Export control regimes and Pakistan’s commitment

Published: January 31, 2018
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The writer is a researcher at the Centre for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad. She can be reached at afeerafirdous@yahoo.com

The writer is a researcher at the Centre for International Strategic Studies, Islamabad. She can be reached at [email protected]

In an advanced technological but anarchic world, the international community has formulated different international and multilateral instruments and export control regimes such as the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), nuclear safeguard under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to deal with proliferation concerns.

Along with national level arrangements for non-proliferation efforts, international export control measures also play a vital role in assessing the behaviour of a nuclear weapon country to standardise materials related to the weapons of mass destruction. Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapon state, which recognised its obligations towards international non-proliferation efforts even without being part of the NPT. Since the commencement of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the country has prioritised active export control regimes as part of its non-proliferation efforts. But there is still the need to take more steps to strengthen the credentials of these efforts. Currently, four export control regimes, the MTCR, NSG, Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group, are the major groups that directly or indirectly contribute to the non-proliferation regime. Pakistan is not a part of these groups.

The Australia Group deals with preventing the spread and use of chemical and biological weapons. Its agenda was set after the use of chemical weapons in Iraq in 1984 and till date 42 countries, including the European Commission, have joined this informal forum. However, Pakistan is one of the countries which ratified the CWC in 1993, which is the conclusion of the efforts of Australia Groups in Convention of Disarmament negotiations, and is also a responsible member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Yet it has failed to be a part of the regime.

On the other hand, India has been accepted as the 42nd member of the Wassenaar Arrangement in December 2017, which fundamentally deals with the export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies. But Pakistan has not even put up its case for the inclusion in this cartel group. As the group facilitates the transfer of conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies within the member-states, it would help Pakistan in developing good terms with multiple stakeholders in the defence or weapons industry than only relying on US equipment.

Moreover, the case of MTCR and NSG has become an issue of status for countries now. Established in 1987, the 35-member voluntary group MTCR intends to limit the spread of ballistic missile and unmanned delivery systems which could be used to deliver chemical, biological and nuclear warheads. Apart from restricting the exports of missiles and related technologies, the group facilitates the member-states to buy or sell missile-related technologies within the group. The MTCR also encourages the member-states to establish national export control policies for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles, space-launch vehicles, drones, remotely piloted vehicles, rockets, etc. India joined the group back in 2016, while Pakistan has not even considered putting up its case to join it. The situation is entirely peculiar that the Pakistani leadership did not even prioritise the matters related to the export control regime to come in the mainstream as a responsible nuclear weapon state. The membership of the MTCR can also assist Pakistan’s space programme to flourish. Recently, though Pakistan does not have any indigenous space programme till date, Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal, Sohail Aman, announced that the country would be able to send astronauts into space within the next two years with Chinese assistance. In the wake of this significant development, the membership can be fruitful.

Moreover, membership of the NSG has become another scuffle between India and Pakistan.

Apart from efforts to block India’s entry in the NSG, Pakistan needs to build a strong case for its own inclusion in the group. Pakistan already abides by the regulations under the NSG by separating military and civil facilities and keeping civil nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards. As Tasnim Aslam stated in the UN in 2016, “Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure and ability to supply NSG-controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses.” Apart from the national level efforts, Pakistan is an active member of different international forums like the IAEA Code of Conduct on Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, UN Security Council 1540 Committee, IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database and the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.

As different multilateral export control regimes are the way to mainstream a country’s nuclear programme, Pakistan needs to get involved in these regimes for having good credentials in nuclear safety and security in the last 20 years. The international community needs to quit dual behaviour of supporting India and shaming Pakistan in vital international forums like the NSG. Pakistan also needs to prioritise its participation in different export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Arrangement and the MTCR to show its commitment and get advantage. Pakistan needs to mobilise its embassies or consulates in different member-states of multiple export control regimes to get diplomatic support on the issue.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2018.

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