NSG, India, and Pakistan

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Malik Muhammad Ashraf

Notwithstanding the efforts of the US and its western allies to have India admitted to the prestigious international nuclear club, the NSG, the latter was not given the nod by the plenary session of the group held in Vienna, last week. For any nuclear nation to become a member of the NSG, signing of NPT is a basic condition. All decisions with regard to the admittance of a new member and changes in the guidelines of NSG are taken through consensus. The Indian bid failed because China stuck to its already stated position on the issue while seven other members including Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, New Zealand and Austria insisted on the adoption of a criteria-based approach in view of the fact that besides India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of the NSG. Pakistan has been pressing for a criteria-based strategy for admitting new members. Turkey also pushed for clubbing together the applications of both India and Pakistan. It is interesting to note that Brazil, which is a member of BRICS, did not support the Indian effort. The rejection of the Indian bid in a way is a vindication of Pakistan’s stance on the issue. Ever since signing an agreement with India on the transfer of civil nuclear technology in 2008, the US has been desperately trying to have India admitted in the NSG and had even managed a waiver for it. Emulating the US, France and the UK also signed civil nuclear deals with India. Recently, a similar arrangement was also concluded between Japan and India. At the time of giving the waiver to India, some members of the NSG did express concern about India expanding its nuclear arsenal by diverting the fissile materials for the production of nuclear weapons. These concerns still persist. Some international agencies have come up with reports on how India has indeed expanded its nuclear arsenal after the NSG waiver. The US Senator, Markey, said in a Senate hearing, “Since 2008, when we also gave them the exemption, India has continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme virtually unchecked. At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of the nuclear arms race in South Asia.” Pakistan rightly felt concerned about these developments. Ever since the signing of nuclear civil technology deal between the US and India as well as its NSG waiver, it has been striving hard to convince the US and the international community about its credentials to deserve the membership of the group and the adoption of a non-discriminatory approach in regards to admittance of non-NPT states to the NSG. While the US has all along stood for Indian membership of the NSG, it has not been favouring the same consideration for Pakistan. The NSG seeks to further the objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty through regulatory guidelines with regard to the export of nuclear materials, nuclear reactors, non-nuclear material for reactors, plant, and equipment for reprocessing, enrichment and technologies covering these items. The NSG guidelines also govern the export of nuclear-related dual-use items and technologies, which could make a substantial contribution to an un-safeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity. The need for these regulatory guidelines stems from the recognition of the need for international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field for peaceful purposes as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and NSG guidelines on the subject. The overall aim of these guidelines is to ensure that nuclear exports are carried out with appropriate safeguards, physical protection, and non-proliferation conditions, and other appropriate restraints. Although Pakistan is not a signatory to NPT, it has always supported nuclear non-proliferation and abided by its parameters as well as those by different international treaties. Therefore, joining the NSG would tantamount to a global recognition of these efforts.
But the question is, has Pakistan done enough to deserve membership of NSG? For this, one has to look at the measures taken by Pakistan to deserve the membership of the group and the criteria laid down by NSG in this regard.

At the third Nuclear Security Summit at Hague, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had made a forceful case for Pakistan’s inclusion in the NSG. He staked his claim for the membership of group and other international control regimes by declaring that Pakistan had been running a safe and secure civil nuclear programme for the last 40 years and attached the highest importance to nuclear security. It had the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy and has pursued a policy of restraint as well as credible minimum deterrence. Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is supported by five pillars—a strong command and control system, an integrated intelligence system, rigorous regulatory regime and active international cooperation. The security regime covers physical protection, material control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies. He said that Pakistan has also been submitting regular reports to the UN Security Council 1540 committee on the measures that the country put in place to exercise control over the transfer of sensitive materials and technologies. That is exactly in line with the criteria for admitting new members to the NSG, which stipulates that an aspiring country should have the ability to supply nuclear items covered in the NSG guidelines; should have a proven record of adherence to those guidelines taking necessary actions in that regard; must have enforced legally based domestic export control system; should have complied with obligations under NPT and other treaties; and supported international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. Pakistan, as is evident surely qualifies for membership of NSG.

Any discriminatory treatment towards Pakistan with regard to the membership of the NSG would push Pakistan for ‘full nuclear deterrence’ vis-a-vis India, which would be a big blow to the efforts of the international community to promote the cause of non-proliferation. As against this, simultaneous inclusion of Pakistan and India in the NSG will not only establish the principle of non-discrimination but would also add to the strength of the NSG in furthering the objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and well-controlled export of nuclear materials for promoting international nuclear trade cooperation. Pakistan being a member of the NSG would be in a better position to contribute to firming up and refining the regulatory guidelines and safeguarding its interests. It would also allow Pakistan to export nuclear materials to other countries under the gaze of the global community in a legitimate manner with all the accompanying economic benefits as well as reinforcing its credentials as a useful member of the global community.

Adoption of policies subservient to expediencies and vested interests with regard to the implementation of NPT and grant of NSG membership would scuttle the efforts to check proliferation of nuclear weapons and other related causes. It is hoped that the members of the NSG, particularly the US and its allies will consider all foregoing variables and give an adequate and well-deserved attention to the security concerns of Pakistan while deciding the fate of the request by the two countries.