Nuclear Double Standards | Malik Muhammad Ashraf

France and India signed a pact on January 25 under which the former would sell 36 French-built Rafael fighter planes to the latter and also build six nuclear reactors in India. This shows the double standards of the US and its allies on the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, and the discriminatory treatment meted out to Pakistan in this regard.

Proliferation of nuclear weapons is rightly a cause of concern. This is probably the rationale and motivation behind efforts on the international level to prevent more and more nations joining the nuclear club and coming into force of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Unfortunately, the dream of a nuclear-free world remains as elusive as ever due to the selective application of the provisions of the treaty by the US and its Western allies like the UK and France, designed to serve their strategic and commercial interests at the global level.

The US-India civil-nuclear agreement is a classic example of violation of the NPT by the US, which is trying to prop up India as a regional superpower to act as a counter-weight to the burgeoning Chinese influence in the region and beyond. To make this agreement operational, the US made amendments in its Atomic Energy Act of 1954, facilitated IAEA agreement with India in which the latter agreed to separate its civil and military nuclear facilities and place all its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards, and also manoeuvred grant of an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for India.

This deal introduced a new aspect to the international non-proliferation efforts. The grant and implementation of the waiver from the NSG to India, which allowed it access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries, made India the only country outside the umbrella of the NPT to carry out nuclear commerce with the rest of the world.

As soon as the US House of Representatives passed the bill to approve the deal on September 28, 2008, France also inked a similar deal with India. The UK too jumped on the bandwagon and agreed to have a similar arrangement with India. As a follow-up to the agreement between the two countries, the UK and India have already announced deals worth $13.7 billion including a civil-nuclear pact during the Indian prime minister’s visit to UK end 2015. Australia, which possesses 40 percent of the known reserves of uranium in the world, has also formalised an agreement with India for selling uranium.

These countries are not prepared to extend the same treatment to Pakistan, and are instead putting pressure on us to curtail and even cap our nuclear programme – which we had initiated in response to the nuclear threat from India. The US particularly has been pressurising Pakistan to sign the NPT and withdraw its opposition to the FMCT. Pakistan’s refusal to succumb to these unreasonable demands in the face of the discriminatory approach of the West to the nuclear issue is absolutely right and justified. Pakistan believes in non-proliferation of nuclear arsenal and has been supporting the objectives of the NPT even though it has not signed the treaty for justifiable reasons.

India has been feverishly engaged in boosting its nuclear capability as well as building up conventional weapons with the support and encouragement of the US and its allies. The belligerent posture adopted by the Modi regime and the Indian paradigm of ‘cold start’ deserve a matching response by Pakistan. No country can compromise its security. These provocative and threatening actions by India, therefore, could not have gone unnoticed by Pakistan. Our missile programme is part of a defensive mechanism designed to discourage India from committing any indiscretion. It is yet another deterrent to forestall the possibility of even a limited war between the two countries.

The US and European nations look at Pakistan’s nuclear programme from the perspective of nuclear terrorism at the global level, rather than it being India-specific, necessitated by legitimate security concerns. Before Nawaz Sharif embarked on a visit to the US in October 2015, it was being speculated that President Obama would ask Sharif to halt the missile programme and a deal on civilian nuclear technology might be sealed if Pakistan agreed to cap its nuclear programme. Pakistan, however, categorically rejected the idea and the prime minister stated in unequivocal terms that Pakistan would never compromise on its nuclear programme. That probably stopped President Obama from raising the issue during the dialogue, though they did discuss nuclear security in the global context.

Western powers need to understand Pakistan’s position with regard to its nuclear programme in its proper context. Their discriminatory approach on the nuclear issue will neither help the cause of the NPT nor dissuade Pakistan from pursuing its paradigm of minimum nuclear deterrent. The only practicable solution to this sordid issue lies in addressing the causes that prompted Pakistan to take the nuclear option – the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir that has bedevilled relations between the two countries. The non-resolution of the Kashmir issue not only poses a threat to the regional peace and security but is also a potent threat to the global peace.

The US and Western countries, instead of coercing Pakistan to abandon its nuclear programme, must make efforts for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute in conformity with the spirit of the UN resolutions. Once the Kashmir issue is resolved and relations with India are normalised, and India signs the NPT, Pakistan will have no hesitation in signing the NPT and removing its objections to initiation of dialogue on the FMCT as well. One-sided pressure tactics and arm-twisting are not going to produce the desired results. Pakistan is a sovereign country and will never take dictation from any one in regards to its security.

Of late, some within Pakistan have also been advocating revisiting our nuclear paradigm to enhance our chances of being accepted as a normal nuclear state by the international community and at least allowing the commencement of dialogue on FMCT.

I am afraid this is a skewed view of the issue. It is not about winning a nod of approval from the international community. It is about our security, which remains our topmost concern in the wake of the prevailing security threats.

The writer is a freelance contributor.



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