By Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee
While the death of Osama Bin Laden closes one chapter of recent history against the global war on terror, the risk of terrorism merging with nuclear weapons poses the greatest threat today, even more starkly than a nuclear holocaust. Pakistan, representing the triangulation of a rogue military, terrorism (with suicide terrorism as a norm) and the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal, remains the world’s highest concern and the deepest source of anxiety.
Conversely, India as one of the three de-facto nuclear weapon powers, maintains an excellent record at adhering to international laws and global norms pertaining to nuclear weapons. Till date, the parameters of India’s nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament policy have remained consistent. In June 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh restated India’s policy as “fully committed to nuclear disarmament that is global, universal and non-discriminatory in nature” and that for India, “the only effective form of nuclear disarmament is global nuclear disarmament”; nuclear disarmament cannot be “regionalized.”
India’s principled opposition to the NPT is well known and has been often stated. India does not participate in the NPT preparatory or Review conferences. Besides being a discriminatory treaty with no clear balance of responsibilities between the nuclear haves and have-nots, the NPT has done comparatively little over four decades to further the cause of nuclear disarmament in the world. It has instead led to a vast vertical proliferation, which even decades after of the end of the Cold War, does not quite seem to go away. The New START is a welcome development, but it does not meet global aspirations and is of limited disarmament consequence. The New START will not entice the other nuclear powers to even consider reducing their arsenals. It is pertinent to ask at this stage whether it is the nonproliferation treaty or the nonproliferation regime which is in crisis.
Despite its opposition to the treaty, India’s nuclear policy is in fact in compliance with the objectives and goals of the NPT. Given its excellent nonproliferation record and the NSG approval to the India-US civil nuclear agreement, India will not have difficulty in the future to accede to the NPT as a nuclear weapons power and formally accept all the responsibilities that go with it. But in view of the country’s security environment, joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state is not an option that any Indian government will contemplate now or in the future.
Therefore some creative thinking is required towards modifying the NPT to accommodate India, Pakistan and Israel in the system rather than keeping them outside. One possibility is to introduce a third category of “state with nuclear weapons” or “advanced states with nuclear technological capability” to be added in the NPT. In keeping with certain carefully considered benchmarks, such as nonproliferation track record, civil control over arsenals, nuclear doctrines and such, exceptions can be made. No treaty should be embedded in stone and as circumstances call, should to be amended, howsoever difficult the process.
It is also time to consider fresh approaches towards global elimination of nuclear weapons. India is aware of the new proposals that are currently being debated and hurdles that they face. In a landmark declaration at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in February 2008, India formally proposed two multilateral agreements and two global conventions in a detailed framework for nuclear disarmament and laid out a seven point agenda:
1.Reduction of the salience of nuclear weapons in security doctrines
2.Negotiation of an agreement on no-first use of nuclear weapons among nuclear weapons states
3.Negotiation of a universal and legally binding agreement on non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states
4.Negotiation of a convention on the complete prohibition of the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons
5.Negotiation of a nuclear convention prohibiting development, stockpiling and production of nuclear weapons, moving towards a global, non-discriminatory and verifiable elimination of these weapons
6.Unequivocal commitment of all nuclear weapons states to reduce risks and dangers arising from the possibility of accidental use of these weapons
7.Adoption of additional measures by nuclear states to reduce accidental use
In early May 2011, India’s Acting Permanent Representative to the CD in Geneva reiterated India’s strong support to the UNSC Resolution 1540 on preventing proliferation of WMD and their means of delivery. India is not yet a member of PSI as there are concerns about its consonance with international maritime law and the artificial distinction it makes with regard to rights and responsibilities of nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states. However, India has no problems with the purpose and the strategy of the initiative; and there is a growing belief that India should join the PSI and support its expanded mandate as envisaged by President Obama. This fits in very well with India’s own concern over clandestine proliferation, especially in its own neighbourhood, which could facilitate the acquisition of nuclear weapons or fissile material by terrorist or a jihadist groups.
Excerpts from a presentation made at the Conference on the Atlantic World and Rising Global Powers at Berlin, Germany on 15-16 May 2011 organized by the Council on Foreign Relations, USA and the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, Berlin
Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Dipankar Banerjee
email: [email protected]