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India - Australia Nuclear energy deal & It's Geopolitical Significance
On September 5, 2014, Indian-Australia signed the nuclear energy deal which will allow the export of Australian uranium to India. The deal, was signed in the presence of P.M. Narendra Modi and visiting Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Australia is the third largest exporter of uranium in the world. Negotiations on uranium sale to India were started in 2012 after Canberra lifted a long-time ban on exporting the valuable ore to Delhi to meet its ambitious nuclear energy programme. Australia's decision to overturn its ban followed a landmark US agreement in 2008 to support India's civilian nuclear programme.
Both India and Pakistan are nuclear-armed, and along with Israel and North Korea are the only countries not signed up to the non-proliferation treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. But Australia singled out India for the nuclear deal citing her impeccable non-proliferation record and hailing India a model international citizen.
India is struggling to produce enough power to meet rising demand amid its 1.2-billion strong populations as its economy and vast middle-class expand. Nearly 400 million people are still without access to electricity. The agreement will allow India to ramp up plans for more nuclear power stations, with only 20 small plants at present and a heavy dependency on coal.
According to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited India operates 20 mostly small reactors at six sites with a capacity of 4,780 MW, or 2 percent of its total power capacity. The government hopes to increase its nuclear capacity to 63,000 MW by 2032 by adding nearly 30 reactors at an estimated cost of $85 billion.
However, not just energy, the Indo-Australia nuclear deal has a geopolitical significance as well. Though Japan has denied similar deal with India, but coming on the heels of similar agreements France and Russia, the deal with Australia helps an energy-starved India get further global acceptability for its nuclear program despite not being a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Now India has nuclear energy agreements with 11 countries and imports uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan.
With two nuclear power neighbours with whom India had a few wars in the past, nuclear weapons have become a necessity for the country to act as a deterrent for any nuclear attack by the hostile neighbours. In 2006, China vehemently opposed the negotiations going on between India and the US over the nuclear deal saying that the U.S.-India nuclear deal would destroy the global non-proliferation efforts. However, in the latest Indo-Australia nuclear deal, China has not uttered a word in opposition which signifies the tacit Chinese acceptance of India being a nuclear power.
When the United States signed a civilian nuclear deal with India in 2008, it irked both Beijing and Islamabad. Pakistan demanded a similar deal with the US, but was denied due to the country’s nuclear-proliferation history. In 2004, the “father” of the country’s nuclear bomb, Dr. A.Q. Khan, confessed to selling nuclear technology to North Korea and Iran. Despite the poor track record, in December 2013, China promised to finance the construction of two nuclear power reactors in Pakistan to counter the Indian nuclear ambition.
So far, any geopolitical deal increasing the stature of India doesn’t goes down well with our neighbours particularly the western estranged one. Nevertheless, the latest deal is another step towards India’s global acceptance as a nuclear state.