The Future Prospects Of Pakistan’s NSG Membership – OpEd


The Nuclear Supplier Group or the NSG is a multilateral export control regime and a set of nuclear supplier countries that look forward to prevent nuclear proliferation, containing 48 countries including most nuclear power states and other states, that have came together on one table with the pledge of controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be employed to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The NSG was founded in the result of Indian nuclear testing in May 1974 with its first official meeting held in November 1975 seeing the need of further limitations to be set upon the export of nuclear weaponry. This group stands for mobilizing useful nuclear technology within the cluster of nations that are the members of the group and producing technology that benefits their societies collectively i.e. through non-destructive nuclear use.

Both Pakistan and India look forward in becoming the members of the NSG. Both countries applied for it in 2016.

India has been given favor by the NSG regarding its membership in the group. Most nations of the group have approved Indian membership into it. India has been given exemptions towards the proceeding of its membership. India has also been issues a waver with its case being championed by the United States for India’s certain attributes.

On the other hand, even though Pakistan has presented its criteria report, has attained a middle position over the topic of nuclear. Has an “all good” policy towards nuclear, advocates the CTBT (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty) – if seconded by India- approach, yet her position is very vague for membership in the NSG, mainly for political reasons. All reactors of Pakistan are under the safeguards of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). Except China and few other countries, yet, we are opposed membership in the group. Pakistan tried to present the case of Indian nuclear security trying to prove itself more careful for rules and regulations of nuclear safety where India’s policies have anomalies like the reactor grade plutonium system, India’s safeguard agreement i.e. they do not follow the set of certain principles laid down by IAEA etc, but remains unsuccessful.

The exemptions that were given to India in 2008 were a backlash towards the security and stability of South Asia, as said by China, who advocated the fact that no country shall be given the membership of the NSG until or unless it is not a part of the NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty). Be it India or be it Pakistan, both must sign the NPT to be accepted by China for membership. The eligibility of membership in NSG lies within the fact that either a given state shall be a member of NPT or have at least 5 nuclear free zones- both of which India and Pakistan fail to meet as of now.
The only reservation Pakistan holds for not signing the NPT is that India has not yet signed it either.

China also advocates the point that if India is given membership, Pakistan too, must be assured of its membership; inequality shall not take place between any parties for the NSG. Since opposition to any one group will result in the undermining of strategic stability of the region both dwell in? Though, it is debatable to have both nuclear armed countries inside the NSG rather outside it for assurance of security of their region.

The points here arise that why Pakistan is not being given membership, is it because India holds a greater significance in the geopolitical arena than does Pakistan? It certainly does. Also the fact that India does not have pressure groups that can misuse the technology that might come into hand after NSG starts trading like the Taliban in Pakistan, other minority religious groups, players of multiple nations invested in the disability of Pakistan etc.

It is also to be noted that Pakistan has not significantly advocated the positive use of nuclear weapons since its attainment. Pakistan has been interested more in making arms out of nuclear power rather than its multitude useful characteristics. It has been focused too much on weaponry to attain full spectrum deterrence (which would also be put into question if India is successful in getting membership of NSG and Pakistan doesn’t). Pakistan did not construct even one internationally recognized nuclear diagnose based hospital for treatment cancer or other ailments that can be cured by nuclear power very effectively.

Pakistan cannot employ what India has towards its stronger position in NSG and global politics since it simply lacks the resources and means to do so. What Pakistan can do to make its image clear and secure its membership in the NSG is advocate the useful utilization of nuclear rather than only making arms out of it. As an illustration, the fact is to be kept in mind that nuclear power will cost only 7-/Rs per unit electricity, much cheaper than the other means she uses, also since Pakistan is a country drowning in power crisis, it could be of great help. Nuclear energy can be utilized in agriculture-since that’s what runs Pakistan’s economy- to produce better, tougher crops. Another option is to introduce leverages and explore better relation opportunities with countries like South Korea, who has been chairing the IAEA. Pakistan can also work towards bettering its issues of national governance that currently lack political intellect.

