ISLAMABAD: Pakistan launched a concerted diplomatic push for a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) after the United States backed India’s bid to join the 48-nation informal but exclusive club of nuclear trading countries.
Last month, Islamabad formally applied for a NSG membership, setting the stage for a possible showdown with New Delhi when preliminary negotiations start on the issue in Vienna next week.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi secured Washington’s backing on Tuesday for New Delhi’s bid for a membership of the NSG after talks with US President Barack Obama.
However, Pakistan warned against any country-specific exemptions, which according to a senior Foreign Office official, would negatively impact strategic stability in South Asia.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz spoke by the phone with foreign ministers of Russia, South Korea and New Zealand as part of Pakistan’s continuing diplomatic efforts towards mobilising support for the country’s application for NSG membership.
“His interlocutors expressed support for a non-discriminatory approach on NSG expansion to non-NPT states,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.
Separately, the Foreign Office arranged a detailed briefing for diplomatic missions of NSG countries in Islamabad. Additional Secretary United Nations and Economic Coordination Ambassador Tasnim Aslam briefed the envoys and other diplomats about Pakistan’s credentials for joining the NSG.
A statement issued by the Foreign Office said Aslam highlighted factors which placed Pakistan’s application for a NSG membership on solid grounds, including Pakistan’s technical experience, capability and well-established commitment to non-proliferation and nuclear safety and security.
While urging the NSG member states to adopt an objective and non-discriminatory criterion for membership of non-NPT states, she cautioned against country-specific exemptions, which would negatively impact strategic stability in South Asia.
On May 19, in a letter addressed to the NSG chairman, Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna stated that the country’s decision to seek participation in the export control regime reflected Pakistan’s strong support for international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
“Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure, as well as the ability to supply NSG-controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses,” the ambassador added.
The Foreign Office statement said: “Pakistan attaches high priority to nuclear safety and security. It has taken legal, regulatory and administrative measures to bring nuclear safety and security at par with international standards.”
“Pakistan’s export control regime is underpinned by strong legislation, regulatory and enforcement mechanisms. The national export control lists are harmonized with the control lists of NSG, MTCR and Australia Group.”
Islamabad sought a membership of the exclusive nuclear trading club after Western countries, led by the US, quietly launched diplomatic efforts to induct India into the NSG.
Membership of the NSG would increase India’s global clout and provide a vested interest in curbing the world’s most dangerous regional arms race, but the prospects are fraught with uncertainties.
The campaign for India’s membership is seen carrying the risk of antagonising Pakistan and its ally China, which could veto India’s application. Beijing could also insist as a condition of India’s membership that Pakistan also be allowed to join, a potential hard sell because of Islamabad’s development of new tactical nuclear weapons.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 9th, 2016.