China withdrew a draft resolution against the AUKUS alliance at the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on Friday after apprehending that the measure would not receive majority support, people familiar with the matter said.
India worked closely with many IAEA member states to ensure that the draft resolution, which argued that the AUKUS initiative violated the responsibilities of Australia, the UK and the US under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), did not get majority support
China clashed with the three countries in the AUKUS alliance at the UN nuclear watchdog over the plan to supply Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, capping a week in which Beijing repeatedly railed against the project that was unveiled last year.
The draft resolution opposed AUKUS for seeking to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, though these will be armed with conventional weapons. Besides arguing that the initiative violated the responsibilities of the three countries under the NPT, the draft resolution also criticised the IAEA’s role in this regard, the people said.
India took an “objective view” of the AUKUS initiative while recognising the soundness of the technical evaluation done by the IAEA. The Indian mission to the IAEA in Vienna worked closely with many IAEA member states in this regard, the people said.
“India’s considered role helped many smaller countries take a clear stand on the Chinese proposal,” one of the people cited above said. “India’s deft diplomacy was deeply appreciated by IAEA member states, particularly the AUKUS partners,” the person added.
After apprehending that the resolution would not get majority support, China withdrew it on Friday, the last day of the general conference of the IAEA that began on September 26.
Under the AUKUS alliance, Australia plans to acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines. The alliance has largely been seen as a response by the three countries to the increasingly aggressive and assertive behaviour of China across the Indo-Pacific. India has close defence and strategic ties with all three members of AUKUS.
“The AUKUS partnership involves the illegal transfer of nuclear weapon materials, making it essentially an act of nuclear proliferation,” China said in a position paper sent to IAEA members during this week’s quarterly meeting of the nuclear watchdog’s 35-nation Board of Governors.
The AUKUS partners and the IAEA say the NPT allows marine nuclear propulsion provided necessary arrangements are made with the IAEA.
China disagreed with this position, saying nuclear materials will be transferred to Australia rather than being produced by it. It argued the IAEA was overstepping its mandate and wanted an “inter-governmental” process to examine the issue at the IAEA.
Ambassador Wang Qun, China’s permanent representative to the UN in Vienna, said the AUKUS initiative would have a “serious negative impact” on international efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula and Iranian nuclear issues.