Ascending to NSG: Support for criteria-based membership growing: FO

Islamabad urged to improve narrative about its nuclear programme

News Desk August 01, 2018

Pakistan’s suggestion for developing a criteria-based approach in gaining membership to an elite group of nuclear suppliers has been attracting support from a number of countries.

This was stated by a senior diplomatic official during an in-house roundtable organised by the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), a think tank which specialises in nuclear deterrence and strategic stability issues.

“The support for this (criteria-based approach) is growing and a good number of countries are now calling for developing criteria for admitting non-NPT states,” stated Kamran Akhtar, the director general of the Arms Control and Disarmament Division at the Foreign Office in Islamabad.

The 48-member exclusive block of nuclear material supplying countries, the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG), has been deliberating on admitting new members to the group, particularly those states who are not signatories to the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT). The NSG in its latest plenary, held in mid-June in Latvia, had said that “discussions were continuing on the requests for participation that had been submitted”.

Deliberations on membership for non-NPT states – including Pakistan and India – had started in 2016 at the Seoul Plenary and have continued since then without any progress. During this period, Pakistan has lobbied for a criteria-based approach, while simultaneously exposing the loopholes in the separation plan committed by India and the anomalies in its safeguards agreement.

Akhtar pointed out that several international studies have since corroborated Pakistan’s long-held position that any exemption for India could undermine the regional strategic nuclear stability and would only help New Delhi expand its nuclear programme.

He emphasised a pro-active approach for bolstering Pakistan’s case and for pushing the criteria-based approach.

Participants of the discussion dwelt on various measures that Pakistan could take to meet the criteria that could be eventually developed. The suggestions included separation of civilian and military nuclear facilities, and signing the additional protocol with the global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ambassador Zamir Akram, who has previously represented Pakistan at the Conference on Disarmament, said that he does not see a consensus emerging at the NSG on the membership of non-NPT countries in the near future.

He also questioned concerns about any impending change in the Chinese position at NSG, noting that China has been insisting on the NPT requirement for admitting new members into NSG.

“China will not change its position and it will not accept India as an NSG member as long as Pakistan is not accepted as a member,” he stressed.

However, Akram said that it was satisfying to note that Islamabad did not repeat the mistake it made in 2008 when it failed to block country-specific safeguards agreement for India at the IAEA which allowed New Delhi to secure exemptions from NSG.

Meanwhile, the SVI in a statement hailed the government’s proactive diplomacy for successfully advocating a criteria-based approach for membership of the NSG and called for bolstering the country’s candidature for admission into the multilateral export control regime.

It underscored that Pakistan should focus on improving the narrative about its nuclear programme and consider the steps that could further strengthen its NSG candidature.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2018.


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