ISLAMABAD - Speakers of an international seminar held here on Tuesday unanimously presented Pakistan’s strong credentials to urge the international community to support the country’s NSG membership case.

The daylong seminar on “NSG Membership of Non-NPT States: Opportunities and Challenges” organised by the Anquan Group, UK, East West Stability Studies (EWSS/Denmark) and Pakistan House aimed at generating a debate over the fact that awarding NSG membership to both Pakistan and India will positively impact peace and stability in South Asia.

The dignitaries of the seminar included Ambassador (Retd) Zamir Akram,  Khalid Banuri, former DG Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs (ACDA), James Browning, Founder and Director – Anquan group Ltd, Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema President/Executive Director (SVI), and  Khalil-ur-Rehman Hashmi Director General (Disarmnt-P).

Evaluating the case of NSG membership for Pakistan and India, Ambassador (Retd) Zamir Akram stated that Pakistan’s policies vis-a-vis the non-proliferation regime will be influenced by the India’s case for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership for obvious security reasons.

The tenacious efforts of the United States to conduct nuclear trade with India and make it a member of the NSG will reduce Pakistan’s space in the non-proliferation regime and it is highly probable that the doors for Pakistan’s nuclear mainstreaming will close permanently if India alone becomes a member of the non-proliferation regime before Pakistan.

However, there is also a case for viewing Pakistan as a prospective member of the NSG on its own merit if the international criteria is developed multilaterally, with due consideration of the strategic interests of all parties and the goal of balancing them with the possibility of strengthening the non-proliferation regime.

It is ironic that India applied for the membership of NSG, which was formed because of India’s nuclear proliferation. Khalid Banuri gave a brief overview of NSG membership debate. He stressed that NSG’s politicisation harms its purpose and effectiveness.

He stated that the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of two sets of guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear-related exports.

He further added that from 20th -24th June 2017, the 26th NSG Plenary session was held in Seoul, Republic of Korea. A public statement was released during the meeting where a deadlock occurred over Indian NSG bid.

He stressed that Pakistan has the requisite credentials that entitle it to become member of all multi-lateral strategic export control regimes, including the NSG. Moreover, Pakistan has the expertise, manpower, infrastructure, as well as the ability to supply NSG controlled items, goods and services for a full range of nuclear applications for peaceful uses. 

He suggested that creating a country-specific exception for NSG membership would adversely impact international non-proliferation efforts besides accentuating volatility in South Asia and fuelling an arms race.

This will have the potential to render the NSG as irrelevant to the detriments of non-proliferation norms. Hence, incorporating new members like India and Pakistan simultaneously in the NSG would be a positive move for global non-proliferation efforts.

James Browning stated that implications of India getting NSG membership include expansion of its nuclear programme due to the nuclear trade; the three aspects of Indian nuclear facilities (safeguarded civilian, unsafeguarded military and unsafeguarded civilian facilities) are contradictor to the NSG guidelines of 2011 and reactive grade plutonium outside safeguards to be used for making weapons.

As part of the India-US nuclear cooperation, India was obliged to provide a date by which India would stop production of nuclear weapons which has not been the case so far.

Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said that Pakistan and India should be formally accepted as Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and the criteria for inclusion of India and Pakistan must be based upon this rationale. He suggested that Pakistan has the requisite credentials that entitle it to become member of all multi-lateral strategic export control regimes, including the NSG.

The chief guest of the final session stated that Pakistan is one of the few states in the world to operate a complete nuclear fuel cycle. It is benefiting from several applications of nuclear technology which include agriculture, medicine, environment protection, power production, etc.

Pakistan is party to several international non-proliferation and disarmament related treaties. It has a robust and comprehensive export control regime and has an independent and autonomous regulatory body.

Pakistan cooperates internationally with IAEA, CERN and SESAME with regard to exploring the peaceful application of nuclear technology. While the pathway to membership is technical and Pakistan has to be seen as fulfilling the criteria, nevertheless, NSG’s decision would have political basis.

Khalil-ur-Rehman Hashmi suggested that the NSG cannot function in isolation, and it cannot be a political club. He stressed that in a globalised environment in which nuclear goods may be produced or transacted anywhere in the world, the NSG must reach out.

Nevertheless, a criteria-based and non-discriminatory approach with regard to non-NPT states must be adopted if the NSG is to remain effective and credible. He concluded that PGs must support Pakistan’s inclusion into NSG as its inclusion into this cartel will strengthen the non-proliferation regime.

Pakistan advocates a non-discriminatory approach, while India advances its case on the basis of the NSG waiver of 2008. The NSG has, therefore, an important responsibility to navigate this issue in a manner that strengthens non-proliferation norms, rules and legality. There have been valid concerns in Pakistan and elsewhere over the potential for India-alone membership, which many believe would only accentuate strategic instability and an arms race in the region.