The Nuclear Suppliers group aims to stop nuclear proliferation by having a check on export of nuclear materials as well as the equipment and sharing of technology with other nations to produce the same. The group came into being as a response to testing PTR (Pokhran Test Range) by India in 1974- her first nuclear bomb under the auspices of the Indian Army. This was the first official nuclear test by any nation not being a part of the five permanent members of the Security Council. These are United States, Russia, China, France and UK.
India’s desire to join this group raises many questions that need close attention.
India is not a signatory to the CTBT (The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty). Rajesh Gopal in his paper for Columbia University on CTBT (May 1997) makes an important distinction between types of proliferation ie horizontal proliferation, vertical proliferation, and disarmament. Horizontal proliferation is spreading technology to new counties by virtue of existing weapons. Vertical proliferation he defines as ‘upgrading and further development of more sophisticated weapons by the existing nuclear powers whereas” disarmament refers to the five permanent members of Security Council dismantling the nuclear weapons that exist.
CTBT essentially addresses the first kind of the three types of proliferations discussed ie the horizontal proliferation. India is also not a signatory to NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty). India has chosen to refuse to disarm and join NSG as ‘non-weapon state’. ‘The NPT itself requires only that internationally-traded nuclear material and technology be safeguarded –‘(July 2014)
Not only is India a non- signatory to CTBT and NPT, India has also been quietly building a secret nuclear city to produce thermonuclear weapons according to Foreign Policy Exclusive Report. (December 16, 2015) The report records an in-depth investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, conducting a series of across the board interviews including those of the local residents one hundred and sixty miles to the south of Challakere (where the nuclear city is being made and to be ready sometime in 2017), to foreign and intelligence analysts, Indian scientists and retired military officers- along with satellite photos of the stated facility taken in 2014- it is abundantly clear that India is upping its nuclear weapons capability.
According to Article 6 of CTBT: Each State Party undertakes not to carry out any nuclear test explosion or any other nuclear explosion, and to prohibit and prevent any such nuclear explosion at any place under its jurisdiction or control and, each State Party undertakes, furthermore, to refrain from causing, encouraging, or in any way participating in the carrying out of any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion. By inducting India as member of NGS without relevant agreements, do not nations of NSG become accomplices to India’s nuclear ambitions?
Further, India produces fissile materials for weapons. According to established reports, it operates a plutonium reactor, also a uranium facility that falls outside the ambit of safeguards laid down by IAEA.
The Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty that is not formalized yet though acknowledges the importance to put an end to production of fissile material not only for nuclear weapons but also for any kind of explosive device. With nations, accepting in principle to cut off any explosive device made from fissile material, will it then not be a contradiction in terms of admitting on board a country that challenges the concept accepted by responsible nuclear nations? What if the desired treaty is inked? Will India stop its fissile production? More relevantly important, will India stop its fissile material production before being considered for the membership to NSG?
The India-US joint statement therefore on June 7, 2016, stating that, “President Barak Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi “looked forward to India’s imminent entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime” (MTCR), and that Obama “welcomed India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)”, smells heavily of being politically maneuvered. (The Indian Express, June 10, 2016) In an effort to include India in an exclusive group, US devised another treaty the US-India Civil Nuclear Deal that effectively allowed India to make a distinction between civil and military nuclear programme thus allowing India, to “put the civilian part under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. India also changed its export laws to line up with the NSG, MTCR, Wassenaar Arrangement, and Australia Group — the four key nuclear control regimes. The US agreed to shepherd Indian entry into these regimes, which meant India would for all practical purposes be treated like an NPT member, even though it wasn’t one.”(The Indian Express, June 10, 2016)
China has opposed India’s entry into the NSG as it’s a non-signatory of NPT. Reportedly, South Africa Turkey, Ireland, New Zealand and Austria are supporting China’s stance. Even if the vote comes to the table, China by virtue of its opposition can thwart India’s effort, as even one country of the group of five opposing will not allow an aspiring country to squeeze in.
On the other hand, US has not been forthcoming on Pakistan’s formal request to be considered for joining the NSG. A formal application to the effect was submitted in Vienna by Pakistan May 2016. “The letter also warned that publicly available reports on “significant upcoming fissile material facilities and build up of unsafeguarded weapon-usable fissile material in Pakistan’s neighborhood raise larger security and stability concerns for the region.” (Zee News June 10, 2016)
Of course, Islamabad is concerned about prospects of India stepping in the exclusive league. India’s desire to increase her regional and international stature notwithstanding, such partial approach by US to India’s membership in NSG can only be viewed as making a mockery of an institution. New York Times in its editorial writes, “The problem, however, is that the relationship with India rests on a dangerous bargain. For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for India’s nuclear program to maintain India’s cooperation on trade and to counter China’s growing influence. As part of the 2008 deal, the Indians promised they would be “ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices” as other nations with advanced nuclear technology. But they have fallen far short by continuing to produce fissile material and to expand their nuclear arsenal.” (June 4, 2016)
My grouse lies with my own government. Why have they never focused on foreign policy issues? Why is there a failure to develop goals and tactics based on long and short-term policies? Pakistan must be proactive and not reactive to not only this issue but other issues as well. One only needs to scrutinize list of foreign trips undertaken by Modi and Nawaz to understand the foreign policy being followed by former and lack of it by the latter. Modi’s thrust has been regionally, UAE , leading western nations, Russia and Iran. In the initial 18 months of being in power, Nawaz undertook 14 foreign visits. Three visits each to US and China and two to Turkey. One trip each to Iran, Thailand, Afghanistan and Nepal.
If I may ask, who in Pakistan is running the foreign ministry anyways? Or to rephrase, who is screwing it up?