Indo-Pak quest for NSG membership

The international community needs to accept Pakistan as a normal nuclear state

Yasir Hussain June 24, 2016
The writer holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University. He has been writing for various national and international papers on security and politics. He tweets @yasirhunzai1

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently arrived in New Delhi after a high-powered campaign in five states, including an address to the US Congress, to seek help in obtaining membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). However, an editorial in The New York Times spoilt the show by declaring that India's NSG membership was "not merited” until the country meets the group's standards. India is trying hard to get entry into the NSG, a 48-nation club dedicated to curbing nuclear arms proliferation by controlling the export of weapon-producing material. A number of NSG member states, including China, argue that signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a prerequisite for NSG membership.

The NSG held a meeting in Vienna on June 9 and 10. According to diplomatic sources, New Zealand, Ireland, Turkey, South Africa and Austria have opposed India’s bid. Opposing countries are of the view that granting India NSG membership would further weaken nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Nevertheless, India has again taken up the matter of the NSG membership bid in the group's latest plenary meeting that kicked off in Seoul on June 24.

Pakistan has also sent in its formal request for admission. Both South Asian rivals are not signatories to the NPT, a compulsory requirement for admittance to the NSG. Ironically, nuclear pundits have been vocal about India’s clean nuclear track record as an important credential for its membership but history tells us otherwise. India’s diversion of fissile material for weapons development was the sole reason behind the creation of the NSG. The plutonium used in India’s ‘peaceful’ nuclear test in 1974 was diverted from the ‘safeguarded’ Candu reactors supplied by Canada. Resultantly, India was subjected to international sanctions. It was specifically barred from nuclear trade by the US and other countries.

India’s current nuclear posture does not seem to indicate in the slightest that it wishes for global nuclear disarmament. On the one hand, it aims to be a part of prestigious nuclear club, whereas on the other, it has been engaged in building a top-secret nuclear facility in Karnataka — believed to reach completion by 2017 — for the production of thermonuclear weapons. This secret facility is going to be the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges. India’s intentions are clear: it needs foreign nuclear assistance so that it could divert its indigenous resources solely for weapons development.

Today, most nuclear experts are unanimous in their views that deviation from a criteria-based approach to a country-specific approach is more likely to undermine the credibility of the NSG. If expansion of the NSG is necessary, then it will have to be decided in accordance with fundamentally agreed principles.

Earlier, the US opened Pandora’s Box by exempting India from the NSG requirements, which enabled the latter to strengthen its chances of entry into the elite nuclear club without adhering to its basic prerequisites. This country-specific act has already degraded nuclear parity in South Asia.

The US wants India to counter the rise of China. India is happy to serve the purpose as in return it gets conditional assistance from the US in its quest for NSG membership. Top US leadership, Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Trade Representative Michael Froman visited Beijing to convince China to refrain from its principled standpoint on Indian NSG membership. However, Chinese officials have clarified that their stand on India's inclusion into the NSG remains the same as it has in the past.

Similarly, Pakistan also demands a civilian nuclear deal similar to the India-US accord that allows India access to nuclear technology despite being a non-signatory to the NPT. It’s taking comprehensive measures to normalise its nuclear programme. According to a report sent by the US State Department to Congress this week, Pakistan continues to work towards harmonising its control mechanism for weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems with the standards set by the NSG. The report further states that Pakistan is a constructive and active participant in the Nuclear Security Summit process and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and has worked to strengthen its strategic trade controls, including updating its national export control list.

Nearly 71 years after the US bombing of Hiroshima, President Obama recently called for an end to nuclear weapons. Writing in the Hiroshima Peace Park guest book, Obama called for the courage to "spread peace and pursue a world without nuclear weapons". His idealistic approach is commendable, but the irony is that it’s the US administration that is setting a dangerous precedent by granting country-specific NSG waivers. Instead of promoting a criteria-based approach, the Obama Administration is creating an exception for India to join the NSG.

On various occasions, Pakistan has told the US that it has the credentials to become a member of the nuclear materials export control regimes, including the NSG. The US has recognised Pakistan's significant efforts to harmonise its strategic trade controls with those of the NSG, yet it is reluctance to grant it membership.

Pakistan considers access to peaceful uses of nuclear technology a socio-economic imperative. Therefore, isolating a nuclear power won’t yield fruitful results for complete global disarmament. The international community needs to accept Pakistan as a normal nuclear state. Pakistan is engaged with non-NPT countries in a criteria-based approach because it considers its credentials better than those of India.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2016.

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bahadurkhan | 5 years ago | Reply no doubt Sartaz Aziz efforts have been successful. With ample support from China, Switzerland also supported China, This has been a good week for Pakistan, rise in infiltration in kashmir, CRPF bus attack etc. Modi did 02 nos mistakes, there was no need for NSG membership, along with the capability presentation, we forgot to present the business travels of Abdul Qadir Khan to Libya, Pyonyang, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Algiers, Beijing. The present firing of North korean ICBM is a reminder.
Samrat | 5 years ago | Reply @Ahsan Who are you kidding kid? Everyone knows that there is one habitual beggar who cries at everything India does. PAK cried a lot during this whole NSG saga and the world saw it.
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