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Pakistan and India’s position on FMCT

Mohammad Jamil

A fissile material cut-off treaty (FMCT) is a proposed international agreement that would prohibit the production of the two main components of nuclear weapons: highly-enriched uranium (HEU), and plutonium. Discussions on this subject are being held within the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD), a body of 65 member nations established as the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament. CD requires consensus for action to take place; therefore as a consequence formal negotiations for an FMCT have not started, though preliminary discussions are ongoing. Those nations that joined nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as non-weapon states are already prohibited from producing or acquiring fissile material for weapons. However, an FMCT would provide new restrictions for five recognized nuclear weapon states, United States, Russia, UK, France, and China, and for the four nations that are not NPT members ie Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. In order for negotiations to begin on an FMCT, Pakistan will have to remove its opposition vote, and then a consensus to move forward with negotiations could be reached. Pakistan has been primarily concerned that it would be in a disadvantageous position relative to India’s nuclear stockpile. Consequently, Islamabad would like an FMCT to include current fissile material stockpiles, instead of just capping future production, a position shared by several other countries. It supported the December 1993 UN General Assembly resolution and Shannon Mandate (1995) but with the caveat to take into account the existing stocks of fissile material. Though pressure on international community especially US is building that it should make Pakistan agree to initiate negotiations on FMCT. Pakistan’s reluctance to sign the treaty is also attributed to the discriminatory policies of the West on civilian nuclear cooperation. Pakistan’s position on FMCT is determined by the national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia, as growing conventional imbalance and absence of arms control regime to avoid an arms race are its main concerns. Pakistan, as a responsible nuclear weapon state, has always played its part to achieve the objective of a peaceful world. Pakistan had also supported the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 48/75L of December 16, 1993 which recommended “negotiating a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” The resolution was drafted in such a way that it only addressed production of future fissile material to the exclusion of the existic stockpiles. Pakistan raised this concern and proposed that the negotiation process should also include the issue of existing stocks of fissile material.
There is a need to evolve a new consensus to achieve disarmament and non-proliferation among all members. Multilateral collaboration can serve global and national interest alike, and any unilateral step can result into serious reservations among the member states. Pakistan’s nuclear capability has served the security interest of the country quite well and the country must protect its nuclear capability as a deterrent. Pakistan should therefore veto the negotiations on FMCT till a time bound nuclear disarmament as ordained in Article VI of NPT is negotiated as a package, as this issue is inter-related. Pakistan must endeavour to delay enforcement of this treaty as much as possible in order to gain time to further enhance its existing stockpiles. Since there are reservations and differences between Indian and Pakistan’s position, and both states link the treaty to each other as well. In fact, India’s hegemonic designs, intentions, capabilities and allocation of more than $ 100 billion for purchase of conventional weapons and to develop nukes have forced Pakistan to rely more on nuclear weapons and less on conventional military capability to balance Indian military muscle. Therefore, without dealing with genuine security issues of Pakistan it would be rather impossible for Pakistan to discuss Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty. Therefore, it seems mandatory for the international community to play its due role and resolve outstanding issues like Kashmir. And without addressing core issue, it would be difficult to deal with arms control and disarmament instruments effectively. A fissile material treaty must provide a schedule for a progressive transfer of existing stockpiles to civilian use and placing these stockpiles under safeguards so that unsafeguarded stocks are equalised at lowest level possible. A cut-off in the manufacturing of fissile material must be accompanied by a mandatory program for the elimination of asymmetries in the possession of fissile material stockpiles by various states. Such transfer of fissile material to safeguards should be made first by states with huge stockpiles, both in the global and regional context. Growth in high-tech space and defence cooperation earlier between Russia and India, and now US and India has advanced quality of India’s nuclear systems. Unfortunately, there is a narrative in West and even within India that India’s nuclear programme as well as other warfare modernisation is necessary to counter China’s rising power. But there are authentic reports that India has had more than once planned attacking Pakistani nuclear sites like Kahuta with Israel’s cooperation, but was deterred by Pakistan’s warning of quid pro quo. Once again India is throwing feelers that it may abandon the policy of ‘no-first strike’ and launch a preemptive strike against Pakistan if it believed that Pakistan was going to use nuclear weapons or most likely the tactical nuclear weapons against it. Vipin Narang, an expert on South Asian nuclear strategy, made the remark at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the 2017 Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, when he said: “There is increasing evidence that India will not allow Pakistan to go first and preventive strike would be aimed at Pakistan’s missiles launchers for tactical battlefield nuclear warheads.”
According to the experts and analysts at Carnegie Endowment, at least 8 out of 22 reactors would remain outside the regime, which means that material sought for 14 reactors could be diverted to other 8 reactors in India. How can international community trust this irresponsible nuclear state?

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