The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comprising 11 articles has basically three components: Non-proliferation, disarmament and the right of non-nuclear states to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In the domain of nuclear non-proliferation, the nuclear weapons states agreed not to transfer nuclear weapons or other explosive devices to any recipient; and not to assist a non-nuclear weapon state to manufacture or acquire such weapons. Also, the non-nuclear states pledged not to receive nuclear weapons and other explosive devices from any source or accept assistance for their manufacture.
In regards to disarmament process, the signatories to the treaty affirmed their desire to ease international tensions and strengthen trust to stop the production of nuclear weapons and formalise a treaty for a complete disarmament that liquidates, in particular, nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles from the national arsenals.
The third component of NPT recognises the right of the non-nuclear states to the acquisition of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes under the incisive glare of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), provided they can prove verifiably that they are not engaged in developing nuclear weapons.
Ostensibly, NPT’s objectives are beyond any reproach. But the reality is that during the 42 years of its existence, the treaty has failed to stop nuclear proliferation or in evolving a credible mechanism for disarmament. According to the former IAEA Chief, there are about 35 to 40 states that possess the knowledge to develop nuclear weapons, in addition to 13 others that have installed facilities for the enrichment of weapon grade uranium. Israel, for example, is an undeclared nuclear power. While North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Libya have been pursuing their nuclear weapons programmes; but South Africa and Libya have abandoned it under international pressure. India and Pakistan - the two countries that have not signed the treaty - have also become nuclear weapon states.
The failure of NPT to prevent nuclear proliferation and achieve its objective of disarmament is mainly attributable to the breach of the treaty provisions by the nuclear weapons states and some inadequacies in the treaty itself. The nuclear weapons states under the treaty committed not to provide nuclear technology or weapons to any other state or use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state. But in violation of this commitment the US, which has been crying hoarse from every convenient rooftop to urge the non-signatory states to join NPT, has provided nearly 180 B61 nuclear bombs to Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Turkey.
The US also targeted its nuclear warheads at North Korea, a non-nuclear weapons states from 1959 until 1991. Britain’s former Secretary of Defence Geoff Hoon explicitly invoked the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons in response to a “non-conventional attack by rogue states.” In January 2006, President Jacques Chirac of France indicated that an incident of state-sponsored terrorism on France could trigger a small-scale nuclear retaliation aimed at destroying the rogue state’s power centres.
The failure of nuclear weapons states to bring about a major reduction in their nuclear arsenal, to halt nuclear weapons production and the inability to hammer out a treaty on general and complete disarmament and their reluctance to agree on a complete disarmament within a prescribed timeframe has also contributed to lack of progress in this regard. This has angered many non-nuclear states and also provided justification to many of them to develop nuclear programmes of their own.
The dilemma with NPT’s third component is that the commercially popular light water reactor nuclear power station uses uranium fuel, which either has to be enriched by those countries themselves or purchased from the international market. The countries concerned can easily switch to nuclear weapons programme if they so desire, leading to the spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. That, perhaps, explains why in 2004 the US declared the prevention of further spread of uranium enrichment and plutonium as a major pillar of its non-proliferation policy and why it has been pressurising a number of countries, including Pakistan, to sign the Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT).
But 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 that 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 the existing stockpiles will “freeze existing asymmetries” that threaten its security and, therefore, is unacceptable. This, undoubtedly, is a manifestation of its concern about regional rival India, who possesses much larger stockpiles of fissile material.
It maintained the same principled position in the first committee meeting of the Conference on Disarmament (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 CD, the UN body that 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 apprehensions expressed by Pakistan have proved true. The US has violated the NPT by entering into an agreement with India - a non-signatory state to NPT- for the transfer of civilian nuclear technology to prop it as a counterbalance to China and also to exploit its lucrative market. The UK and France have also followed suit. India has agreed to accept the IAEA supervision for only 14 nuclear reactors out of 22. Pakistan views it as a discriminatory act and has a considered opinion that India will utilise this to enhance its nuclear capability and that might lead to a nuclear arms race in the region.
In view of the foregoing facts, no person in his right mind can believe that the NPT will achieve its objectives in the foreseeable future, unless the nuclear weapons states abandon their discriminatory and self-serving policies and learn to abide by their international commitment. Till then, the idea of a nuclear free world will remain an elusive dream!

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.