Repeat of the discriminatory policy towards Pakistan after adopting all these measures will be a negative approach towards the whole scenario and principles of policy of the NPT. One must not expect discrimination if all mentioned exercise is done by Pakistan to get its membership. Yet, whatever we are willing to do for our membership; it must strictly be keep in mind the sequence of acceptance of India into the NSG (leverages to the waver) to question if differentiated again.

*Hareem Aqdas, Researcher, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad, Pakistan.

14 thoughts on “The Future Prospects Of Pakistan’s NSG Membership – OpEd

  • August 12, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    India is a member of all other security forums like MTCR, Wassenaar, and Australia group. It is also founding member of ITER, which makes India way ahead about authenticity of India as nuclear power. Besides India has bilateral nuclear supply agreement’s with 17 countries. That’s why India continue to enjoy all benefits of these memership in honing it’s capabilities in research, while Pakistan stays completely isolated by being India focused. Now India will continue to veto Pakistan”s memberships in all these organizations.

    • August 14, 2018 at 11:39 am

      Thank you for your humble opinion. Addressing your concern, I have stated that Pakistan can not come up to India, at least until now in this domain. There is no doubt to it that India is superior to Pakistan in this area and some others. What I am trying to advocate here is the positive use of nuclear by Pakistan. I’m recommending Pakistan to stop investing so much in weapons and make good use of the capability. Whereas India will not veto Pakistan’s case as far as I’m informed. India has showed no reservations where Pakistan is trying to get a seat in NSG.

  • August 13, 2018 at 7:51 am

    It is not ‘waver’, it is waiver. Pakistan has a reputation ‘stain’ thanks to A Q Khan that won’t go.

    Even as late as 2016, pakistan related entities were caught dealing in the nuclear blackmarket.

    And, if pakistani army generals are going to speak openly about nonsensical concepts like FSD and tactical weapons while mainstreaming jihadi elements, then pakistan should forget the NSG.

    As we say in Urdu: Duniya ke aankh mein aur kitni dhool jokne ki irada hai? or in plain english
    (how much more sand does pakistan want to throw in the world’s eyes?)

    • August 14, 2018 at 11:47 am

      Thank you for the spelling correction and your humble opinion. Well that is what I’m trying to advocate here, the positive use of nuclear power, if Pakistan wants to get anywhere near the NSG membership. Pakistan has no doubt a bad reputation and that is what I’m trying to point out. I’m trying to raise the point where nuclear power can benefit Pakistan since she has invested a little too much in weaponry and arms (well the only thing she invests in).
      But again, I really think it’s better to keep a perceived hostile nuclear power in the NSG rather out of it for the purpose of peace of South Asia. It is claimed as a rouge state nonetheless, NSG membership might lower the risk, don’t you think?

      • August 15, 2018 at 2:15 am

        Hareem, a nice polite reply. Thanks. Let me point out the single big logical flaw in your reasoning. (for a moment, assume for a moment you are not a Pakistani ok?, then see how it looks)

        ‘a perceived hostile nuclear power in the NSG rather out of it for the purpose of peace of South Asia’ – this is the biggest flaw in pakistan’s thinking. Instead of own merits, pakistan invariably links the issue to fantasy concepts like ‘strategic equilibrium’ and ‘nuclear balance’. This looks like blackmail to a reasonable person. there is absolutely nothing positive in pakistan’s NSG narrative.
        It helps to think from the other person’s perspective and ask ‘what if we are wrong?’

        It cannot be that the world will simply forget the ‘nuclear walmart’ run by A Q Khan and the pakistan mil elements, is it not? . The FATF action happened because of this ‘dhool jokna’ precisely.

        In addition to this, pakistani generals (retd.) come on TV and talk of tactical nuclear weapons and in the same dialogue mention why jihadi elements are a ‘majboori’ (some even say ‘agar hamare mufaad mein hoga toh kuch action le sakte hain’… seriously? pakistan is not doing ‘meherbani’ or ‘reham’ on the world by taking action on these jihadis)

        When Maulana Masood Azhar’s bloodcurdling hate speeches (sold in CDs in Punjab and GB) and LeT’s Saeed and Lakvi’s freedom co-exist in an atmosphere where ‘jarnails’ talk without thinking about tactical nuclear weapons, why would any one take Pakistan’s opinion on NSG seriously?

        lastly, NSG membership won’t lower any risk as the Pak’s reasoning for admission is flawed.

