Keeping Pakistan out of the nuclear game

The credibility of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime faces a big question mark

By Beenish Altaf

There are nine nuclear weapon states. Four of these have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). These include Pakistan, Israel, India, and North Korea-which withdrew from the treaty. These four states are referred to as non-NPT nuclear weapon states. Pakistan possess nuclear weapons, and aspires to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), an association of 48 nations that oversees the international trade of atomic and atomic-related materials and technologies with a shared commitment to global non-proliferation.

Although, not a signatory of the NPT or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the country’s experience in civil nuclear program warrants the NSG’s attention. Former Strategic Plans Division (SPD) director general Lt Gen Mazhar Jamil said that there is a concern that the non-proliferation regime is becoming increasingly politicised and discriminatory. Despite these abnormalities in the nuclear order, Pakistan remains positively engaged.

Reportedly, India is not considering any proposal to sign the NPT as a precondition for joining the NSG. However, the US is spearheading India’s campaign for inclusion in the group. The super power contends that after attaining membership of other multilateral export control regimes like Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group, and Wassenaar Agreement, the Indian case will be ripe for membership.

Ironically, the keepers of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime are insisting on embracing a non-NPT South Asian nuclear weapon state (India) for nuclear commerce, while discriminating against another South Asian another (Pakistan) obtaining the same status. However, a small notwithstanding depleted group is holding out, preventing consensus on new admissions. Ironically, the keepers of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime are insisting on embracing a non-NPT South Asian nuclear weapon state (India) for nuclear commerce, while discriminating against another South Asian another (Pakistan) obtaining the same status.

The credibility of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime faces a big question mark. The materialisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal posed stern questions for the non-proliferation regime and nuclear trade worldwide. It managed the NSG waiver without accepting NPT. In addition, the deal also excluded eight Indian nuclear reactors from IAEA safeguards that are well suited for 1,250 kilograms plutonium upgrades for weapons. The US cannot in any scenario call the step an advantage to the global non-proliferation regime.

Paradoxically speaking, the creators of non-proliferation regime and its cartels have created room for nuclear mishandling within the group itself. Countries, namely United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, West Germany and Soviet Union got together to form the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), in response to India’s diversion of plutonium from a Canadian-based rector from peaceful to not-so-peaceful designs. The NSG’s objective or purpose was to regulate nuclear commerce so further diversions as that of India could not take place again. India used the plutonium for military purposes, which resulted in Indian Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974. Although, the group is not a formal organisation and its guidelines are non-bindings, its members are still expected to incorporate the guidelines into their national export control laws. Ironically, it does not mean that any country-specific diversion or waiver would become legal under the guidelines of NSG. Indubitably, in order to step forward and improve the global non-proliferation goals, putting in new members in NSG would be an encouraging and constructive option. Along with that, it would be equally vital to uphold the efficacy and effectiveness of NSG. Therefore, the expansion should be carried out on non-discriminatory bases  by taking on acriteria-based approach.

However, the key decisions at NSG, like the admission of new members, are undoubtedly politicised. The decisions instead of following an equitable and non-discriminatory approach are motivated by geo-political considerations. Admittedly, Pakistan does what it can; the non-proliferation regime should also do what it must, to become equitable and rule-based. Nevertheless, stalemate on the issue of admission of non-NPT countries persisted at the last meeting of the consultative group of the 48 members’ cartel, controlling the international nuclear trade.

The writer is associated with the Strategic Vision Institute.

‘Courtesy Daily Times’

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