Playboy has uncovered something that should interest all Australian parliamentarians — irrespective of their personal values, s-xual orientation, or preferences. (A first for those familiar with the Australian government’s obscure handling of widespread public support for same-s-x marriage).
As they might reasonably expect, the material is sordid, scandalous and sensational. But if Playboy’s January issue (the one with Lindsay Lohan on the cover) is approached with open eyes, I believe it has the capacity the recast the Australia-India relationship.
In sum, the article by Joshua Pollack concerns an already infamous Pakistani and a group of Indian nuclear scientists — the evidence assembled points to a previously implausible possibility: there was once a time when they were all in bed together.
If it is true, it means India was Pakistani AQ Khan’s previously unknown “fourth customer” of nuclear technology and know-how (the others were Libya, Iran and North Korea).
In basic terms, this means those I strongly criticised for wrongly touting India’s “exemplary” nuclear proliferation record (here, here, here and in a side note here) — including the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard — must reconsider the concessions made to long-standing party policy in order to accommodate India within Australia’s nuclear family.
Indeed, even before the Australian Labor Party’s decision in December last year, several incontrovertible links between the illegal Khan network and India had already been established.
As noted by Jeffrey Lewis on the influential arms control blog, Arms Control Wonk:
“Let’s get one thing straight: The evidence is incontrovertible that India was a customer of the Khan network. South African court documents state that South African elements of the network sold UF6-resistant flow meters to India. Moreover, Pakistani officials, including Khan himself,** have openly stated that India acquired centrifuge design information from the network, usually blaming deceased individuals within the network for operating independently. We all have known about these relationships for some time, as well as the fact that the Indian centrifuge design bears a family resemblance to Pakistan’s P2.”
[**Despite Lewis’ phraseology here, is my understanding that it was only Khan who told Pakistani officials that India had probably acquired centrifuge design information from the network, hinting that former members of the network were operating independently].
In a large part, Pollack has assembled evidence that makes public what may already be known to investigators — but Pollack’s article was an act that may prompt AQ Khan to be further, and more significantly punished outside of the presidential amnesty that he previously was conditionally granted.
It also takes India’s involvement in the network to a level where — if it is to be believed — she must no longer be trusted.
Australia in particular, along with the United States and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, must review recent decisions to positively discriminate in order to permit nuclear dealings with India. This is because it would be unsatisfactory for India to have acquired its civilian and military nuclear capability through clandestine networks such as AQ Khan’s.
An yet even if there does remain some doubt, surely continued nuclear co-operation with a state that defiantly remains outside of the world’s peak nuclear nonproliferation instruments becomes untenable.
Gillard and co, therefore, really did make a grave mistake publicly agreeing to sell Australian uranium to India — for Playboy raises the strong possibility that, despite appearances, India is an utterly unsuitable partner.