‘Pakistan will not compromise on its stance’

Expert calls nuclear weapons extension of conventional arms.

Express September 15, 2011

Pakistan will not compromise on its stance on the FMCT (Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty), at least in the near future. These were the views expressed by Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, the keynote speaker at a roundtable on “FMCT: Pakistan’s Stand and Implications”, organised by the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) on Wednesday, said a press release issued by the institute.

With the FMCT issue being discussed during the ongoing session of the UN General Assembly, the roundtable brought forth some key issues concerning Pakistan’s position on FMCT.

Dr Jaspal argued that while Pakistan was being maligned in the western media as the only obstructionist country in the path to the initiation of negotiations on FMCT, in fact other countries also concealed reservations about the treaty, but that they were happy to remain under the shadow of Pakistan. Further explaining Pakistan’s principled position on FMCT, Dr Jaspal argued that Pakistan did not view FMCT, or arms-control for that matter, in isolation on disarmament, which was actually the mandate of the conference on disarmament.

He asserted that by calling for a ban on the production of fissile material, while not taking into account the reduction in the existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons, the FMCT was, “Freezing the existing nuclear symmetry between India and Pakistan.”

Dr Jaspal, who teaches at Quaid-i-Azam University’s Defence and Strategic Studies (DSS) department, disagreed with the notion that nuclear weapons are only a deterrent and unusable in a war.

He called nuclear weapons an extension of conventional weapons and argued that any arms-control effort to neutralise nuclear weapons should also take into account the existing conventional military balance as well.

“Conventional and nuclear asymmetries are similar in nature,” said Dr Jaspal. In this context, he maintained that FMCT had not taken into account the strategic environment of South Asia, which was characterised by both nuclear and conventional strategic asymmetries between India and Pakistan, and worried that FMCT might only serve to preserve the strategically imbalanced status quo between the two countries.

He pointed out that the renewed enthusiasm about FMCT was a result of the personal initiative of US President Obama, who highlighted in an oft-quoted speech delivered in April 2009 in Prague in the Czech Republic. “The enthusiasm could die down once his term ends in November 2012.”

Former ambassador Khalid Mahmood was of the opinion that the acceptance of being part of the negotiations leading to FMCT would not necessarily bind Pakistan to be part of the treaty as well.

Some participants of the discussion said that the agenda of FMCT - calling for a verifiable end to the production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons, was already set, and as long as it was not changed to include both arms-control and disarmament, Pakistan should not become a part of the negotiation on FMCT. They criticised the treaty as Pakistan-specific and called it ‘impossible’ for the country to accept.

Most of the experts agreed that for Pakistan to accept the negotiation process leading to FMCT, it will have to include all four issues covered by the conference on Disarmament: Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS), Negative Security Assurances (NSAs), and Nuclear Disarmament.

The participants included Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) President Ashraf Azim, IRS Senior Fellow Brig (retd) Bashir Ahmed, Ambassador Asif Ezdi, European Union Delegation to Pakistan Deputy Head of Mission Pierre Mayaudon, German Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Stephan Roken, US Institute of Peace South Asia Adviser Moeed Yusuf, Quaid-i-Azam University Defense and Strategic Studies Department Professor Nazir Hussain, and senior researchers from IRS and other think tanks.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2011.


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