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Why Pakistan does not sign NPT!

By Maimuna Ashraf 

The closing meeting of month-long ninth NPT Review Conference (RevCon) opened a novel debate about the future of non-proliferation regime. The four weeks long negotiations ended in dismay as the states party to the treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation could not reach on a consensus document to improve progress on non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and towards nuclear weapon free zone in Middle East. Since the first successful NPT RevCon in 2000, after every five years, the RevCon fits the zigzag pattern of success and failure. The 2015 RevCon reaffirmed the notion that the international mechanism to combat nuclear proliferation is becoming increasingly ‘inadequate’ not only to deal with potential proliferators, which are few but more determined, but also undermines objectives of the Articles I, II,  IV and VI of the NPT. Although, until the 1980s, the international measures to prevent nuclear proliferation were relatively more successful, but later on the non-nuclear weapon states (Iran, North Korea, Libya and Syria) were not constrained by instruments of international non-proliferation regime. So far, nine states have acquired nuclear weapons while more than 30 states have technological capability to acquire them which poses serious challenges to NPT.

Notwithstanding the strengths of non-proliferation regime since 1968 with membership of 191 states and many non-proliferation agreements, yet an effective and efficient regime demands an in-depth re-evaluation of the non-proliferation regime and identification of the weaknesses for its restructuring and reformation.  The major drawback of non-proliferation regime, which has reopened the debate about the limitations of non-proliferation regime, is that the institutional structure and process of the non-proliferation regime has by itself not been fairly adopted and therefore could not be successful in tackling issues like transfer of nuclear technology and fissile material from Nuclear Weapon State (NWS) to Non-Nuclear Weapon State (NNWS). Though Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and Nuclear Safety and Security addressed through the Nuclear Security Summits (NSS) have succeeded in creating institutional frameworks to address the problems but have yet to fully achieve their objectives.

In addition, the discrimination exercised in the implementation of the non-proliferation standards and employment of the Non-Proliferation Regime (NPR) as an instrument of great-power’s foreign and strategic policies’ objectives has raised questions about the sincerity behind its creation and subsequent application. The original and revived advancement of Indo-US Nuclear Deal undermines the non-proliferation efforts as it violates Articles I of the NPT and defy its primary objective to prevent nuclear proliferation. Moreover, India’s potential inclusion in Nuclear Supply Group (NSG), after the India-specific exemption to NSG guidelines, is disturbing regional nuclear equilibrium and triggering Pakistan to indulge in a nuclear arm race to ensure credible deterrence which is posing serious challenges to nonproliferation regime. Also, such a decision of illicit privileges by nuclear weapon state to a non-NPT state may result in further expansion of NSG.

Likewise, the country-specific safeguards display a discriminatory institutional mechanism of the nonproliferation regime and undermine the nonproliferation endeavors. Recently, India and the US renewed an enhanced Defense Framework Agreement for the next ten years and identified four key “pathfinder projects” for joint development and production including the next generation Raven mini UAVs and specialized kits for C-130 military transport aircraft. Both countries also agreed on a Working Group to explore aircraft carrier technology besides designing and development of jet engine technology. These developments not only raises question about discriminatory nature of Nuclear Proliferation Regime, India’s speedy nuclear program but may instigate the signatory NPT NNWS to opt out of the Treaty or violate Treaty obligations and pursue acquisition of nuclear weapons. The withdrawal clause, Article X of NPT, already accepts the rights of member states to withdraw from the treaty. India’s exemption from the NSG guidelines, potential NSG membership and India-specific IAEA safeguards renders the non-proliferation an extremely discriminatory regime. India’s accumulation of uranium through deals with Australia, Canada (in the offing) and other countries based on NSG exemption will generate immense pressure on Pakistan to maintain strategic/deterrence equilibrium against India.  Pakistan, the non-NPT state, entered into facility specific safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Over four decades of safe operation of nuclear power plants, perfect nuclear safety record, having an highly praised nuclear regulator, with all its nuclear power reactors under IAEA safeguards, and being a signatory to most of the international nuclear regimes and instruments, any criterion-based expansion of the NSG group must see the two neighbors together joining the group. On the contrary, India’s entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) would disturb the region’s strategic equilibrium, besides forcing Pakistan into arms race.

The international dual standards are also highlighted by the fact that Israel is accepted as the de-facto nuclear power in Middle East; hence the Middle East Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) remains a remote possibility as has been established from lack of consensus in the NPT RevCon 2015. In order to build a consensus in non-proliferation regime, U.S. needs to stop facilitating Israel.

The two important elements of the nonproliferation regime, CTBT and FMCT, have never come into effect which questions the status of nonproliferation efforts. Since the commencement of Conference on Disarmament sessions in 2012, many of the security observers have been saying that Pakistan is the only state blocking the CD Agenda, particularly FMCT. The prevailing notion is that Pakistan is the only state obstructing the other core items of the CD agenda 2015, including FMCT. Whereas Pakistan has repeatedly stated that it is ready to negotiate on any or all of the other CD’s agenda items except FMCT with the Shannon Mandate, which collide Pakistan’s security interests. Islamabad has also condemned the stance of some delegations for limiting the CD to a forum to only discuss FMCT. Therefore, the proper way to end the stalemate at the CD and resolve the asymmetries of fissile material stockpiles dilemma is to revamp the Shannon Mandate and address the security concerns of all states. Evidently, assorted propagandas have misconstrued Pakistan’s justified national security concerns to divert attention from their own reluctance to make any significant move towards fulfilling their non-proliferation and disarmament obligations.

Conversely, the credibility of negative security assurances would have been a profound debate in review conference, whose credibility has been questioned after Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The 1994 Budapest Memorandum pledged Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for Ukraine joining NPT and giving up nuclear weapons. Moreover, the Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS) is another critical sidelined issue on the UN disarmament and arms control agenda. The weaponization and militarization of space undermines the security of NNWS. The international non-proliferation regime can crumple due to the short sightedness of the NWS, who are reluctant to give up their hegemony and incessantly improving the quality of their nuclear arsenals. The nonproliferation regime needs to call the major power to re-examine their warlike doctrinal postures. Strangely, all non-nuclear weapon states parties to the NPT are required to accept IAEA safeguards on all nuclear facilities under their control while the nuclear weapons states parties to NPT have no such obligation.

This is why NPT is widely seen in distress and Pakistan (beside other non-NPT NWS) has repeatedly refused to sign the treaty. To make the NPR progress and to seek the consent of states to sign it, reforms should be sought in NPT to address the state’s concerns besides making it non-discriminatory.

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Maimuna Ashraf

Maimuna Ashraf works as a Senior Research Associate for an Islamabad-based think tank Strategic Vision Institute. She works on issues related to nuclear non-proliferation, arms control and South Asian nuclear equation. She writes for South Asian Voices, international blogs and national dailies.

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