Di­vide on In­dia’s NSG Mem­ber­ship

Pakistan Observer - - OPINION - Dr M Riaz Shad Email:mr­shad@numl.edu.pk

MUCH to In­dia’s dis­may, the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers’ Group (NSG) failed to reach con­sen­sus on the coun­try’s am­bi­tiously sought mem­ber­ship of the Group in its Seoul ple­nary on June 23-24. The Group did not take up Pak­istan’s ap­pli­ca­tion for de­lib­er­a­tions. The NSG is an ex­clu­sive 48-na­tion nu­clear car­tel, which seeks non-pro­lif­er­a­tion through reg­u­la­tion of civil­ian nu­clear trade and works un­der the prin­ci­ple of una­nim­ity. In­dia’s mem­ber­ship case was op­posed not just by China but also by sev­eral other coun­tries—Aus­tria, New Zealand, Ire­land, Turkey and Brazil. Op­po­si­tion from these coun­tries was based on the prin­ci­ple that In­dia was a non-sig­na­tory to the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT), a manda­tory con­di­tion for mem­ber­ship of the NSG. Fol­low­ing this dis­sen­sion, an of­fi­cial state­ment said, “the NSG had dis­cus­sions on the is­sue of tech­ni­cal, le­gal and po­lit­i­cal as­pects of the par­tic­i­pa­tion of nonNPT states in the NSG, and de­cided to con­tinue its dis­cus­sion,” im­ply­ing that the mat­ter re­mains in­con­clu­sive and will be dealt even-hand­edly.

The US, cham­pion of non-pro­lif­er­a­tion, ad­vo­cated In­dia’s case for NSG mem­ber­ship on the ba­sis of an ex­clu­sive In­dia-spe­cific ap­proach, thanks to com­mer­cial and strate­gic rea­sons. It ar­gued that In­dia was like­minded with NSG states with re­spect to its non-pro­lif­er­a­tion com­mit­ments. A host of other coun­tries, in­clud­ing no­ta­bles like Bri­tain, France, Rus­sia and Aus­tralia, also gave the same ra­tio­nale to sup­port In­dia in or­der to guard their com­mer­cial in­ter­ests or please the US. This tai­lor-made In­di­aspe­cific ap­proach was con­trary to the cri­te­ria-based ap­proach fol­lowed by op­pos­ing states, which em­pha­sised equal con­sid­er­a­tion to all NSG aspi­rants hav­ing sim­i­lar nu­clear cre­den­tials.

An anal­y­sis of the way In­dia’s case for NSG can­di­da­ture was con­structed shows how faulty the “like­mind­ed­ness” ar­gu­ment is. In ret­ro­spect, In­dia’s 1974 nu­clear test re­sulted from its clan­des­tine di­ver­sion of fis­sile ma­te­rial from civil­ian to mil­i­tary use. This pro­voked Pak­istan to pur­sue nu­clear tech­nol­ogy and, sep­a­rately, pro­vided a con­text for the es­tab­lish­ment of the NSG. Later, in 1998, In­dia went nu­clear openly and caused Pak­istan to fol­low suit. In­dia’s en­deav­our for NSG mem­ber­ship orig­i­nated in Indo-US nu­clear agree­ment signed in 2005. Im­ple­men­ta­tion of this agree­ment re­quired a waiver from the NSG, which would allow In­dia to par­tic­i­pate in nu­clear com­merce de­spite be­ing a non-mem­ber. To pave the way for waiver, In­dia signed an ad­di­tional pro­to­col with In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency (IAEA), whereby it agreed to im­ple­ment a sep­a­ra­tion plan. Un­der the sep­a­ra­tion plan, In­dia agreed to place 14 civil­ian nu­clear power re­ac­tors un­der IAEA safe­guards, keep­ing 8 mil­i­tary re­ac­tors and a num­ber of civil­ian re­ac­tors with dual-use ca­pa­bil­ity un­safe guarded. More­over, In­dia re­fused to ac­cept not only stan­dard in­for­ma­tion shar­ing but also track­ing of im­ported fis­sile ma­te­rial. Thus, In­dia’s ad­di­tional pro­to­col was ex­cep­tion­ally le­nient, an eye­wash, in other words.

De­spite such dis­crep­an­cies, in 2008, US ac­tive sup­port com­bined with diplo­matic pres­sure led to NSG con­sen­sus on grant­ing a unique waiver to In­dia ex­empt­ing it from Group’s guide­lines re­gard­ing civil nu­clear com­merce. Prior to waiver, In­dia as­sured NSG states to up­lift its nu­clear cre­den­tials by ad­her­ing to ‘no first use’ doc­trine, par­tic­i­pat­ing in Fis­sile Ma­te­rial Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) ne­go­ti­a­tions and adopt­ing uni­lat­eral test ban. Again, these were the most con­ve­nient com­mit­ments on part of In­dia. This is the back­ground with which In­dia, rid­ing on a strong and un­con­di­tional US sup­port, started diplo­matic ef­forts to­wards NSG mem­ber­ship. Ver­i­ta­bly, In­dia’s pro­duc­tion of fis­sile ma­te­rial as well as nu­clear ar­ma­ment has re­mained unchecked since 2008. That’s why In­dia and its spon­sor, the US, have failed to con­vince crit­ics and skep­tics about In­dian be­hav­iour as a re­spon­si­ble nu­clear state.

In­dia’s mem­ber­ship of NSG would have ben­e­fited it in var­i­ous ways. This could fur­ther en­hance the coun­try’s ac­cess to global nu­clear com­merce and tech­nol­ogy, al­though it al­ready has such ac­cess through civil­ian nu­clear co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments with a num­ber of coun­tries, in­clud­ing the US, France, Canada, Rus­sia, the UK, Aus­tralia and Kaza­khstan, un­der the 2008 spe­cial waiver. In­dia’s ad­mis­sion to the NSG would also have helped it le­git­imise its nu­clear sta­tus and hence up­grade its po­lit­i­cal stature at in­ter­na­tional level. In ad­di­tion, this would have per­ma­nently blocked Pak­istan’s en­try into the Group as it takes de­ci­sions through con­sen­sus. Nev­er­the­less, In­dia’s ex­clu­sive in­clu­sion in the NSG would have un­der­mined the Group’s cred­i­bil­ity and its non-pro­lif­er­a­tion prin­ci­ples. This could also create more space for In­dia to de­vi­ate from non­pro­lif­er­a­tion com­mit­ments. Be­sides, this would not have boded well for re­gional peace and sta­bil­ity, com­pelling Pak­istan to en­gage in nu­clear arms race.

In­dia’s en­try into the NSG is banned, for now. In fu­ture, it will have to re-launch its cam­paign on new grounds. For sure, In­dia will not sign the NPT, the rea­son for its dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion, as this will bind it to dis­arm. One way to move for­ward is that In­dia takes Pak­istan along, but this seems least pos­si­ble. Notwith­stand­ing this, In­dian fail­ure to en­ter the NSG and the lat­ter’s pri­or­ity for uni­form cri­te­ria to set­tle the is­sue of non-NPT states’ mem­ber­ship pro­vide a golden op­por­tu­nity to Pak­istan to project its nu­clear cre­den­tials and im­prove its im­age as a re­spon­si­ble nu­clear state. — The writer is As­sis­tant Pro­fes­sor, De­part­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, Na­tional Univer­sity of Mod­ern Lan­guages (NUML), Islamabad.

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