India-Pakistan’s bid for NSG and strategic stability in South Asia

By Asma Khalid

South Asia is considered as one of the most unstable and insecure region of the world. Unfortunately, strategic stability in the region remains fragile. Territorial disputes, historical events, and geostrategic location make it imperative for India-Pakistan to increase their defense spending. The growing defense production gap and India-US nuclear deal has already disturbed the balance of power in the region. Presently, India and Pakistan’s aspirations to join the NSG to acquire new kind of high-tech nuclear technologies. Both nuclear neighbors are determined to join NSG.

The Nuclear Supplier Group is a body of the 48 states, aims to export nuclear-related material for peaceful purpose and prohibit the Nuclear Proliferation for military use. India and Pakistan have applied to get the membership of NSG for two reasons. First, inclusion would help them to become a part of International arena, where norms of nuclear commerce will provide access to sophisticated foreign nuclear technologies. Second, through membership of the group both states would be recognized as a responsible nuclear state.

Under the NSG guidelines, a non-NPT state cannot get the membership of the group. This aspect has turned the India and Pakistan’s membership bids into a burning issue. The International community has expressed grave concerns to non-NPT nuclear neighbors’ requests for membership. In spite of that, India and Pakistan continue to pursue steps towards the membership of NSG.

For this purpose, India is enthusiastically lobbying for the support of other members in its bid to join the cartel. Prime Minister Modi has raised the matter with many countries and won the strong support of the United States in this regard. Since 2008, United States has strongly backed the India and helped it to achieve the status of special waiver by amending some trade laws of the cartel. The United States has sought to support India due to its specific objectives in the region, most significantly containment of China to maintain its status of superpower.

On the other side, Pakistan has formally submitted its bid on May 18, 2016, and now making efforts to win the entry. In this regard, it also urged for the support of the United States. In response, the United States has refused to grant any individual endorsement to Pakistan and demanded to present its case before all 48 members. However, providing special treatment to India and denying Pakistan’s request, depicts that there is a visible tilt towards India. Importantly, Pakistan is demanding Criteria based non-discriminating entry in cartel without any special treatment. Being a responsible nuclear member state, it is the legitimate right of Pakistan to be a member of NSG.

Though the Obama administration is immensely supporting India’s membership in the cartel for its own regional and economic interests, because India’s inclusion in the group will boost the security and economic ties with the US to counter the China’s growing influence. It should not forget that NSG was established in the response of India’s nuclear test in 1974. Additionally, India has violated that IAEA safeguards and use IAEA safeguarded nuclear reactor’s spent fuel to manufacture the nuclear weapon. Whereas Pakistan takes the safeguards very seriously and its nuclear program is technically advanced, safe and secure. These factors present Pakistan, a valid candidate for the membership of the NSG.

With the strong backing of US, still, many countries continuing to insist principle position that entrance of a non-NPT country will be a major setback to the efforts of nuclear arms control. Importantly, it will be a great disappointment for the states like Brazil and South Africa, which have given up their nuclear Program to join the NPT.

Above all, it is a fact that Pakistan has taken extraordinary measures regarding the safety and security of its nuclear installations under IAEA umbrella. Being a responsible nuclear weapon state, it is Pakistan’s legitimate right to get the membership of supplier group. Moreover, Pakistan instead of demanding for special treatment has maintained the criteria based approach.  Importantly, providing any special exemption from NSG principle to India and ignoring Pakistan’s bid will not only question the credibility of the cartel but at the same time, it will disturb the strategic balance in South Asia.

Significantly, NSG meeting held in Seoul on June 2016 was very remarkable and left both states positive as instead of eliminating from the race of membership, and NSG is considering to discuss the matter in future. Despite the Seoul development, India has not given up its quest for NSG membership. Such as, on India’s request, a meeting of NSG group is being held on 11-12 November 2016 to smooth its entry in the cartel. Remarkably, Japan and India are about to sign a civil nuclear deal to strengthen economic and security ties to counterweight China in the region and international market. This deal will allow Japan to export nuclear-related material and technologies to India. This deal can be viewed as a way forward for the smooth entry of India in NSG. US backing and Japan-India civil nuclear deal are the factors making the situation worse for Pakistan, as if India got the membership, it will make impossible for Pakistan to join the group because NSG works on consensuses. So Pakistan should take effective diplomatic measures to get recognized by the international community as a legitimate, responsible candidate.

The International community should follow principle approach and treat the nuclear status of India-Pakistan equally. However, India is enjoying the exceptional treatment from various countries of the group, ignoring the fact that granting membership to India and not Pakistan would disturb the strategic stability and inject the never ending nuclear arms race in the region. NSG membership would increase defense production gap among both nuclear neighbors, and imbalance will trigger the security dilemma in the region. It would severely destabilize the deterrence stability and security situation in South Asia. Hence, knowing India’s vigorous efforts, it is necessary for Pakistan to evaluate its effective foreign policy as well as diplomatic efforts to get the NSG membership as a responsible nuclear weapon state to ensure regional stability and security.

Asma Khalid is a Research Affiliate at Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) in Islamabad, Pakistan

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Foreign Policy News is a self-financed initiative providing a venue and forum for political analysts and experts to disseminate analysis of major political and business-related events in the world, shed light on particulars of U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of foreign media and present alternative overview on current events affecting the international relations.

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