NPT: A misfortune

By Usman Ali Khan

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) opened for signature in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. This effort by the western leaders divided the states into nuclear sheep and non-nuclear goats, and expressed the ambition of the nuclear sheep to keep it that way.

It is true that the Treaty pays lip service to the notion of nuclear disarmament all rounds. If we ruminate over the situation impartially, it comes out loud and clears that nuclear proliferation regime and their leaders are at pariah and this leads to instability and military imbalances in South Asia.

The world leaders gathered in New York gushing about the improvement but waivers and exemptions to long-held non-proliferation principles, were contributing to insecurity in certain regions – especially South Asia.  What is most bothering are latter countries like India are blessed with favors which is a cause more for concern than it is for celebration generally because of their notorious poor workmanship, lack of documentation and poor quality control in almost all their engineering products in nuclear domain. We will surely see many more Three Miles Island and Fukushima in our life time. But unluckily all these arguments fell in deaf ears.

Unfortunately the lack of progress in achieving global nuclear disarmament is a gloomy advent of India’s bid to NSG waiver and clearing the decks for Indo-US nuclear deal. This selective nuclear policy of have and have-not had far reaching consequences which contribute to disrupting the regional peace and security internationally. Washington remains committed to help achieve this goal not least because it forms part of an evolving US strategy to build India as a counterweight to China. These modernization plans between diplomatic partners created asymmetry in strategic capabilities between India and Pakistan and erode nuclear deterrence in South Asia but also risk fuelling a new and potentially more dangerous regional arms race.

Ironically, the removal of nuclear sanctions against India, that resulted from the deal, has enabled France and Russia to benefit from the opportunities of the Indian nuclear market. It is also of severe concern that under the proposed deal, India would separate its military and civilian nuclear reactors, and place many—but not all—of its civilian nuclear reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. Military facilities, and stockpiles of nuclear fuel that India has produced up to now, will not be subject to inspections or safeguards. Meanwhile, the US will be allowed to build nuclear reactors in India, and provide India with nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors.

The global security landscape is becoming increasingly complex which is a prerequisite of progress in areas of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament. Andreas Zumach well stated that:

“As long as Western powers violate the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it will remain impossible to prevent a nuclear arms race.”

Nothing better illustrates the double standard with respect to nuclear weapons and the NPT that prevails between Indo-US nuclear deal that massively undermined the goals of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), ignoring the fact that India being not a state party to NPT.  The Western nuclear powers issue warnings about North Korea, Iran and other countries developing nuclear weapons, while forging ahead with the “modernization” of their nuclear arsenals themselves. They also ignore the discourse that not only weapons of mass destruction and the spread of terrorism are the biggest, even not the only relevant global threats, but hunger, poverty and environmental degradation, as well as HIV/AIDS and other epidemics, are far greater and often much more direct threats to human existence among the vast majority of the world’s population.

Mary La Rosa in her article titled as: “The Most Dangerous Double Standard in the Middle East: Israel, Iran, and the Nuclear Bomb” stated perfectly that:

Presently, there is only one country in the Middle East with “secret” and ambiguous stockpiles of nuclear weapons. Over the last 50 years, Israel has been directly and indirectly aided and funded in its development of weapons of mass destruction by the United States, France, Norway, Britain and Germany. These powerful nations have neither been forthright nor accountable in their roles in giving one small country in the Middle East enough clout to wipe out most of their neighbors via nuclear holocaust.  Such a stance is not only controversial and hypocritical to non-proliferation; it is intrinsically detrimental to all other diplomacy and hope(s) concerning peace in the future of the Middle East.  

Nevertheless, the nuclear agreement remains the centerpiece of the bilateral relationship, and is impossible to reverse the deal but amendments can be made in recognition of the right to equality for all states will work.  This admittedly can redress the strategic balance in South Asia, instead of spending billions of dollars and decades of time undermining security.

Lastly, one must remember that NPT was intended primarily as a tool with which to stem the horizontal spread of nuclear weapons and is indeed a valuable legal instrument in that respect.

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Usman Ali Khan

Usman Ali Khan is a Researcher at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

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