By Maimuna Ashraf
South Asian security and strategic stability is a very relevant subject and the politics of NSG has gained immense significance in the recent few months not only in South Asia but in the international corridors of power as well. The NSG is now confronted with a very critical issue of high politics where all major powers are generating tremendous pressure favoring India’s membership into the NSG. It is ironic since it was India whose 1974 nuclear test led to the very creation of the NSG. The basic purpose of the NSG is to provide a mechanism through which the non-proliferation goal could be achieved, but in the present scenario the group members are unanimously supporting India- a proliferator- to be part of the group. This group is not a formal, institutional or governmental group but a private cartel of 48 members. Notwithstanding the question of its legitimacy; it is an important group since it deals with the dual use nuclear technology, commercial nuclear activities and nuclear exchanges between the member states.
The NSG membership has also become a symbol of prestige which probably is one of the reasons why India is vehemently pursuing its membership. India is being supported by the US in this regard, irrespective of any principles or criteria on which the inclusion should be based. This can give India, a non-NPT nuclear state, a further recognition as a nuclear weapon state and an edge over other non-NPT nuclear states, such as Pakistan which is not being considered to be equated with India. This discrimination against Pakistan has a history and specifically goes back to the signing of India-US nuclear deal in 2008. In the last two plenary meetings of NSG, few states opposed the US’ “country-specific” stance and stressed that India should only be included on the merit basis. They took a very principled stand by stating that if the NSG has to be expanded it should be based on some criteria.
India’s partnership with the US is largely viewed as an alliance. India is seen as a pivot to Asia and Asia-Pacific and is being encouraged by the US to develop its conventional capabilities and nuclear program. For this purpose the US is providing hi-tech weapon system, aircraft carriers and other nuclear technology to India. This support is not in the best interest of Pakistan because it undermines Pakistan’s security at the level of conventional military capabilities and also disturbs nuclear equilibrium in the region. The strategic stability of South Asia is crucial for maintenance of peace around the region because the instability between the two South Asian nuclear states may also drag the great powers into regional politics, which India and Pakistan have alignments with.
Conversely, there are many security driven reasons for Pakistan to join NSG. If India is treated as an exemption and becomes the member of the NSG, it will create instability in the region. Another reason for Pakistan is of political nature i.e. since the decision in NSG would be based on consensus where India will be the first to get membership, it will become very difficult for Pakistan to join the group at any later stage. Another reason is socio-economic; since Pakistan has ambitious plans for the development of its nuclear energy sector, the goal which could be more easily achieved if it gets NSG membership. Yet another reason is technological; Pakistan is an advanced nuclear country which in the last few years has started producing the nuclear fuel domestically for Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) reactor. This gives a sufficient rationale for Pakistan to ask for NSG membership.
Pakistani experts believe that Pakistan meets the criteria for NSG membership except that it is not the member of NPT. Pakistan’s credentials qualify it to become the member of NSG as Pakistan fully adheres to the requirements of the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS); Pakistan possesses separate nuclear operational and nuclear regulatory authority. All NPPs of Pakistan are under IAEA safeguards whereas eight nuclear reactors of India are outside IAEA safeguards and speedily creating weapons grade uranium too. Pakistan has strong nuclear export and control measures and never has to face any issue/problem in this regard. However Pakistan needs to realize that NSG cannot approve the same criteria for both the NPT members and non-NPT member states. Nonetheless it will be encouraging to engage the non-NPT nuclear states in the non-proliferation regime thus it is very important for Pakistan to be active engage with countries that are skeptical about its nuclear credentials.
On the debate to separating the politics from non-proliferation regime, it should be realized that it could happen only if we were living in the perfect world but the things should be seen realistically; unfortunately the non-proliferation regime is much politicized. Due to geopolitical interests, countries whose record is far from perfect are being portrayed as countries with perfect record.
To conclude, it is in the national interest of Pakistan to become the member; Pakistan should develop criteria on its own and submit it to the other countries and should ask them for their support. It is time to work hard, because if Pakistan has a goal it should do its best to make it happen.