THERE are nine nuclear weapon states, and of the nine, four have not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). These are: Pakistan, Israel, India, and North Korea — which withdrew from the Treaty. These four states are referred to as non-NPT nuclear weapon states. Pakistan is, one of these nine states worldwide to possess nuclear weapons, and aspires to be 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 technology with a shared commitment to global non-proliferation. Although not a signatory of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the country’s experience in civil nuclear program warrants attention of the NSG. Lt Gen Mazhar Jamil, former Director General, Strategic Plans Division (SPD) said that there is a concern that the non-proliferation regime is becoming increasingly politicized and discriminatory. Despite these abnormalities in the nuclear order, Pakistan remains positively engaged.
Reportedly, India is not considering any proposal to sign the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT) as a precondition for joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group. However, the US is spearheading India’s campaign for inclusion in the group and contends that after attaining membership of other multilateral export control regimes like Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group and Wassenaar Agreement, Indian case is ripe for membership. Ironically, the keepers of international nuclear non-proliferation regime are persisting to embrace a non-NPT nuclear weapon state for nuclear commerce acting discriminatory towards the other South Asian non-NPT but a nuclear weapon state (Pakistan) obtaining same status. However, a small notwithstanding depleted group is holding out preventing consensus on new admissions.
The credibility of international nuclear non-proliferation regime faces a big question mark. The materialization of 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 8 Indian nuclear reactors from IAEA safeguards that are well suited for 1,250 kilograms plutonium upgrading for weapon purposes “which has the ability to produce 240 nuclear weapons a year.” Consequently, amplifies regional instability and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons. The US cannot in any terms call the step an advantage to global non-proliferation regime. Paradoxically speaking the creators of non-proliferation regime and its cartels have created rooms 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 Indian diversion from Canadian based rector (diverted Plutonium from the Canadian-Indian Reactor) that was given for peaceful use. Pragmatically recounting NSG’s objective or purpose was to regulate nuclear commerce so further diversions as that of India could not take place again since India used it for military purposes that resulted in Indian Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974.
Although, the Group is not a formal organization and its guidelines are non-bindings, but still, its members are 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 basis — by taking on the Criteria Based Approach. However, the key decisions at NSG, like admission of new members, are undoubtedly politicized. 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 works for Strategic Vision Institute, a think-tank based in Islamabad.