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Great Game Down Under

More big news on the great game: Australia has just announced plans to begin supplying uranium to India, breaking with a years-long ban on the practice. The FT reports:

Australia’s government will push to lift a ban on uranium exports to India in an attempt to put its relationship with the rising Asian power on a new footing.

Julia Gillard, Australia’s prime minister, proposed on Tuesday a lifting of the boycott at next month’s ruling Labor party conference.

India and Australia are two of the largest and most important powers in Asia, making any large trade deal between them a significant item in regional politics. Yet this is more than a simple trade deal: everything about it, from the timing to the sensitive nature of the goods involved, suggests that this move has been finely calculated to send a message to China.

As recent events in Iran have proven, the uranium deals are taken a bit more seriously and have more geopolitical repercussions than garden-variety trade. Australia’s decision to begin supplying China’s chief continental rival with a significant quantity of uranium sends a strong message, even accounting for the stipulation that the mineral is forbidden for military use. In case this decision alone was too subtle, Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s decision to make the announcement during President Obama’s visit to Australia underlines the point — Australia is aligning itself with India as a balance against China, and this has all been done with American approval. This news may not make the front page here, but it will be heard loud and clear in China, where leaders will be forced to respond to the alliances springing up around it.

Obama, for his part, is shaping up to be a much tougher foreign-policy president than many had anticipated. The rise of China has practically guaranteed that nearby countries would band together to balance its power, but with his recent Asia summit closely followed by his involvement in the Australia-India alliance, the President has shown that America intends to foster and develop this nascent Pacific system and will not quietly acquiesce to Chinese demands in the Pacific.

We will have to expect some push back from China as a result; the next stage of world history has begun.

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  • LarryD

    Did Obama approve this deal, or is it more of an “object if you dare, Mr. President?”

  • Sapper Squid

    I agree, in at least some ways, the Obama administration has been tougher on foreign policy than expected. Still, in other ways I am left gaping, hoping that my lack of data is the cause for my concern. Here are three cases in particular, that give me reason to doubt just how tough we are:

    1) Our pending retreat from Iraq. For a while, I assumed this was just a bargaining tactic to get the SOFA our commanders needed. As December draws near, I am still hoping for a last minute change, but it seems elusive.
    2) Our retreat from missile defense in Poland. We gave away our best leverage against Russia as a act of goodwill towards Putin. Here it is over two years later and Russia perversely tries to thwart eveything we do.
    3) Our response to Iran. Seriously, al Quds plans an assisnation, with a BOMB, in Washington DC and the best we can do is strongly worded condemnation and “even more crippling” sanctions.

    Overall, looking at the big picture, I give our current administration about a straight C on foreign affairs. Maybe if Syria is liberated, this can go up, but the bad news is that the Persian gulf is pretty close to erupting in flames at any minute. On the good side, its nice to know the Aussie’s can still hang. As an American, I truly appreciate the friendship and trust we share with Australia.

  • Luke Lea

    I see we are stationing some U.S. troops there too. Now Australia — there’s a country worth defending!

  • Kris

    “China, where leaders will be forced to respond to the alliances springing up around it.”

    More belligerence and sabre-rattling! That’s the only solution.

  • J R Yankovic

    No doubt I’m being superstitious. But it amazes me how more and more the really ENDURING issues of our security, in both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, seem to keep devolving upon the quality of our relations with People (more or less) Like Us – i.e., Canada, Australia, Singapore, India, perhaps eventually Malaysia? In short, countries with an English-speaking colonial heritage. And who yet choose to remain within the (British) Commonwealth. And who, if not always irreproachably democratic – unlike us Yanks – are at least not explicitly anti-democratic. Of course I’ll always be in favor of any network of arrangements, alliances, offshore balances, etc, that helps disabuse those godlike mainland Chinese of the 1500-some-year-old notion that they’re the center of the universe (fat chance that, right?).

    But anyhow, regardless of how megalomaniac the latter choose to remain – and surely no delusions are more destructive than those of the TRULY SUPERIOR? (witness the pre-WWII career of scientific and cultural leader Germany) – at least we don’t ALL have to kowtow to their Middle Kingdomship. We might even – now I’m no economist, so don’t bite my head off – we MIGHT even want to reconsider their unofficial position as the gold standard of global economic competitiveness. I mean really, a country that works its own people so hard they want to kill themselves. (Golly, can’t they just find ANOTHER JOB?) Funny too, but I swear I don’t recall any of the Asian Tigers biting quite like that . . .

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