NSG: Pakistan’s patent credentials

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

ISLAMABAD has been enthusiastically lobbying for the full-membership of the Nuclear Supplier Group since May 2016. Its diplomats are judiciously publicising Pakistan’s credentials for NSG membership. Instead of asking for ‘favour’ or ‘special treatment’ for Pakistan, they have been demanding non-discriminatory criteria based and objective approach for non-NPT states for entry into the Nuclear Supplier Group. They accentuate that an equitable ‘criteria-based’ or ‘norm-based’ approach ought to be adopted for the membership of non-NPT nuclear weapon states.
Pakistan’s principle stance has positive impact on many states’ decision-makers. Therefore, a few nations agreed to ensure a merit based and non-discriminatory consideration of Pakistan’s Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) application. Recently, Belarus and Kazakhstan assured to support Pakistan’s bid for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Whereas; China, New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria had already rejected the country-specific exemption from NSG rules to grant membership to India. These states are convinced that country-specific exemption would further undermine credibility of NSG and weaken non-proliferation regime.
Nuclear Supplier Group is a cartel of 48 nations. It was created as a voluntary cartel in 1975 on the behest of the United States. The cartel was established in response to India’s May 18, 1974, peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE), codenamed Buddha is Smiling. India violated its agreement with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by using a Canadian-supplied reactor (CIRUS) spent-fuel for making plutonium. The violation of peaceful nuclear use assurances by New Delhi resulted in adoption of stringent measures by nuclear supplier nations to prevent the horizontal proliferation.
Since the entry into force in 1978, the NSG members have been transferring nuclear materials and technology to the parties of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), who are observing comprehensive IAEA safeguards and adhering to NSG export guidelines. Thus, initial objective of NSG was to impede its members from assisting India in making nuclear weapons. Strangely, today, US and its likeminded members of the NSG wishes to make India its full-fledged member.
Pakistan formally applied for the NSG membership in Vienna, Austria on May 18, 2016. Since its bid for membership, Islamabad has been lobbying for the support of the NSG member states. The Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz contacted the foreign ministers of various countries and explained them Pakistan’s rational for joining the NSG. He was successful in convincing a few of them that ‘the expansion of NSG should be carried out on non-discriminatory bases — by taking on “Criteria Based Approach”.
Pakistani officials also approached both the US officials and lawmakers for the sake of support to its bid for joining the NSG. The Americans recommended Pakistan ‘to put its case before all 48 members of the Group, instead of seeking individual endorsements for joining the NSG’. Conversely, the Obama Administration has openly supported India’s candidacy for the NSG. This manifests Washington’s visible tilt towards New Delhi for its strategic pursuits instead of promoting the norms of non-proliferation. Importantly, anti-Pakistan forces have been endeavouring to hinder Pakistan’s entry into the NSG. A few opine that Pakistan is not a party to the NPT, and thereby it is not qualified to join the NSG. Interestingly, they support India’s candidacy for the NSG. Since the very beginning, New Delhi censures NPT as a discriminatory Treaty.
Ironically, many analysts have been broadcasting concocted stories about Pakistan in the international media. For instance, without any tangible source, these analysts allege that Pakistan had supplied nuclear-related items to North Korea. But these analysts had failed to appreciate Islamabad’s efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions through the United Nations Security Council sanctions. Is it possible possible to carry out clandestine trade operations, today? Perhaps, it is impossible. Presently, satellites, etc. can easily monitor any trade or cooperation between/among the states. Moreover, Pakistan cannot assist North Korea in its pursuit of nuclear weapons because former has ‘consistently supported establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free Korean Peninsula’.
Islamabad, has been sincerely implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270, which was imposed in March 2016 in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January 2016 and rocket launch in February 2016. It was reported that Government of Pakistan constituted a high-powered committee to implement UNSC Resolution 2270. The Committee is chaired by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and includes all stakeholders including the Ministry of Commerce, Pakistan Customs and other relevant law enforcement agencies, SBP and financial institutions, Ministries of Aviation and Shipping and Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources. Precisely, this committee ensures that the sanctions regime is followed in letter and in spirit.
Islamabad is a serious candidate for the NSG membership. Ignoring its application and granting the full membership to its archrival is difficult for the 48 members of the NSG. It’s because; Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program is technically advanced. Therefore, it possesses a capability to produce several items and materials on the NSG Control Lists and thereby is qualified to trade them with the recipient states. In simple words, Pakistan has the expertise; manpower; infrastructure; and the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses. Secondly, Islamabad takes nuclear safety and security very seriously. Its safety and security apparatus is very much in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency regulations. Hence, it had not experienced any accident at the nuclear facilities. Thirdly, Islamabad did not violate the IAEA safeguards. It did not use IAEA safeguarded nuclear reactor’s spent fuel for making fissile material for weapons. Importantly, India used the spent fuel of the IAEA safeguarded CIRUS reactor’s spent fuel for making fissile material for its nuclear devices. Fourthly, it established the Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security (PCENS) with a potential to grow into a regional and international hub with the support of the IAEA. Currently, the Centre is conducting safety and security training courses. Many states’ nationals benefited from the Centre’s activities.
Fifthly, since September 2004, Islamabad has been implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 through the execution of Pakistan Export Control on Goods, Technologies, Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery System Act, 2004 (Export Control Act 2004). UNSR Resolution 1540 refrains States “from providing any form of support to non-State actors that attempt to develop, acquire, manufacture, possess, transport, transfer or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.”
Sixthly, Pakistan had already “declared adherence to NSG guidelines and aligned export controls with the best practices of the NSG.” The Export Control Act 2004 is consistent with the NSG ‘Non-Proliferation Principle’, adopted in 1994, i.e. “whereby a supplier, notwithstanding other provisions in the NSG Guidelines, authorises a transfer only when satisfied that the transfer would not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.” To conclude, the national laws legislated by Parliament and executed by the Government of Pakistan validate Islamabad’s seriousness for the implementation of the Resolution 1540, adherence to NPT, i.e. prevention of horizontal proliferation, and above all compliance to the NSG export laws. Thus, Pakistan’s patent credentials qualify it as a genuine candidate for the membership of the Nuclear Supplier Group.
— The writer is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.

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