It is a well-known fact that nuclear technology can not only be used for development of nuclear weapons, but also for peaceful purposes that can contribute in ensuring the development of countries. Therefore, the fact that various states feel the need to acquire nuclear technology is not surprising.
At the same time, the international community also acknowledges that certain states may have designs to use the nuclear technology for making weapons. This is evident from the nuclear test conducted by India at Pokhran, despite its repeated proclamation, spread over a period of almost three decades, that it would use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes only. It is important to remember that this particular test not only compelled Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapons, but also triggered an arms race in the region, which is still going on.
To extend the benefits of nuclear technology to humanity, the international community has taken into consideration two primary factors i.e., prevention of the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and ensuring extension of benefits of nuclear technology to humanity. Therefore, the international community has developed treaties and binding commitments. These are commonly referred to as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime (NNR). The Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), with Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as its corner stone, is considered as one of the most important and credible component of the International NNR. Since it was initiated, NSG has served the aforesaid two purposes designed by the international community, and has attained credibility in this regard. This fact was also acknowledged by the President of Swiss Confederation Ms Doris Leuthard in the 27th Plenary Meeting of NSG, held on 22-23 June 2017. She applauded the efforts of NSG in curbing the proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
Both India and Pakistan want a seat at the NSG. The interesting fact is that both the states are neither signatories of NPT, nor members of the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. However, the US, in pursuit of economic incentives, acquired an India-specific NSG waiver
Those familiar with the rationale behind the constitution of NSG understand that there are certain pre-requisites for a state to become a part of this group. To qualify, a State should either be signatory of Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or it should become member of Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.
The applications for membership in NSG were submitted by the two nuclear states of South Asia, i.e., India and Pakistan in the year 2016. The interesting fact is that both the states are neither signatories of NPT, nor members of Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. However, the credibility of NPT was compromised when United States, in pursuit of economic incentives, acquired an India specific NSG waiver. The US’ India-centric approach raised serious reservations from the International community over the criteria to enter the NSG.
The competition between these two states to become a member of NSG started after the joint statement of President Bush and Indian Prime Minister in 2005 regarding US — India Nuclear Co-operation Initiative and after U.S obtained India specific waiver from NSG. Further, the member states of NSG are also affirmative about devising a criterion that could enable the states, which are non-signatory to NPT, to enter into the group for availing the benefits of nuclear technology.
This approach of the member states of NSG, and also keeping in view the aspirations of the two nuclear rival states, led to intense debate about the two major groups i.e., those who intend only India to enter the NSG, and those who argue for a criteria-based approach instead. China, along with some other countries, strongly opposed the idea of a country specific approach. The Spokesperson of Chinese foreign ministry expressed that such a solution should be adopted that would be non-discriminatory, applicable to all states that are not signatory to NPT, and which must not undermine the core values of NSG as well as the integrity and effectiveness attached to NPT.
On the other hand, the formula coined by the Ambassador of Argentina Rafael Grossi, famously known as Grossi-Song formula, clearly favours entry of only India to the group. For example, among various points proposed by him, one is the separation of civil and military nuclear facilities and other is the signing of additional protocols of IAEA. The formula proposed by Grossi was subject to objections by various states such as China, Brazil, Turkey, New Zealand, Italy, Austria etc. The objections raised vary from lack of transparency, selective engagement, to lack of impartiality. It is being maintained by the said states that the said proposal is a violation of the spirit of NSG and the norms underlying the Nuclear Non Proliferation regime.
If, for the sake of arguments, the Grossi-Song formula is implemented, it would have the following implications: one, the sanctity attached to the credibility of NSG would seriously be at stake, two, it would also be detrimental to the importance of NPT being the nucleus of NSG, three it could trigger an arms-race in South Asia, and could be detrimental to the strategic stability of the region, and fourth, it could put India in an advantageous position over Pakistan, especially when India is clearly violating the norms of Non Proliferation Regime, and constantly increasing its stock pile of nuclear weapons.
However, Indo-Pak’s quest to join NSG was met with cold feet from member states during the 27th plenary meeting, during which participating governments reaffirmed their full support and effective and strict implementation of NPT. Yet it was agreed by the participating governments that every aspect of implementation of 2008 statement of Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India would be considered. These two facts appear to be contradictory, as on one hand the participating governments express their commitment to strictly adhere to the meaningful compliance of NPT, and on the other hand, these states have agreed to consider every possibility of implementation of 2008 of Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India. International community must take serious note of the acknowledgement of central role of NPT by Ms Doris Leuthard in curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons by NSG. Participating governments should proceed with the matter of entry of India into the group with utmost care, and in a manner that the spirit of NPT is not violated. Therefore, a criteria based approach seems the most viable option that lies ahead for member states to expand NSG.
The writer is a visiting faculty member at Air University, Islamabad. He holds master’s degree in Strategic and Nuclear Studies (S&NS) from National Defence University, Islamabad. His area of research includes Strategic Stability, Arms control and disarmament and Non-Proliferation. His opinion articles appear in national and international newspapers, blogs and websites. He can be reached at email@example.com
Published in Daily Times, July 8th 2018.