Time to Reform the NPT By Beenish Altaf

International politics has never been the same since the advent of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons changed the entire perspective of the international political system and since then a new era of politics termed as Realpolitik has just begun. Books in hundreds were written by prominent scholars, intellects, policy makers, academics, experts around the world to understand ramifications, implications and importance of nuclear weapons possessed by the states. The dominant realist perspective illustrates that state behavior has imprints of human behavior.

However, since the advent of nuclear weapons, the primary goal of international community was to obstruct the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was one of the major outcomes of these efforts towards nonproliferation in this regard. NPT recognizes five legitimate states as nuclear weapons states (P5) with all the means to have these absolute weapons in their arsenal and became de jure states.

Besides NPT, other international regimes/treaties also came into being to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but, the efforts seemed adequately deal with states’ aspirations to acquire nuclear weapons. In fact, states like Pakistan, India, Israel and nascent nuclear weapons state North Korea, due to their inherited security compulsion/dilemmas did acquire nuclear weapons to deal with the contrasts of insecurities from their adversaries and became de facto Nuclear Weapons states.

“If implemented, amendment of the NPT would represent a monumental modification in the nonproliferation structure that has governed the world for the last 50 years. Extensive, constructive and proactive deliberations will allow a reformed NPT to take shape, inspire confidence, build credibility and mature into a strengthened version of its previous self.”

The inclusion of de facto Nuclear weapons states and other aspirant states like Iran has forced researchers, policy makers and experts to re-evaluate/rethink the paradigms of nonproliferation. Nonproliferation efforts need to strengthen in order to prevent the further influx of nuclear weapons to other states, which are the aspirants of these deadly weapons. In fact, the Grand Bargain Clause VI of NPT, which was the essence of the nuclear nonproliferation, still lacks solid footholds, since the aim of nuclear disarmament is yet to be achieved. The “more may be better” notion is the ghost which has bitterly followed many other states around the world. The Realpolitik of the de jure and de facto nuclear states is not letting them create any type of comfort towards even selective disarmament.

The anticipated withdrawal of the US from the US-Soviet Union Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty of 1987, the progress of Russian nuclear-capable hypersonic weapons and underwater drones, indefinite extension of the New START treaty, the progress of Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) in South Asia and in the US (as stated in the 2018 US Nuclear Posture Review) along with the swift modernization of nuclear arsenals and up-gradation of new and sensitive technologies by all states possessing nuclear weapons – are some of the latest developments creating a potential threat to heighten tensions among these states.

In conclusion, the flowers of nonproliferation regimes and treaties still need to blossom. The discriminatory treatment in the nonproliferation regime, segregating states between haves and have-nots, coupled with aims of nuclear disarmament, need global efforts to reexamine and rethink about the foundation of nonproliferation in order to make it ever strong to deal with future challenges towards nonproliferation. In doing so, researchers in this particular area can play a crucial role to understand the existing challenges and to find solutions towards nonproliferation both at regional as well as global level.

Ironically, “Institutions that do not evolve to reflect realities of the time end up losing their relevance.” Notwithstanding the fact that reformation of such an institutional legacy is not an easy task to carry out perhaps, it will take a long time to agree to sit on a negotiation table. “If implemented, amendment of the NPT would represent a monumental modification in the nonproliferation structure that has governed the world for the last 50 years. Extensive, constructive and proactive deliberations will allow a reformed NPT to take shape, inspire confidence, build credibility and mature into a strengthened version of its previous self.”

Published in Daily Times, January 31st 2019.

January 31, 2019

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