Nuclear Suppliers Group and its November agenda

By Beenish Altaf

With the impending of the month of November, the group of haughty countries is once again ready to exert their energies for behaving biasedly.  The meeting of special group of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is expected in mid November 2018. This is an already scheduled activity of the group members for setting up an agenda and aiding to the matters of the June’s NSG Plenary meeting. The induction of non-NPT states would be on the agenda once again.

Besides, several other dynamics could be weighed out in this regard including the criteria issue, the evolving global nuclear order, the south Asian strategic stability; the regional strategic environment all would have an impact on the South Asia’s nuclear future mainly. Along with this the P-5 state’s guarding behavior and the global nonproliferation norms would also be questioned directly.

Admittedly, the recent Indian government of Narendra Modi has stepped-up efforts on its diplomatic fronts since the June 2018 NSG plenary meeting in Seoul, South Korea. It is working hard to secure its entry to the cartel of nuclear trade. Several bilateral meetings and interactions at senior level have been reported to be on record in this regard, which includes meetings and interaction with China at senior levels.

It has been reported that Indian senior officials tried to convince Chinese officials for revisiting their stance on Indian membership bid. They held threadbare discussions in an attempt to narrow down differences over India’s aspirations to become an NSG member. However, analytically the situation is not much changed as by large the Chinese position over India NSG bid is the same, criteria based approached.

On the other hand, Pakistan while submitting its application for the NSG membership outlined its credentials such as harmonization of its export control lists with those of the international export control regimes, its efforts to ensure nuclear security and safety, and its adherence to NSG guidelines. Likewise, Pakistan’s Ambassador at Vienna said “seeking participation in the export control reflects Pakistan’s strong support for international efforts to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.”

The nuclear politics of 21stcentury is kept in an ambiguous state, deliberately. The induction of more members especially the states that are not party to the NPT in to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) realm is believed to be the most notable concern of today. The utmost controversial but of vital importance is the membership quest of India and Pakistan in the NSG. It is an open surreptitious that the Indian nuclear explosion of 1974 was the cause of NSG formation but it would be more surprising to notify here the revised NSG’s guidelines of 2013 hitherto did not mentioned India directly as its basis. This reveals that the membership goal is more of a political game rather than a need based initiative.

The next, special group meeting of the NSG is likely to be held in the coming two days but paradoxically narrating the chances of any breakthrough on India’s entry into the elite group still look slim. Since the revised NSG’s provisions talk about the criteria-based principles based on the unanimous consensus between the members, in the upcoming meeting, it would be challenging how the NSG could induct non-NPT states particularly possessing nuclear weapons into the NSG.

There are certain criteria that could be followed, for instance, the NSG could follow its principles and allow only non-NPT states to become part of the NPT as non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) before they join the NSG respectively. However, this strict criterion may not be acceptable to India and/or Pakistan which are nuclear weapons states. They have never joined the NPT rather these states would like to be recognized; obtaining a formal nuclear legitimacy like the P-5 major nuclear weapons states before they could become part of the NPT.

The other option is that NSG could relax the conditions through mutual consensus that are acceptable for both India and Pakistan as the non-NPT members allowing both India and Pakistan simultaneously into the NSG, enjoying the similar rights for peaceful uses of nuclear technology under the IAEA’s comprehensive safeguards without compromising on their nuclear weapons status. Conversely, creating exceptions for one state against the interest of another could jeopardise the credibility of the NSG in general and affect the strategic stability of South Asia in particular. Let’s examine what the authorities conclude by the end of this week.

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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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