at the NSG to allow India to conduct civilian nuclear trade with other nuclear suppliers).

No comments: