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.