        Good luck.

        • August 15, 2018 at 6:31 am

          I get your point here. And I do agree with you to some extent. Well according to Pakistan’s narrative, the only thing they perceive keeps their deterrence is their notions of as you said, ‘strategic equilibrium’ and ‘nuclear balance’. This is basically the method Pakistan uses to counter her insufficiency in nuclear compared to India. Pakistan does have an offensive policy. But as they say how the weak defends themselves in front of the strong is by exaggerating its arms and strength- exactly what Pakistan does. The blackmail is perceived necessary for maintaining its deterrence. And yes, Pakistan is wrong in its perception and the action mechanism it takes in this issue. It is wrong where it only focuses on arms build up and offense strategy. Pakistan has rarely involved this capability in positive terms so as to be considered good to the Nuclear community. Apologies for the repetition but that is, again, what I am trying to advocate here. But if NSG membership is denied, Pakistan will become totally vulnerable and lose the capability of its arms build up. The reason the strategy has been offensive. I hope you get my point?

          • August 15, 2018 at 7:54 am

            Thanks. You have nothing to apologize for, it is perfectly ok to have your own opinion. I know the thinking behind the pakistan military establishment. where I will disagree is the ability for arms build up and the vulnerability and also ‘balance’. Even with nuclear weapons, like 1999 war is possible. So the ‘balance’ is logic is gone. (Ex: Argentina attacked a nuclear UK in 1982).
            As Ardeshir Cowasjee of DAWN used to say ‘ why will India want to integrate a largely illiterate nation of 150 million who hate India totally’. That is why even in 1971, Indira Gandhi was decent to ZAB and returned Haji Pir Pass, 93,000 POWs etc. The Military Mullah establishment simply refuses to accept reality, making the ‘awam’ live in perpetual poverty.

            As long as China perceives value, Pakistan will get support with arms. However, it masks a deeper issue. Already this arms build up based on a ‘security state’ has made pakistan very weak economically and further Chinese dependence will make it look like NK in some ways. While PA is very strong and will ensure integrity of territory, instability is highly probable.

            BJP or Congress, India has accepted the finality of partition and is moving on. No sane person in India wants to undo partition or collapse pakistan (even Ajit Doval knows this and rhetoric aside no one has stopped water or neither has Modi gone beyond sound bites). The pak mil establishment hangs on to its 1948 security state perception and a totally warped view of history. (see how pakistan interprets the UN resolution for example, forgetting it needs to move out of Kashmir first for anything else to happen, read the UN resolutions, you will see)

            As long that source of false history and victimhood is there, pakistan will never able to have any confidence to survive on its own merits. India sure has its own faults to rectify, but it is no way responsible for the predicament pakistan is in today.

            Good Luck.

  • August 16, 2018 at 11:20 am

    Couple of points from the sidelines

    No, the FATF watch list didn’t just happen from the AQ Khan shenanigans alone. They’re also a byproduct to a combination of very weak financial controls put intentionally that were also highly beneficial to corrupt Pakistani politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in addition to the terror dealers to squirrel away billions to Western and Middle Eastern banks. That’s something most ignore because it doesn’t fit the narrative other than the terror part. Its more complicated than the Nuclear walmart explanation.

    And why is the Pakistan situation perceived any differently from the Cold War situation where NATO nukes were supposed to hold off the Russian hordes. Matter of perspective or convenience?

    With another Nuclear waiver in the offing, what exactly will be the relevance of an NSG when powers be it China or US, can skirt around the rules as it suits them. And what exactly will be the consequences of another US sponsored waiver for India for the NSG in the future? That’s one to watch.

    In response to AWJ final point on the water sharing, let’s look at Modi’s track record on negotiating the Teesta water sharing issue. Looking to downstream parties such as Bangladesh, it must be a mite frustrating for them; a country who enjoys a special strategic partnership with India, yet finds itself helpless in the face of local State politics and a procrastinating Central Government . Would Pakistan be facing a similar situation on the IWT but for its ability to push back? Only time will tell.

