UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan has brushed aside western claims that Islamabad’s opposition to opening negotiations on a treaty to ban the production of fissile material used as fuel for nuclear weapons was solely responsible for the lack of progress on the disarmament agenda in the UN Conference on Disarmament (CD).
“The CD (which is based in Geneva) is not a body to negotiate only one item on its agenda: FMCT (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty)”, Pakistani delegate Ambassador Zamir Akram said in a speech to the General Assembly’s First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security matters.
Akram, who is Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN’s European offices in Geneva, also voiced concern over the deterioration of global security, and called for evolving international norms to govern the use of armed drones strictly according to the UN Charter, international human rights and humanitarian law.
He said the “cardinal principle” of equal and undiminished security for all States was being trumped by narrow self-interests.
The use of drones in the territory of another State outside the zone of conflict was contrary to international law, the Pakistani delegate said. It was a challenge to security and sovereignty of a State, as it involved the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians including women and children.
Lethal Autonomous Robots (LARs) – that would choose and fire on pre-programmed targets on their own without any human intervention – posed a challenge to the protection of civilians and the notion of affixation of responsibility, and Pakistan called for international rules to govern them.
Elaborating Pakistan’s stand on the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty, Ambassador Akram said such a treaty had a direct bearing on national security.
Over the past few years, Pakistan has been blocking the launching of negotiations on the proposed US-backed treaty in the CD on the ground that it is prejudicial to its national security interests. The Conference has 65 members.
If there was no consensus on negotiating a so-called FMCT, there was also no consensus on negotiating nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances or a pact to prevent an arms race in outer space, the Pakistani delegate said. The Conference’s inability to commence negotiations was clearly not attributable to one State, nor was that malaise exclusive to the Conference.
Some States, he noted, argued that Pakistan’s concerns could be addressed during negotiations for a fissile material cut-off treaty. However, that logic ignored the “inconvenient truth”, namely, why their concerns on the three other core issues could not be addressed in the same manner.
An FMCT that only banned the future production of fissile material was “cost-free” for other nuclear-weapon States, and for non-nuclear weapon States, it entailed no obligation beyond what they had already assumed.
Pakistan also recognised the need for a new consensus on nuclear disarmament, but he conceded that consensus-building would be difficult.
An essential prerequisite was the right to equal security for all States. Until nuclear disarmament was achieved, non-nuclear-weapon States should be offered legally binding security assurances, in the form of a treaty, by nuclear-weapon States. Pakistan, itself a nuclear-weapon State, had repeatedly advocated for such an instrument.
Absolute security for some States could not come at the cost of diminished security for others, Ambassador Akram said. The world was rife with double standards, exceptionalism and revisionism. New weapons, including drones and lethal autonomous robots were being developed, deployed and used. Outer space remained threatened by the prospect of weaponisation, and the hostile use of cyber-technologies for espionage and surveillance was growing.