Indian Nuclear Test
It is now possible to offer some further observations on India's nuclear test, which took place on 18 May.
Australia is a prosperous developed/developing country, with abundant energy resources for the foreseeable future, and with a different strategic outlook from India, based on our reasonable assumption of American nuclear protection. This enables us to see the NPT differently from India, which has no nuclear protector, except, potentially, the Soviet Union, which she does not want. India also has immense problems of development, which it is difficult for us to comprehend.
In these circumstances India sees itself, like China, as an independent decision-making centre, especially in relation to the nuclear powers, whereas Australia sees itself as a beneficiary of an alliance with one of the nuclear powers. While in developing its nuclear programme there is little doubt India has had the preservation of a military nuclear option in mind as one factor, we cannot conclude here that any decision to take up that option has been taken, or is even in prospect under present circumstances.
We have American strategic facilities on our soil and, while these give Australia reasons for supporting the NPT, they do not buttress our independent and regional stance and they should make us careful about criticising India for doing what she, in her own interests, has elected to do.
Not untypically for India, what she has done does not fit in to generally accepted categories, and I am aware of a feeling of annoyance with India for being so tiresome. 'Why doesn't she simply say she's built a bomb?' The fact is that her leaders do not say that; they maintain the opposite and we have no evidence to the contrary. In these circumstances, our interests appear to lie, at least for the time being, in holding India to these assurances.
I hope these comments are useful.
[NAA: A1838, 720/5/7 part 3]