    ‘Predicaments are relative in the flow of History. Let the future re-set itself’

    • August 18, 2018 at 4:59 am

      NATO and Pakistan are not the same. Big boys play big games. Your analogy doesn’t cut ice. Now , given that situation Pakistan is playing it’s China card well too. Pakistan is also playing it’s cards well in Afghanistan situation. Geo politics scenario is changing and Pakistan is trying to be relevant just by playing it’s nuclear card but failing to impress the world with its poor record of economy and domestic situation. Pakistan needs to do more in various fronts and impress the world. Nuclear arms possession alone doesn’t earn respect. Pakistan need not yearn to be perfect but become credible. Cosmetic attempt to change narrative will not help to appease the world.

    • August 21, 2018 at 3:57 am

      Thanks a for thoughtful response and the perspective on FATF. A couple of points,

      1. Pak N bombs are different from NATO bombs as these are US nukes and the circumstances are vastly different. It is not comparable. I will repeat this, I think the standard line of thinking in Pakistan still follows the ‘the ends justify the means’ path without paying sufficient attention to the consequences of pakistan’s supply side proliferation in particular.

      2. NSG and powers that be: Considering China’s open proliferation record (documented well in the book ‘eating grass’ and in US archives since 1975), it was a ‘matter of convenience’ when Chinese membership of the NSG was championed by George W Bush in 2003-4 and achieved in 2004. It always has been ‘unfair’ & will be, if one may ‘loosely and sort of dangerously’ bandy the term ‘convenience’.

      India is following a similar if more chaotic process to the ‘big table’ which won’t be settled till China can come up with a ‘definition’ of what is acceptable to itself as India’s pecking order position. That in turn will depend on India growing > 5% every year and doing other stuff. It is worth remembering, the ultimate aim is to make UNSC P-6 with India in. That will take decades and will be fought much harder.

      3. Water and IWT: Nukes or no, as I have repeated many times, besides rhetoric, India is not interested in precipitating a refugee crisis next door. if history has taught us anything, big terms like FSD, tactical nukes blah blah is useless as there is no such scenario currently or likely in the future, where pak may have its water cut off. Case in point, people like aniqa barked non stop on TV about Neelum Jhelum, and what happened? It produced full cap. of 969 MW last week. pakistan is too ‘jazbaati’ often….
      no wonder the world bank or any other international body turns pakistan down nearly every time.

      ‘jazbaati’ + a ‘constant victimhood’ mentality/complaining always leads to undesirable outcomes.

  • August 18, 2018 at 4:36 am

    Hello Mam, I like your attitude of discussion, in gracefully accepting some negatives of Pakistan and also putting forward your points of view. Pakistan must accept the reality that the P5 are like big brothers and just like in a family, not all children are treated the same ways, just the same way not all children behave the same way. After 1972 nuclear testing, when Pakistan was the blue eyed boy of USA / western powers, sanctions were imposed on India and India did suffer the consequences. It is not like USA is being very partial to India. It is only now USA is getting closer with India but India had strived for a credible nuclear programme and track record, if not perfect. Hence India gets the nod from most countries. Going by the merits of the applicants, India scores more at this juncture. Pakistan has to do lot more desirable.

    • August 29, 2018 at 7:25 am

      Thank you for your comment. Pakistan stands as an important state in the eyes of the west primarily because of Afghanistan and the Taliban. Especially in the context of new forming government. Yes India has worked hard in achieving what it has right now. India even has much more potential than Pakistan does. There is a reason the international community is preferring India over Pakistan. That is what I have done is identifies the flaws in Pakistan’s nuclear p;program and how can she address them if she wants to get anywhere near India

      • August 30, 2018 at 8:10 am

        Hareem, one good deed you could do is to write such pieces in Simple Urdu for the masses in Pakistan. Over time such small efforts might help the ‘awam’ become more aware of reality.

        • August 30, 2018 at 9:50 am

          Thank you for the suggestion, I have already been doing that for local newspapers (in simple English or Urdu) . I appreciate your recommendation.


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