NSG special group meeting: Bleak chances of success

By Beenish Altaf

With the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) Plenary meeting of June 2017 failure to come-up with a criteria for the inclusion of new states into the group of nuclear commerce, the Chair announced his willingness to meet again on the agenda in November 2017. The issue of “Technical, Legal and Political Aspects of the Participation of non-NPT States in the NSG,” were in the discussion points of the 27th Plenary Meeting that held in Bern, Switzerland, on 22nd and 23rd June 2017. Now, as the NSG special group meeting of November is approaching, the fingers are crossed once again with regards to the non-NPT state’s membership issue.

It is a known fact that the US is lobbying and pressurizing rest states in order to accommodate India in to the club, and this all began post- Indo US nuclear deal. Previously, several countries, apart from China, were defying US pressure and insisting on a two-step approach for admission of non-NPT states and development of an objective and equitable criteria which would be applicable to all future applicants. Therefore, this write-up is basically a review, which is a necessitation in view of the forthcoming NSG meeting wherein country’s positions/stances seems to be stalemated.

Stalemate Sustained

In Pakistan, the foreign policy and diplomacy experts believe that the deadlock between Pakistan and India over securing entry to the exclusive NSG is likely to continue at the forthcoming NSG meeting. Pakistan’s former Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva and at the Conference on Disarmament said that given the diverse issues, a stalemate on applications of India and Pakistan is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. There is no change seen nor expected in the positions taken by the US and China on the issue. Similarly looking into the contemporary geo-political environment and diplomatic channels, there is no chance of a consensus emerging on the subject too.

Cause of Controversy

Actually India and Pakistan both are not Party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which constitutes an important consideration for membership to the NSG. It is one of the obligation under the NSG guidelines (although not legal) to be part of the Treaty first for being eligible to nuclear commerce. There are certain other controversial pointers too including signing of CTBT, separation of civil and military installations etc. Nevertheless, up till now, no consensus could be build-up and the decision remained pending from more than a year now.

Upshots in case of unfair decision

The stubborn efforts of the United States to manage nuclear trade with India and make it a permanent member of the NSG will undoubtedly diminish Pakistan’s place in the nonproliferation regime. Likewise, Pakistan’s probability to enter into the nuclear mainstream or at a recognized nuclear stature will be closed permanently if only India got induced into the regime leaving Pakistan behind. Conversely, Pakistan could also be viewed as a prospective candidate for the nuclear trade’s permanent member on its own merits, better than equivalent to India.

An Adjustable Criteria

The criteria as was advocated in the Grossi’s proposal would not work anymore as it was not able to break the logjam in the process of NSG membership process. It was so, because it has nothing new to oblige India for any additional non-proliferation commitments. The only requirement of the hour is for the international community to develop a criteria or case on multilateral basis, with due considerations of strategic interests of all the parties involved with the goal of balancing them. It will ultimately aimed at strengthening the non-proliferation regime. In doing so, the rigidity on the stance of signing of the NPT as a pre-requisite needs to be compromised, if eager to bring-in new states into the NSG club. For the reason, the international community is well aware of the stone streaked fact that India will never sign the NPT eventually Pakistan will not, too. Accordingly, a little flexibility is needed to bring in the criteria set-in for inclusion of these states. Similarly, both states could be called to adopt a unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, a declared separation plan of military and civil installations, a prerequisite commitment of bringing in all the civil facilities (currently operating and future facilities) under the IAEA safeguards agreement, and the adoption of an IAEA’s additional protocol.

As the NSG guidelines are not legal and welcome revisions, it can be altered and adjusted on favorable terms by mutual consensus. As for now, the stalemate needs to break down otherwise the outcome of this forthcoming meeting would also be nothing as the results of previous meetings and plenaries was a failure. Today, the NSG politics has gone beyond energy and economic gains and is perceived a medium to enhance the outlook and power status of a state.

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Beenish Altaf

Beenish Altaf is working as a Research Associate at the Strategic Vision Institute, an Islamabad based think tank. Her areas of research are nuclear non-proliferation and strategic issues of South Asia. She has a masters degree in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University.

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