The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), instead of preventing nuclear proliferation, might unfortunately be doing the opposite. It has encouraged non-nuclear states to opt for nuclear weapons programmes due to the violation of the treaty by its proponents. The civil nuclear technology agreement between US and India and the push to have India admitted to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are the recent examples of the breach of the treaty.

It is pertinent to point out that for any nuclear state to become a 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. However, the USA, since signing of an agreement with India on the transfer of civil nuclear technology in 2008, has been desperately trying to have India admitted to the NSG and even managed a waiver for her. Emulating USA, France and UK also signed civil nuclear deals with India.

At the time of giving waiver to India, some members of NSG did express concern about India expanding its nuclear arsenal by diverting the fissile materials for production of nuclear weapons. These concerns still persist. 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 senate hearing, lamented that after US gave it exemption, India had continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme and increased risk of a nuclear arms race in South Asia, as Pakistan had warned that it would.

Pakistan rightly felt concerned about these developments and ever since the signing of nuclear civil technology deal between US and India, it has been striving hard to convince the US and the international community about its credentials to deserve membership of the group and the adoption of a non-discriminatory approach in regards to giving membership of NSG to the non-NPT states. While US has all along stood for Indian membership of NSG, it has not adopted a similar approach towards Pakistan. However, notwithstanding the efforts of US and its western allies to have India admitted to the prestigious nuclear club, the latter failed to get a nod from the last plenary session of NSG held in Vienna, as a number of countries including China insisted on a criteria based approach in view of the fact that besides India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of the group. The rejection of the Indian bid in a way was a vindication of Pakistan’s stance on the issue.

NSG seeks to further the objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, through regulatory guidelines in regards to the export of nuclear materials, nuclear reactors, non-nuclear material for reactors, plant and equipment for reprocessing, enrichment and technologies covering these items. The NSG guidelines also govern export of nuclear-related dual use items and technologies which could make a substantial contribution to an un-safeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity. The need for these regulatory guidelines stems from the recognition of the need for international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field for peaceful purposes, as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and NSG guidelines on the subject. The overall aim of these guidelines is to ensure that nuclear exports are carried out with appropriate safeguards, physical protection, and non-proliferation conditions, and other appropriate restraints.

Though Pakistan is not a signatory to NPT, it has all along supported nuclear non-proliferation and abided by the parameters spelt out by it and different international treaties. Therefore, joining the NSG would tantamount to global recognition of those efforts. But the question is, has Pakistan done enough to deserve membership of NSG? For this, one has to look at the measures taken by Pakistan to deserve membership of the group and the criteria laid down by NSG in this regard.

At the third Nuclear Security Summit at Hague in March 2014, the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif made a forceful case for Pakistan’s inclusion in the NSG. He staked his claim for the membership of the group and other international control regimes by declaring that Pakistan had been running a safe and secure civil nuclear programme for the last 40 years and attached highest importance to nuclear security. It had the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy and has pursued a policy of restraint as well as credible minimum deterrence. Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is supported by five pillars—a strong command and control system, an integrated intelligence system, rigorous regulatory regime and active international cooperation. The security regime covers physical protection, material control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies. Pakistan, he said, also has been regularly submitting reports to the UN Security Council 1540 committee on the measures that the country has put in place to exercise control over transfer of sensitive materials and technologies. That is exactly in line with the criteria for admitting new members to the NSG, which stipulates that an aspiring country should have the ability to supply nuclear items covered in the NSG guidelines; should have a proven record of adherence to those guidelines taking necessary actions in that regard; must have enforced legally based domestic export control system; should have complied with obligations under NPT and other treaties; supported international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. Pakistan, as is evident surely qualifies for membership of NSG.

Any discriminatory treatment towards Pakistan in regards to membership of NSG is likely to push Pakistan for ‘full nuclear deterrence’ viz-a-viz India which will deal a big blow to the efforts of the international community to promote the cause of non-proliferation. As against this, simultaneous inclusion of Pakistan and India in the NSG will not only establish the principle of non-discrimination but would also add to the strength of NSG in furthering the objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and well controlled export of nuclear materials for promoting international nuclear trade cooperation. Pakistan, being a member of the NSG, would be in a better position to contribute to firming up and refining the regulatory guidelines and safeguarding its interests. It would also allow Pakistan to export nuclear materials to other countries under the gaze of global community in a legitimate manner with all the accompanying economic benefits, as well as reinforcing its credentials as a useful member of the global community.

Adoption of policies subservient to expediencies and vested interests in regards to implementation of NPT and grant of NSG membership would scuttle the efforts to check proliferation of nuclear weapons and other related causes. It is hoped that the members of NSG, US and its allies will keep all the foregoing variables into consideration and give adequate and well deserved attention to the security concerns of Pakistan while deciding the fate of the request of both the countries.

India had continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme and increased risk of a nuclear arms race in South Asia. In contrast, Pakistan has obliged with all obligations under NPT and if any country qualifies for NSG membership, it’s her.