Both Pakistan and India seek the membership of Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG). However, both are following different approaches to achieve this objective. India is following a usual nuclear apartheid route, looking for shortcuts to have entry only for itself through country specific exemptions, while Pakistan supports a criteria based entry for all those countries which seek NSG membership now or in future. There are striking similarities in the nuclear profile of the two countries; hence if criteria based approach is followed then either both would qualify or none would qualify.
America known for its cherry pick approach circulated a paper to NSG members in 2012 suggesting that instead of granting membership on the basis of already laid down criteria by the NSG, India’s actual nuclear profile should become the criteria for its membership. This is a clear example of going much beyond proverbial shifting of goalposts; it amounts to altogether dismantling the goal posts.
India has quietly launched a new push to get into NSG. The chairman of the NSG visited New Delhi, last month, as part of a diplomatic “outreach” that seeks to build a consensus to admit India at its annual meeting next June. Remarks by Rafael Grossi, widely reported in India are quite instructive; he ruled out a “tailor made India-specific solution” for NSG membership. NSG operates by consensus, thus admitting India alone would mean it would then bar Pakistan’s entry.
The sequence of events leading to nuclear apartheid—to India’s advantage— started with Indo-US Agreement 123 in 2005. Operationalization of this agreement needed a nod from the IAEA and NSG membership. Pakistan committed the cardinal blunder, under pressure from the US, by not casting a negative vote at IAEA. Due to this, India was able to accrue the most lax Additional Protocol ever signed by IAEA, which later became foundation stone for grant of NSG waiver.
Nevertheless, US had a lot of difficulty in getting the waiver for its nuclear protégé. India gave a number of assurances to NSG in an effort to bolster its non-proliferation credentials. These included reference to its “No First Use” doctrine, Indian participation in FMCT negotiations and its unilateral test ban. Continuation of Waiver would be in serious jeopardy if India reneges from any of these commitments. Ever since, Indian strategic community is uneasy with No First Use and scientific community is uncomfortable with a ban on further nuclear tests. Thus India is desperate to get a membership of the NSG, because once a member, it will not be bound by these restrictions; rest is a fiction built around it.
Major driver for America to sign Indo-US Agreement 123 was sale of its nuclear power reactors. For India’s part, even at the time of signing Agreement 123, it was quite close to fabricating its own nuclear power plants. However, shortage of Uranium had emerged as centre of gravity for its nuclear programme. Hence, for India major driver for Agreement 123 was to have openings for Uranium supply. So for no American nuclear power plant has been bought by India. And Indian Agreements with Australia, Canada and some other countries focus on purchase of Uranium. These countries have chosen to ignore the fact that projected quantities of Uranium that India wishes to buy is much more that its genuine electricity requirement, and it could be used to develop nuclear weapons. International community is wilfully violating, the little known [Senator] Barak Obama amendment to Indo-US Agreement 123 that stated that nuclear fuel provided to India should be proportionate to its requirement for production of electricity.
India expressed its interest in 2010 for formally joining the nuclear club. India’s lobbying has met with scepticism from European countries like Switzerland, who have questioned its refusal to sign the NPT and give up nuclear weapons. Indian negotiators are relentlessly focusing on winning over European sceptics. Following the traditional Indian pattern of diluting its international commitments, its spin doctors are floating various phrases to influence the swing voters of NSG, with a hope that, in turn, it could bring around China. “We are optimistic; there is a desire within the NSG to bring this process to a conclusion sooner rather than later,” one Indian diplomat told Reuters. “People are comfortable with India.” Despite two summit meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has yet to signal its assent. China is following a balanced approach toward Pakistan and India, earlier this year China announced that it has taken notice that India desires to join NSG, and after a month it also took notice of Pakistan’s desire to join the NSG.
In their desperation, Indian diplomats are making the logic stand on its head, for example one diplomat recently quipped that: “It’s [NSG] not about arms controls. It’s about export controls.” And that: “France joined the NSG before ratifying the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Both are silly arguments—completely out of context. Any sane headed approach would yield the principle that there should be a uniform criteria for all non-NPT members who desire to join the NSG. And, by the way, NSG is all about non-proliferation, in unison with remaining three export control regimes. Ironically, NSG came to existence as a result of so called Indian PNE of 1974, which became possible by stealing fissile material from a Canada supplied power plant.
Pakistan has consistently stated that NSG should follow an objective, equitable and non-discriminatory approach for admitting new members. Grant of exclusive NSG membership to India as an exception, on account of political and commercial considerations, would adversely affect the credibility of non-proliferation regime. It would also bear negative implications for regional peace and security. Pakistan is making a concerted effort to convey its concerns about pitfalls of country [read India] specific criteria. Pakistan’s diplomatic missions accredited to the 48-NSG member states, continue to actively brief their respective hosts about Pakistan’s strong credentials for NSG membership. Moreover, on Pakistan’s request, the NSG Chair has circulated a document amongst all NSG members elaborating Pakistan’s point of view. A high-level Pakistani delegation has also held a meeting with NSG Troika in Vienna.
Pakistan is certainly not getting fair deal from the US, and on its behest, by its nuclear camp followers. In exchange for letting Pakistan in into the NSG, it is trying a barter by asking Pakistan to accede to certain international regimes like CTBT that even USA itself has not ratified, and India vehemently opposes it. Another proposal is that Pakistan should agree to FMCT and forget about existing huge stock piles of weapon grade fissile material held by India. Moreover, India has not accepted any restrictions on its ambitious Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) programme; these FBRs are actually factories churning out bomb making Plutonium. Fuel output by these FBR facilities is more than the fuel input—hence called Fast Breeders. Therefore, India continues to retain the capability to continuously snowball its fissile material stocks. Another sick proposal by American think tanks is that Pakistan should unilaterally abandon its tactical nuclear weapons, while India continues to build infrastructure and reorganize its military to execute its Cold Start Doctrine, though under a new brand name—Proactive Operations.
Obama-Nawaz summit of October 2015 survived a derailing attempt by America media that aired reports that an agreement was near completion for constraining Pakistan’s “fast growing nuclear programme. And in-return, the US would press the NSG to issue a waiver to Pakistan. While following this approach, America was capitalizing on the desperation of Nawaz government to drastically make a visible cut in loads-shedding before 2018 elections. American gamble failed. Because any Pakistani government would rather reconcile with an electoral setback than to compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear capability.
[The Nation, November 30, 2015, under the caption: NSG Membership]
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy.