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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (19 May) . . Page.. 300 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

(4) urges India's neighbours not to be drawn into a dangerous arms race and encourages them to renew their commitment to world peace.

Further, the Assembly urges the Chief Minister to write to the Prime Minister requesting that he inform, in the strongest terms, India's High Commissioner in Australia of this resolution.

Mr Speaker, members of the Legislative Assembly: I rise on behalf of the ACT Government and the people of Canberra to express in the strongest terms our condemnation of the Indian Government for staging these nuclear tests. The tests, conducted 330 miles to the south-west of New Delhi, represent a serious setback for the prospects of peace on the Indian subcontinent and run completely counter to the direction in which the rest of the world is heading. The Indian Government's action is at odds with the international community which over the past 18 months has been actively working to build an environment free of weapons of mass destruction. India has now reversed the direction of the nuclear arms race and acted in complete disregard of the 140 countries that have signed the comprehensive test ban treaty. Quite understandably, the Indian action has triggered a strong and critical reaction from the Australian Government, India's near neighbours and the world community.

The ACT Government fully supports the Australian Government's action in unreservedly condemning the Indian Government for these tests and recalling the Australian High Commissioner to New Delhi for consultations. Three years ago there was public outrage in Canberra and around Australia over the French Government's decision to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific. In the case of those nuclear tests, this Assembly passed a motion deploring the action; and I believe similar action is warranted over the Indian nuclear testing program.

Mr Speaker, as Assembly members, our duty is clear in these circumstances. On behalf of our community, we need to send three very clear and unmistakable messages to the Indian Government. Firstly, the Canberra community strongly opposes these unwarranted tests. They are the first undertaken by a non-nuclear-declared power in almost 25 years, and they set a dangerous and destabilising precedent. Secondly, the Indian Government should cease further testing. More explosions will lead to an escalation of tensions in the region. The subcontinent has already seen enough volatility over the last 50 years; it does not need the further blow of nuclear weapons testing.

Lastly, we want to inform other countries, which might be thinking about the dangerous step of moving the nuclear threshold, that the people of Canberra, along with other Australians, strongly deplore any move, anywhere, to escalate the nuclear arms race. We regret this Indian action, especially as it comes at a time when Australian-Indian bilateral relationships have been steadily strengthening. In an era where globalisation increases opportunities for communities to work together, these tests make the development of closer ties with India so much harder.

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