Pakistan’s permanent representative at the UN Maleeha Lodhi, speaking at the UN Disarmament Commission, rightly pointed out that the achievement of the objectives of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation have remained elusive because some of the nuclear states had failed to fulfill their legal obligations in this regard. Another element hindering that process was the grant of discriminatory waivers to some which represented double standards and enhanced the risk of diversion of materials intended for peaceful uses to military purposes.
She obviously was referring to the transfer of civil nuclear technology between India and Pakistan and the NSG waiver granted to India and the efforts being made to secure NSG membership for the latter in complete disregard to the articles of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and the NSG guidelines which prohibit membership of the prestigious Nuclear Suppliers Group to non-signatory states to NPT. She was right on money with regards to the diversion of materials intended for peaceful uses to military purposes.
Some international agencies have come up with reports recently that India after the NSG waiver has indeed expanded its nuclear arsenal. US senator Markey in a US Senate hearing said, “Since 2008 when we also gave them exemption, India has continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme virtually un-checked. At that time Pakistan warned us that the deal would increase the chances of the nuclear arms race in South Asia.”
It is pertinent to point out that even at the time of granting a waiver to India some members of NSG some countries did express concern about India expanding its nuclear arsenal by diverting the fissile materials for production of nuclear weapons. These concerns still persist. Pakistan has all along been advocating making South Asia free of nuclear weapons and missiles, without any positive response, and her proposals in this regard are pending at the UN. In regards to the membership of NSG Pakistan has maintained a principled position for a criteria based and non-discriminatory approach.
Notwithstanding the efforts of US and its western allies to have India admitted to the NSG, the latter was not given the nod by the plenary session of the group held in Vienna in November 2016. For any nuclear nation to become member of NSG, signing of NPT is a basic condition and the decisions in regards to admittance of a new member and change in the guidelines of NSG are taken through consensus. Indian bid failed because China stuck to its already stated position on the issue and seven other members including Switzerland, Mexico, Brazil, Turkey, South Africa, New Zealand and Austria insisted on adoption of a criteria-based approach in view of the fact that besides India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of NSG. Turkey pushed for clubbing together the applications of both India and Pakistan. It is interesting to note that Brazil which is a member of BRICS also did not support the Indian effort. The rejection of the Indian bid in a way was a vindication of Pakistan’s stance on the issue.
Maleeha Lodhi also elaborated on Pakistan’s position on FMCT and its misgivings regarding the accord envisaged presently. The US has been pressurising Pakistan to withdraw its opposition to FMCT without addressing its legitimate security concerns. The issue still remains unresolved and even the process to negotiate has not taken off the ground. The sticking point is that while the US, UK and Japan favour a treaty which limits future production of fissile materials, other states including Pakistan believe that the treaty should also address fissile materials already produced and stockpiled. Pakistan holds the view, and rightly so, that a fissile material treaty which does not address existing stockpiles will “freeze existing asymmetries” that threaten its security and therefore is unacceptable. This undoubtedly is a manifestation of its concern regarding regional rival India which possesses much larger stockpiles of fissile material. It maintained the same principled position in the first committee meeting of the CD in 2009 and 2010 as a result of which a deadlock still persists. Islamabad’s position is likely to prolong a 14-year stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United Nations which operates on a consensus basis The US, Japan and Australia and several other countries have announced that they would support moving negotiations for a fissile material treaty to another forum if the deadlock in the CD continued.
The refusal by Pakistan to succumb to these unreasonable demands by US and its allies in the face of their discriminatory approach to the nuclear issue and disregard to its security concerns is absolutely right and justified. Pakistan believes in the non-proliferation of nuclear arsenal and has been supporting the objectives of the NPT even though it has not signed the Treaty for justifiable reasons.
The US and the western powers need to understand Pakistan’s position with regard to its nuclear programme in its proper context. They must focus their efforts on keeping South Asia free of nuclear weapons and missiles as has been repeatedly emphasized by Pakistan over the years if they are really interested in promoting the cause of disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Their discriminatory approach on the nuclear issue would neither help the cause of NPT nor would be able to dissuade Pakistan from pursuing its paradigm of minimum nuclear deterrent.
The only practicable solution to discourage nuclear proliferation in South Asia and promoting the cause of disarmament lies in addressing the causes that prompted Pakistan to take up the nuclear option. Pakistan went nuclear in response to India’s nuclear programme that posed a serious threat to her security, and ever since has been trying to promote peace by maintaining minimum nuclear deterrent. South Asia undoubtedly has become a nuclear flash point as a result of the Kashmir dispute between the two neighbours. To avoid a catastrophe there is an immediate need for the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir. The non-resolution of the Kashmir issue not only poses a threat to regional peace and security but is also a potent threat to global peace.
Instead of coercing Pakistan to abandon its nuclear programme and retract from its position on the FMCT, the US and its allies must make efforts for the resolution of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan in conformity with the spirit of the UN resolutions. Once the Kashmir issue is resolved and relations with India are normalised and India signs the NPT, Pakistan surely would have no hesitation in signing the NPT and removing its objections to initiation of dialogue on FMCT. One-sided pressure tactics and arm-twisting are not going to produce the desired results. Pakistan is a sovereign and self-respecting country and would never ever take dictation from any one in regards to its security.