India stalling non-proliferation efforts in South Asia

The South Asian region is a crucial zone for the global initiative of nonproliferation to curb the dangers of weapons of mass destruction. South Asia is the most sensitive region in this regard when the threat is underlined by the persistent tensions between India and Pakistan related to the Kashmir issue. The main impediment to a regional approach to validate nuclear nonproliferation efforts in South Asia is India’s fastest growing nuclear programme. India’s approach toward nuclear nonproliferation is primarily influenced by its aspiration to become a regional and global power by using the model of military power projection.

Pakistan on several occasions offered India various bilateral proposals to show restraint in the development or acquisition of nuclear weapons to strengthen the global nonproliferation efforts by adopting a regional approach. However, India has always refused to sign any deal with Pakistan related to disarmament or nonproliferation. Instead, the great powers, especially the United States, has provided substantial assistance to India to expand its nuclear forces. Claire Mills has highlighted this fact in her recently published research paper, “Nuclear weapons at a glance: India and Pakistan,” for UK House and Commons Library. She concluded that “India is now receiving the benefits of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty (NPT) without assuming any of the NPT’s obligations, a situation widely seen as damaging the NPT.”

As a responsible nuclear weapons state, Pakistan has always stressed the importance of resolving nonproliferation issues through dialogue and negotiations. Strengthening the international nuclear non-proliferation regime is the primary objective of Pakistan’s nuclear establishment. In lieu of this Islamabad has proposed many arrangements related to strategic restraint regime, conventional balance, conflict resolution and nuclear weapons free zones. Nevertheless, New Delhi has rejected all these proposals and always tried to threaten regional stability by nuclear and conventional build-up. There is a list of occasions when Pakistan offered restraint solutions to India concerning nonproliferation and containing the dangers of nuclear war.

Pakistan offered India in 1974 to establish a nuclear weapons free zone in South Asia. In 1978, Pakistan tried to explore a joint Indo-Pak declaration renouncing the acquisition and manufacture of nuclear weapons but India rejected the proposal. In 1979, Pakistan also recommended India to adhere to mutual inspections of nuclear facilities, simultaneous adherence to the NPT and simultaneous acceptance of full-scope IAEA safeguards. Before the overt nuclearization of South Asia, Pakistan also extended its offer of agreements related to regional nuclear test ban treaty; commencement of a multilateral conference on the nuclear proliferation in South Asia; and creation of a missile-free zone in South Asia. India’s adverse response to these proposals ultimately forced Pakistan to acquire nuclear weapon capability to ensure self-reliance in ultimate strategic defence.

Undoubtedly, India has promoted the nuclear arms competition in South Asia and Pakistan displayed an utmost restraint to avoid nuclear dangers in the region. Even after acquiring the operational nuclear weapon capability in 1998, Pakistan proposed a strategic restraint regime to India which was intended to guarantee a nuclear restraint while creating a conventional balance between two countries. In 2004, Pakistan expressed its desire for a joint agreement to reduce the threat of nuclear war and a missile race. A prohibition on development of missile defense systems and restraint in deployment of nuclear weapons and missiles was proposed by Pakistan in 2006. A similar kind of Strategic Nuclear Restraint Regime (SNRR) pertaining to missile restraint, peaceful resolution of conflict and conventional balance, was rejected by India in 2011. Most recently, to encourage restraint and responsibility in South Asia, Pakistan has offered India a bilateral arrangement on non-testing of nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, the above mentioned proposals were completely rejected by India without assessing their utility regarding nonproliferation and disarmament affairs. If India had responded positively to these prepositions, it would have decreased the dangers of a nuclear arms race in the region. In comparison to India, Pakistan has no offensive military posture or hegemonic strategy and its nuclear programme is for solely defence purposes. The Indian hostile postures and aggressive strategies have destabilized strategic deterrence. Pakistan has always rejected an unabated nuclear arms race in the region while preserving a strategic balance. The strategic and political scenario of South Asia would have been extremely peaceful today if India had listened to Pakistan’s proposals regarding nonproliferation and disarmament.

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