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Defence analyst discusses India's decision to conduct nuclear tests and the political aspects worldwide.

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MARK COLVIN: Well, the Indian nuclear tests will have flow-on effects much broader than India's immediate neighbours, not least Australia's defence and strategic thinking may have to be comprehensively rethought.  The world in which India has short- and medium-range nuclear missiles is a world in which our neighbours like China and Indonesia may feel they have almost as much reason to worry as Pakistan.  And there are reports that India has been buying sea-launched missile technology from Russia.  And into the 21 st century that may radically revise the way Australia thinks about how to defend itself.


Professor Paul Dibb is a former head of the Joint Intelligence Organisation, the JIO, and head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the ANU.  He joins me on the line now.  Professor Dibb, first reactions in terms of the JIO political aspect of this?


PAUL DIBB:  Well, as I think you've just heard from the various contending parties in the sub-continent, they both will try to be holier than thou but in fact their national interests are nakedly at play here and I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that these unfortunate tests of India's now delivers a declaratory nuclear policy and clearly there'll be a reaction in Pakistan, and we'll have to see how China responds.


MARK COLVIN: So outside the context of the immediate neighbours, what do you think the ripple effects are going to be?


PAUL DIBB: Well, the ripple effects are the immediate neighbours - crucially Pakistan, which obviously has a latent nuclear capability, and China which continues to develop and modernise its long-range nuclear capacity. 


As far as Australia is concerned, I think we must be careful not to exaggerate this issue.  It's essentially a sub-continent and China problem, but it does mean that the Government's policy, which is very firm - successive governments in Australia - annunciated most recently in the December Strategic Policy Statement, that we seek to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in our own region, becomes a somewhat more acute issue. 


We now have nuclear weapon proliferation in North Korea, and the modernisation of China's weapons, as I've said, and now on the north-western flank, at some distance of course from Australia, we have an Indian declaratory nuclear policy and capability, and demonstratively a latent Pakistani one.  But in our own neighbourhood, in Southeast Asia including, by the way, Indonesia, there is simply not that capability and certainly not the intention.


MARK COLVIN: What about these reports that India has been buying submarine-launch, sea-launched capability from Russia?


PAUL DIBB: Well, you know, I don't want to comment on particular technical aspects - that's not my scene - but Russia is a broken-backed country that doesn't have much to export other than weapons, and we know it's exporting fairly advanced….


[interruption to transmission]


MARK COLVIN: Yes, you were saying Russia is exporting advanced submarine technology.


PAUL DIBB: Yes, and surface-weapon technology and cruise missiles to China.  So there will be no inhibition to exporting that sort of capability, but distinctly submarine-launch ballistic missiles - no, I don't see any evidence of that from Russia.


MARK COLVIN: So even in the long term Australia's defence policy doesn't require radical rethinking just yet?


PAUL DIBB: No, it doesn't because for a long time we've been aware of and scrutinising India's capability ever since the 1974 so-called peaceful nuclear explosion.  What we now have is this rather arrogant and self-serving Indian nationalist point of view.


MARK COLVIN: Paul Dibb, thank you very much for joining us tonight.


PAUL DIBB: Thank you.