Negative Security Assurances: A Forgotten Promise – Analysis


The matter of Negative Security Assurances has been on the Conference on Disarmament’s Decalogue since 1978. However United Nations General Assembly first passed a resolution 21/531 in 1966 which calls upon Nuclear Weapon States to give Security Assurances to Non-Nuclear Weapon States that they will not use or threat to use nuclear weapon against non nuclear weapon states without nuclear weapons on their territories.

After the United Nations General Assembly Resolution there has been various proposal and recommendation proposed by the United States and Soviet Union for Negative Security Assurances and creation for nuclear weapons free zones in different parts of the world. In 1968 United Nation Security Council passed a resolution 255, whereby U.S and Soviet Union offered positive security assurances to non nuclear states, parties to non-proliferation treaty.

In 1995, the United Nation Security Council adopted Resolution 984, which moved towards protecting non-nuclear weapon states. The resolution says that non-nuclear weapon members of the Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) would receive assurances that “the Security Council, and above all its nuclear-weapon State permanent members will act immediately in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Charter of the United Nations” to protect non-nuclear weapon states against attacks or threats of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used. Non-Aligned Movement were disappointed that the Security Council did not take stronger action.

There has no progress been made on Negative Security Assurances since 1995 non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference. Where Five Powerful states issued statements in United Nation Security Council (S/1995/261, S/1995/262, S/1995/263, S/1995/264, S/1995/265), and gave a unilateral negative security assurance, as part of their efforts to obtain indefinite extension of non-proliferation treaty. The five nuclear power states again unilateral declaration. This offer was made after the five nuclear weapon failed to find a common language for a clause within the non-proliferation treaty context or even a multilateral agreement as was in the case of former soviet republics, where Russia, the united states and united kingdom offered a pledge of no-use a part of the efforts to persuade from soviet republics such Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine to relinquish the nuclear weapon within their territories.

There are mainly two school of thoughts on the question of negative security assurances, the one which led by the powerful five states. They view negative security assurances as an instrument which is going to weaken the theory and practice of deterrence. On the other hand non nuclear weapon states argue that it’s their legitimate right to be given negative security assurances because they joined the non-proliferation treaty which clearly states that negative security assurances will be given to non-proliferation treaty parties but till this date there has been no internally legally binding pledges or arrangement reached by five powerful nuclear states. However some experts argue that the unilateral declaration is legally binding because they have become ‘customary” international law that they were introduced as a reciprocal agreement for non nuclear states to extend the non-proliferation treaty in 1995.

Since 1968, Pakistan has annually introduced a resolution on negative security assurances to the United Nation General Assembly. Pakistan position is unchanged both in terms of substantive content and level of support; the resolution urges active “intensive negotiations” in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on effective international arrangements. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union have traditionally abstained from this resolution. Pakistan also voted in favor of negative security assurances at the United Nations First Committee in October, 2010

There has been significant endorsement achieved in 2010 Nuclear non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference where all members to work accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, States must refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.

The NPT review conference also reiterated the conviction that the establishment of the internationally, recognized nuclear-weapon-free zones on the basis of arrangements freely arrived at among the States of the region concerned enhances global and regional peace and security, strengthens the nuclear non-proliferation regime arms control and ultimately contributes towards realizing the objectives of nuclear disarmament.

About author:

Tahir Nazir is working as a research fellow at South Asian strategic Stability Institute. [email protected]

Tahir Nazir

Tahir Nazir is a Research fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute. He has done a master in Defense and Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University.

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