NSG Membership and Pakistan

Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in his key-note address at the two-day seminar organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, unequivocally reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment not to transfer weapons of mass destruction to states or non-state actors and asserted that as demonstration of that commitment it had taken a wide range of legal, regulatory, organisational and enforcement measures. He also emphasised the need for a transparent, objective and non-discriminatory criteria in regards to membership to the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG) for applicants who had not signed the Non-Proliferation Treat (NPT).

It is pertinent to point out that for any nuclear state to become a member of the NSG, signing the NPT is a basic condition and the decisions in regards to admittance of a new member and change in the guidelines of NSG are taken through consensus. However the USA since signing of an agreement with India on the transfer of civil nuclear technology in 2008 has been desperately trying to have India admitted to the NSG and has even managed a waiver for her. Emulating USA, France and UK also signed civil nuclear deals with India. Japan has also concluded a similar arrangement with her.

At the time of giving the waiver to India some members of NSG did express concerns about India expanding its nuclear arsenal by diverting the fissile materials for production of nuclear weapons. These concerns still persist. Some international agencies have come up with reports recently that India after the NSG waiver has indeed expanded its nuclear arsenal. US senator Markey in a senate hearing said “Since 2008 when we also gave them exemption, India has continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme virtually un-checked. At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of the nuclear arms race in South Asia”.

Pakistan rightly felt concerned about these developments and ever since the signing of the nuclear civil technology deal between US and India and NSG waiver for her, Pakistan has been striving to convince the US and the international community about its credentials and the adoption of a non-discriminatory approach in regards to giving membership of NSG to the non-NPT states. While the US has all along stood for Indian membership of NSG, it has not adopted a similar approach towards Pakistan. However notwithstanding the efforts of US and its western allies to have India admitted to the prestigious nuclear club, the latter failed to get a nod from the plenary session of NSG held in Vienna in November 2016, as a number of countries including China insisted on a criteria based approach in view of the fact, that besides India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of the group. The rejection of the Indian bid in a way was a vindication of Pakistan’s stance on the issue.

NSG seeks to further the objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, through regulatory guidelines in regards to the export of nuclear materials, nuclear reactors, non-nuclear material for reactors, plant and equipment for reprocessing, enrichment and technologies covering these items. The NSG guidelines also govern export of nuclear-related dual use items and technologies which could make a substantial contribution to an un-safeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity. The need for these regulatory guidelines stems from the recognition of the need for international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field for peaceful purposes, as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and NSG guidelines on the subject. The overall aim of these guidelines is to ensure that nuclear exports are carried out with appropriate safeguards, physical protection, and non-proliferation conditions, and other appropriate restraints.

Though Pakistan is not a signatory to NPT, it has all along supported nuclear non-proliferation and abided by the parameters spelt out by the NPT and different international treaties. Therefore joining the NSG would be tantamount to global recognition of those efforts. But the question is, has Pakistan done enough to deserve membership of NSG? For this one has to look at the measures taken by Pakistan to deserve membership of the group and the criteria laid down by NSG.

At the third Nuclear Security Summit at Hague in March 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made a forceful case for Pakistan’s inclusion in the NSG. He staked his claim for the membership of group and other international control regimes by declaring that Pakistan had been running a safe and secure civil nuclear programme for the last 40 years and attached highest importance to nuclear security. It had the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy and has pursued a policy of restraint as well as credible minimum deterrence. Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is supported by five pillars—a strong command and control system, an integrated intelligence system, rigorous regulatory regime and active international cooperation. The security regime covers physical protection, material control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies. Pakistan, he said also has been regularly submitting reports to the UN Security Council 1540 committee on the measures that the country has put in place to exercise control over transfer of sensitive materials and technologies. That is exactly in line with the criteria for admitting new members to the NSG which stipulates that an aspiring country should have the ability to supply nuclear items covered in the NSG guidelines; should have a proven record of adherence to those guidelines taking necessary actions in that regard; must have enforced legally based domestic export control system; should have complied with obligations under NPT and other treaties; supported international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. Pakistan, as is evident surely qualifies for membership of NSG.

Any discriminatory treatment towards Pakistan in regards to membership of NSG is likely to push Pakistan to ‘full nuclear deterrence’ vis-a-vis India which will deal a big blow to the efforts of the international community to promote the cause of non-proliferation. As against this, simultaneous inclusion of Pakistan and India in the NSG will not only establish the principle of non-discrimination but would also add to the strength of NSG in furthering the objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and well controlled export of nuclear materials for promoting international nuclear trade cooperation. Pakistan being member of the NSG would be in a better position to contribute to firming up and refining the regulatory guidelines and safeguarding its interests. It would also allow Pakistan to export nuclear materials to other countries under the gaze of global community in a legitimate manner with all the accompanying economic benefits as well as reinforcing its credentials as a useful member of the global community.

Adoption of policies subservient to expediencies and vested interests would scuttle the efforts to check proliferation of nuclear weapons and other related causes. It is hoped that the members of NSG, US and its allies will keep all the foregoing variables into consideration and give adequate and well deserved attention to the security concerns of Pakistan while deciding the fate of the request of both the countries.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at ashpak10@gmail.com.

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