By Asma Khalid*
The global community has created a multiplicity of so-called legal tools aimed at preventing nuclear weapon proliferation, including legally binding treaties to voluntary agreements and regional committees, such as the Nuclear Supplier Group.
NSG has two sets of guidelines meticulously enlisting the nuclear materials, equipment, and technologies subject to export controls. These guidelines require the importing party to ensure that there trade shall not in any way contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation. Since the India-Pakistan’s application for NSG membership, politics of NSG has gained massive attention of international community in few months.
NSG membership of India and Pakistan revolves around major power politics. India has been granted the status of a special waiver, whereas Pakistan is facing a discriminatory attitude of the major powers. The most ironic aspect of this issue is that NSG was established in response to India’s nuclear testing to stop nuclear proliferation and now its entry is being strongly supported by major powers of the group.
Additionally, on December 6, 2016, Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi, the former chair of Nuclear Suppliers Group, presented a proposal consisting of nine points for NSG membership — it has been observed by the international community that these points are suitable to India, but not for Pakistan. If Grossi’s criteria is adopted then India can claim that it has already taken all measures according to NSG guidelines, while leaving Pakistan at a disadvantage.
The first point of the suggested criteria is regarding the separation of current and future civilian and nuclear facilities — under the 2008 exemption India has already notified a separation plan, whereas Pakistan hasn’t formally notified its separation plan to IAEA despite having separate military and civilian’s facilities.
As such, currently, in the context of proposed NSG criteria, Pakistan is technically ineligible for NSG membership.
The second point saus that states must have enforce IAEA’s Additional Protocol. This point also suits India as it has already signed the additional protocol with IAEA.
Although the nature of India’s additional protocol with IAEA is weak it will help India to fulfill the basic criteria. However, Pakistan has no hesitation in signing the additional protocol with IAEA, but it will take time and in this regard India has another advantage over Pakistan.
Another point is that candidates must commit to not conducting any nuclear tests in the future. Both India and Pakistan can fulfill this clause but, such commitments are more like a political commitment and are not legal binding and as such any member state can break their promise, as India violated the IAEA safeguards in 1974.
The next point is not to indulge in any proliferation activity. both India and Pakistan being responsible nuclear weapon states have been already committed to not using any item transferred.
Another salient clause is: “An understanding that due to the unique nature of the non-NPT Party applications, non-NPT applicant would join a consensus of all other Participating Governments on the merits of any non-NPT Party application.” The last clause of the proposed criteria was just to project that this criteria is not state-centric and the group has maintained its objective by imposing a pre-condition on India that it will not oppose Pakistan’s entry when Pakistan has fulfilled the new criteria that is actually developed for India. But it still has a major weakness as India has strong supporters in the group and they can refuse Pakistan’s membership on behalf of India, as the NSG works on consensus.
The analysis of Grossi’s formula presents that NSG guidelines are influenced by major powers of the groups, especially the US’ support to India’s membership that deeply rooted in its own geostrategic and geo-economics interests.
In this regard India is given benefits and being a Nuclear Non-proliferation member, state-specific conditions are formulated to favor India. Such state-centric discriminatory policies present that major powers are using non-proliferation regimes as a tool to peruse their own interests and such these dynamics really undermine the global non-proliferation efforts.
Adopting Grossi’s formula and granting membership to India will be a major setback to the non-proliferation regime as such a membership will provide India access to the latest nuclear related infrastructure and technology that will enable India to commercialize the manufacturing of nuclear power plants, as well as permitting India to enhance vertical proliferation and disturb the balance of power and regional stability.
In the light of these scenarios, ideally NSG states must address the above mentioned challenges as well as the complex proliferation dealings and networks of India that evade multilateral trade controls along with the most pressing issue of their discriminatory approach towards Pakistan.
*Asma Khalid, Associate at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad.