NSG mem­ber­ship should be on merit

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Sultan M Hali Email: sm_hali@ya­hoo.com

THE Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group’s 2016 an­nual ple­nary, be­gan in Seoul this week and one of the de­ci­sions is likely to be to crit­i­cally ex­am­ine mem­ber­ship re­quests from both In­dia and Pak­istan. In­dia, which sub­mit­ted its mem­ber­ship ap­pli­ca­tion on May 12, the 18th an­niver­sary of its nu­clear tests in 1998, has walked the ex­tra mile to en­sure a pos­i­tive re­sponse to its ad­mis­sion to the NSG.

It is ironic that the NSG, which was formed in 1974, in re­sponse to In­dia’s first nu­clear test, to pre­vent fur­ther pro­lif­er­a­tion, is now even con­sid­er­ing In­dia’s mem­ber­ship. The NSG is one of the main tools for con­trol­ling the ex­ports and pro­lif­er­a­tion of ma­te­ri­als that could po­ten­tially be used in mak­ing weapons of mass de­struc­tion. It also tacks the black mar­ket trade of nu­clear tech­nolo­gies.

It is equally ironic that In­dia’s track record in nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion has been pa­thetic that two In­dian nu­clear sci­en­tists, Dr C Surinder Chaud­hary and Dr YSR Prasad were found guilty of en­gag­ing in Pro­lif­er­a­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and were put un­der sanc­tions by the US State De­part­ment on Septem­ber 29, 2004 when the State De­part­ment took the ac­tion un­der Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Act 200 through Pub­lic No­tice No-4845, no­ti­fied it in the Fed­eral Reg­is­ter as 69FR 58212 No­tice.

Pres­i­dent Obama has called on NSG par­tic­i­pat­ing gov­ern­ments to sup­port In­dia’s ap­pli­ca­tion at the NSG ple­nary. Mr Modi, who was re­fused visit visas to Europe and the US for his al­leged in­dul­gence in the 2002 geno­cide in the In­dian State of Gu­jarat, when he was Chief Min­is­ter, has made full use of his back­ing by reach­ing out to all 48 mem­bers of the NSG to sup­port In­dia’s mem­ber­ship. Every­one in the US is not ex­cited by the prospects of In­dia get­ting the NSG mem­ber­ship. Some opin­ion mak­ers, leg­is­la­tors and nu­clear ex­perts warned the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion not to push for­ward In­dia’s ap­pli­ca­tion. A “New York Times” editorial ti­tled ‘In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of the NSG is not mer­ited un­til the coun­try meets the group’s stan­dards’ warned that In­dia could block Pak­istan’s en­try into NSG, if it got in ear­lier.

The daily has prag­mat­i­cally warned that the re­la­tion­ship with In­dia rests on a dan­ger­ous bar­gain. For years, the United States has sought to bend the rules for In­dia’s nu­clear pro­gram to main­tain In­dia’s co­op­er­a­tion on trade and to counter China’s grow­ing in­flu­ence. In 2008, Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush signed a civil­ian nu­clear deal with In­dia that al­lowed it to trade in nu­clear ma­te­ri­als. This has en­cour­aged Pak­istan to keep ex­pand­ing a nu­clear weapons pro­gram that is al­ready the fastest grow­ing in the world. Mem­ber­ship would en­hance In­dia’s stand­ing as a nu­clear weapons state, but it is not mer­ited un­til the coun­try meets the group’s stan­dards. Pak­istan, which also has a black mark, the AQ Khan episode, has come a long way in ad­her­ing to nu­clear safety and se­cu­rity stan­dards since then. It sub­mit­ted its mem­ber­ship ap­pli­ca­tion on May 19, a week af­ter In­dia.

China, how­ever, is be­ing prag­matic in its ap­proach. It is not re­sist­ing the In­dian ap­pli­ca­tion out of spite, but is ar­gu­ing that it would en­hance a nu­clear com­pe­ti­tion in South Asia by iso­lat­ing Pak­istan. China wants the group to ad­mit Pak­istan as well, point­ing out that both In­dia and Pak­istan pos­sessed nu­clear weapons and had not signed the NPT. While China may not force the NSG to ad­mit Pak­istan, it can block In­dia as new mem­bers are ad­mit­ted with a con­sen­sus of the ex­ist­ing mem­bers. Un­der the cir­cum­stances, one can hope that the NSG will de­cide the case on merit and not be guided by bi­ases or ob­vi­ous tilts. —The writer is re­tired PAF Group Cap­tain and a TV talk show host.

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