Pakistan & India NSG membership, stake holders and challenges

By Ali Raza

It is a well-known fact that nuclear technology is only used for development of nuclear weapons, but also as a sustainable power source as nuclear energy. Therefore, it is not surprising that many countries aim to have a nuclear programme. At the same time, the international community remains apprehensive of ambitions beyond nuclear technology. This is evident from the nuclear explosion tests conducted by India at Pokhran despite its repeated proclamation, spread over a period of almost three decades, that it would use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only. It is highlighted that this particular test not only compelled Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons, but also triggered arms race in the region, which is still ongoing.
To allow nuclear energy to developed as a power source, the international community has taken into consideration two primary factors i.e., prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ensuring extension of benefits of nuclear technology to the world. Therefore, international community has developed treaties and binding commitments. Such treaties and binding commitments are commonly referred to as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime.
The Nuclear Supplier Group, with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at its cornerstone, is considered to be one of the most important and credible component of the International Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime. Since its constitution, NSG has served the aforesaid two purposes designed by international community, and has attained credibility in this regard. This fact was also acknowledged by the President of Swiss Confederation Ms. Doris Leuthard in the 27th Plenary Meeting of NSG held on 22-23 June 2017. She applauded the efforts of NSG in curbing the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
These two facts appear to be contradictory as on one hand the participating governments express their strict commitment to adhere to the meaningful compliance of NPT and on the other hand these states have agreed to consider every possibility of implementation of 2008 of Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India. Those familiar with the rationale behind constitution of NSG understand that there are certain pre-requisites which aspiring members must comply with. To qualify to be a member of NSG, a State should either be signatory of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or it should become member of Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. The applications for membership in NSG were submitted by the two nuclear states of South Asia, i.e., India and Pakistan in the year 2016.
The interesting fact is that both the states are neither signatories of NPT nor member of Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. However, the credibility of NPT was compromised when United States, in pursuit of economic interests, acquired India specific NSG waiver. The US’ India-centric approach raised serious reservations from International community over the criteria which are to be followed for NSG expansion.
The competition between these two states to become member of NSG started after the joint statement of President Bush and Indian Prime Minister in 2005 regarding US India Nuclear Co-operation Initiative and after US obtained India specific waiver from NSG. Further, the member states of NSG are also affirmative about devising a criterion that could enable the states, which are non-signatory to NPT, to enter into the group for availing the benefits of nuclear technology.
This approach of the member states of NSG, and also keeping in view the aspires of the two nuclear rival states to get entry in to the group, led to intense debate about the two major groups i.e., those who intend to get entry only to India and those who argue for criteria-based approach for enabling the states to enter into the group. China along with some other countries strongly opposed the idea of country specific approach.
This fact was also acknowledged by the President of Swiss Confederation Ms. Doris Leuthard in the 27th Plenary Meeting of NSG held on 22-23 June 2017. She applauded the efforts of NSG in curbing the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The Spokesperson of Chinese foreign ministry expressed that non-discriminatory solutions need to be adopted, which are applicable to all states that are not signatory to NPT, and which must not undermine the core values of NSG as well as the integrity and effectiveness attached to NPT. On the other hand, the formula coined by the Ambassador of Argentine Rafael Grossi, famously known as Grossi-Song formula, clearly favors entry of only India to the group.
For example, among various points proposed by him one is separation of civil and military nuclear facilities, other is signing of additional protocols of IAEA. The formula proposed by Grossi was subject to objections by various states such as China, Brazil, Turkey, New Zealand, Italy, Austria etc. The objections raised vary from lack of transparency, selective engagement to lack of impartiality. It is being maintained by the said states that the said proposal is violation of the spirit of NSG and the norms underlying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation regime.
If, for the sake of arguments, the Grossi-Song formula is implemented, it would have the following implications:-
1. Sanctity attached to the credibility of NSG would seriously be at stake;
2. It would also be detrimental to the importance of NPT being the nucleus of NSG;
3. It could trigger arms-race in South Asia, and could be detrimental to the strategic stability of the region;
4. It could put India in an advantageous position over Pakistan especially when India is clearly violating the norms of Non-Proliferation Regime, and constantly increasing its stock pile of nuclear weapons
However, Indo-Pak’s quest to join NSG met with cold feet from member states during 27th plenary meeting during which participating governments reaffirmed their full support and insisted on effective and strict implementation of NPT as the same is the foundation of the international non-proliferation regime. This approach of the member states of NSG, and also keeping in view the aspires of the two nuclear rival states to get entry in to the group, led to intense debate about the two major groups.
However, it was agreed by the participating governments that every aspect of implementation of 2008 statement of Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India would be considered. These two facts appear to be contradictory as on one hand the participating governments express their strict commitment to adhere to the meaningful compliance of NPT and on the other hand these states have agreed to consider every possibility of implementation of 2008 of Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India.
The international community must take serious note of the acknowledgment of the central role of NPT by Ms. Doris Leuthard in curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons by NSG. Participating governments should proceed with the matter of entry of India in the group with utmost care and in a manner that satisfies the requirements of NPT. Therefore, criteria based approach seems most viable option for member states to expand NSG, adhering to internationally agreed principle in their true spirit.
Ali Raza is a visiting faculty at Air University, Islamabad. He holds master’s degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies (S&NS) from National Defense University, Islamabad. His area of research includes Strategic Stability, Arms control and disarmament and Non-Proliferation.
His opinion articles appear in national and international newspapers, blogs and websites. He can be reached at razaali566@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are author’so own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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