The Nuclear Suppliers group(NSG) was formed in 1975 after the explosion by India in May 1974 of a nuclear device that had been built by using civilian technology acquired under the auspices of the United States-sponsored Atoms for Peace Program acquired from USA and Canada. India declared this detonation for peaceful purposes although it was for military use. The NSG seeks to prevent similar future misuses.
The main aim is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Moreover international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field is not hindered unjustly in the process.
To facilitate the development of trade in this area by providing the means whereby obligations to facilitate peaceful nuclear cooperation can be implemented in a manner consistent with international nuclear non-proliferation norms.
To admit a new country in the group prerequisites are; it must have the capability to supply the items and country should adhere to the guidelines of NSG, signatory of Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The country supports the international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and of their delivery vehicles. Enforcement of a legally based domestic export control system which gives effect to the commitment to act in accordance with the guidelines. Consensus of all member states which are presently 48 is mandatory for new entrant.
Even if one member votes against the entry to new country it cannot become a member. India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. However, five declared nuclear states which are non-signatory of NPT are member of the group.
A rotating Chair has the overall responsibility for coordination of work and outreach activities. India had applied for the membership on 12 May 2016, closely followed by Pakistan on 19 May 2016. India is backed by the US, and a number of western countries.
Most of the NSG major powers possessing nuclear weapons have also shown leniency towards India. In Seoul meeting held in June 2016, the NSG Chair, Ambassador Song of South Korea, and the previous Chair, Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina, were willingly co-opted to pave the way for India. Draft ‘Exchange of Notes’ for non NPT applicants, also known as Grossi formula was ready in December 2016. It is heavily tilted towards granting the membership to India.
On December 29, 2016 Pakistan Foreign Office rejected the Grossi formula on the grounds that it is discriminatory and unhelpful for advancing global non-proliferation objectives.
Earlier on US President George W. Bush signed the legislation on the Indo-US nuclear deal into law on 8 October 2008. The law, now titled, “United States-India Nuclear Cooperation Approval and Nonproliferation Enhancement Act,” is a product of the March 2006 agreement between India and the US on civil nuclear cooperation based on the joint statement between President Bush and Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh on 18 July 2005.
The agreement has enabled India to acquire civil nuclear technology from the US and other members of the NSG. The U.S. companies have been allowed to build nuclear reactors in India and provide nuclear fuel for its civilian energy program. It has facilitated India to boost its nuclear program.
It is pertinent to mention that in this time frame Pakistan was the close ally of USA because of providing facilities to US forces to fight war in Afghanistan. But could not get similar favor. Regarding membership to new countries, Chinese stance is based on non-discretionary approach that new members should sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which has made both Indian and Pakistani entry difficult to NSG.
The 29th NSG plenary meeting was held on 20-21 June 2019 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. An important development of this meeting was a slight change in the Chinese stance, it hinted at supporting the solution if it was ‘non-discriminatory.’ This development has the potential to improve Pakistan’s case for membership.
Presently there are three main groups within the NSG member states based on their diverging stance on issue of new member ship. The first group believes that all the NSG aspirants should be signatories of the NPT or any of its related or equivalent treaties. The second group comprises of countries which while prioritizing their commercial and/or strategic interests are of the position that the NSG membership should be granted as a corollary to existing commercial and strategic partnerships. The third group comprises of countries which believe that the non-NPT States are a reality and that they should be accommodated as such.
Pakistan has already taken important steps like clear separation of civilian and military nuclear programs, adoption of key legislation and guidelines related to nuclear safety and security as well as on the export control of goods, technologies, materials and equipment related to nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.
These add to the strength of Pakistan’s case allowing it to be more assertive in its application for the NSG membership. However, there are still specific steps regarding IAEA safeguards that are required for the addition of new nuclear reactors. Therefore Pakistan should be more confident in showing its compliance and opening up to the IAEA. As compared to India, Pakistan’s position is considered a little better as of today for entry into NSG.
Coming over to advantages expected to be accrued by Pakistan after getting NSG membership are; it has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure and the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses. It will make Pakistan eligible to receive advanced nuclear technologies that could be used to enrich uranium and/or reprocess plutonium for peaceful purposes. It will essentially increase Pakistan’s access to state-of-the-art technology from the other 48 members of the group to meet energy requirements. It will facilitate generation electricity through nuclear power plants.
NSG membership will have a prospect for Pakistan to commercially produce nuclear power equipment, which it can even export to other countries.
*Dr. Anjum Sarfraz, Commodore ( Retired), Senior Research Fellow, Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad