Rory Medcalf and Lowy Institute – Australia’s pro nuclear propaganda tank

Despite its claim to champion “open debate” and to “encourage the widest range of opinions”, the Lowy Institute refused to publish a critique of Medcalf’s propaganda. Friends of the Earth will soon be writing to the Institute’s sponsors suggesting they redirect funding to organisations upholding reasonable intellectual standards and promoting peace instead of militarism and WMD proliferation. We don’t expect a positive response from at least two of those sponsors − uranium miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

The Lowy Institute’s dangerous nuclear propaganda, Online Opinion, Jim Green, 28 December 12m “….. The Lowy Institute, a well-resourced think-tank with considerable foreign policy experience, ought to have played a constructive, educational role. Executive Director Michael Fullilove claims the Institute is “independent, non-partisan and evidence-driven; that we encourage the widest range of opinions but are the advocate of none.” Bollocks. The Institute − led by staff member Rory Medcalf − has run a disgraceful propaganda campaign in support of uranium sales to India.

All the rhetoric about using uranium sales to leverage disarmament concessions has been quickly forgotten. In 2007 Medcalf proposed a “political price” from Delhi in return for uranium sales. India would acknowledge Australia’s right to cease supply if India tested another nuclear bomb; affirm its moratorium on nuclear tests; state that it will support negotiation of a global treaty to ban producing fissile material for weapons; proclaim its determination to help thwart efforts by any other state to acquire nuclear weapons; commit India’s navy to interdicting illegal nuclear trade; and reiterate that India has a strictly defensive nuclear posture based on no first use, along with a moral commitment to global nuclear disarmament.

Some of those proposed conditions are useless or worse than useless − for example India’s ‘moratorium’ on weapons testing is no substitute for ratifying the CTBT. And the conditions that have any substance have been ignored by Medcalf himself, to the point that in recent years he has campaigned furiously for uranium sales to India with no concessions whatsoever.

In 2008, Medcalf said that an “invitation to India to work with Australia on arms control would test India’s highsounding rhetoric on nuclear disarmament and restraint, and could change the context for an eventual review on uranium sales.” But there has been no invitation for joint work on arms control, and the uranium agreement is progressing with no disarmament concessions.

ndia and Pakistan continue to produce fissile material for weapons, to expand their nuclear weapons arsenals, to expand their missile capabilities, and to thumb their nose at the CTBT. Yet Medcalf wants us to be reassured about India’s “relatively small” and “strictly defensive” nuclear weapons program. He is impressed that India’s “pacifist traditions” held it back from testing a nuclear weapon until 1974 − but by that logic we ought to reward Pyongyang for holding out until 2006.

Medcalf says that safeguards applying to uranium sales to India would be at least as strong as those applying to uranium sales to China and Russia. But International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards inspections in China are tokenistic and inspections in Russia are very nearly non-existent. He says that IAEA safeguards will “confirm” that uranium exports are used for civilian purposes only and that safeguards “ensure” that Australian uranium will not end up in Indian warheads. But IAEA safeguards inspections in India are at best tokenistic and are quite incapable of confirming or ensuring anything. And Australia has neither the authority nor the wherewithal to carry out independent safeguards inspections.

Medcalf dismisses proliferation-based objections to nuclear trade with India as “false” and “fallacious”. He wants us to believe that we can play a more effective role promoting nuclear disarmament in India by first permitting uranium sales. But the US, Australia and some other suppliers have conspicuously failed to use their bargaining chip − the opening up of nuclear trade − to leverage disarmament outcomes. According to Medcalf’s logic, we’re in a better bargaining position after giving our bargaining chip (for nothing) than before. It’s a nonsense argument.

In early December, Medcalf was the Australian Co-Chair of the 2012 Australia-India Roundtable, a meeting of more than 50 parliamentarians, diplomats, government officials, academics, business figures and journalists from both countries. The Roundtable was supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The Roundtable ought to have put some positive proposals on the table. India should have been encouraged to stopattacking and murdering citizens involved in peaceful and creative protests against nuclear power plants, to take concrete steps towards nuclear weapons disarmament, to seriously address ineffective and negligent nuclear regulation, and to address inadequate nuclear security and entrenched corruption. Medcalf could have used the occasion to champion his long-lost idea of an “invitation to India to work with Australia on arms control”. The Roundtable could have called into question the scale of military spending in India (A$49 billion in 2011) and its recently-acquired status as the world’s largest weapons purchaser.

But there was none of that at the Roundtable. On the contrary, one of the main proposals was to expand military links. All the better for the Indian state to attack and murder citizens opposing the nuclear power plants that may be fuelled by Australian uranium……..

nuclear trade with India clearly does encourage proliferation. If Japan or South Korea pulled out of the NPT and built nuclear weapons prior to the 2008 US-India nuclear trade agreement, they would have been excluded from international nuclear trade and that would have killed their domestic nuclear power industries and their nuclear export industries. Now, the equation is fundamentally altered − based on the Indian precedent, both countries could realistically expect to be able to build weapons with minimal impact (or manageable impact) on their nuclear power programs and their nuclear export industries…..

WMD proliferation in south Asia and north-east Asia may turn out to be the defining events of this Asian century. Yet Australia turned a blind eye to secret nuclear weapons research in South Korea, one of our uranium customer countries. Australia gives Japan open-ended permission to separate and stockpile plutonium produced from Australian uranium. And there is bipartisan policy to undermine the non-proliferation regime by selling uranium to India with no disarmament concessions………

Despite its claim to champion “open debate” and to “encourage the widest range of opinions”, the Lowy Institute refused to publish a critique of Medcalf’s propaganda. Friends of the Earth will soon be writing to the Institute’s sponsors suggesting they redirect funding to organisations upholding reasonable intellectual standards and promoting peace instead of militarism and WMD proliferation. We don’t expect a positive response from at least two of those sponsors − uranium miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=14512

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