It is indeed hard to take issue with the statement of Advisor on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz that the Indo-US nuclear deal and US attempts to have India included in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) would impact stability in South Asia besides further undermining the credibility of NSG and the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The US initiative is not only discriminatory in nature but also constitutes a serious breach of the objectives of NPT and obligations of the signatory states under it, as well as the guidelines drawn up by the NSG to support those objectives.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comprising 11 Articles, basically has three components or pillars: non-proliferation, disarmament and the right of the non-nuclear states to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. In the domain of nuclear non-proliferation, the Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) have undertaken not to transfer to any recipient nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and not to assist a non-nuclear weapon state to manufacture or acquire such weapons. The non-nuclear states have pledged not to receive nuclear weapons and other explosive devices from any source or accept assistance for the manufacture of such weapons or devices. With regards to disarmament, the signatories to the treaty have affirmed the desire to ease international tensions and strengthen international trust so as to create some day, the conditions for a halt to the production of nuclear weapons and a treaty in general for a complete disarmament that liquidates, in particular, nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles from national arsenals. The third pillar of NPT recognizes the right of the non-nuclear states party to the NPT, 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.

NSG seeks to further the objectives of NPT through regulatory guidelines in regards to the export of nuclear materials, nuclear reactors, non-nuclear materials 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 NPT 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.

India being a non-signatory to the NPT does not qualify for transfer of nuclear material from the NSG even for peaceful purposes or becoming the member of the NSG. Pakistan’s concern about the deal also stems from the fact that the commercially popular nuclear light water reactor power stations use enriched 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. India has agreed to accept IAEA supervision for only 14 nuclear reactors out of 22. Pakistan views it as a discriminatory act and has a considered opinion that India would utilize this to enhance its nuclear capability which might lead to a nuclear arms race in the region. The violation of NPT and NSG objectives by the Nuclear Weapon states like the US and their discriminatory treatment in this regard, adequately explains why the NPT has failed to achieve its objectives and why the dream for a nuclear free world remains as elusive as ever.

Mr. Aziz was right in asking the US to play a constructive role for strategic stability and balance in South Asia. Pakistan also has a very strong case for becoming a member of the NSG if the same principle is employed as has been done in the case of India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addressing the Nuclear Security summit at Hague on 24-25 March 23014 made a very strong case for inclusion of Pakistan in the NSG and later in the year addressing the UN General Assembly, he again forcefully staked Pakistan’s claim in this regard.

Pakistan has been running a safe and secure civil nuclear programme for the last 40 years and has attached the highest importance to nuclear security. It has the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy. It has pursued a policy of restraint as well as credible minimum deterrence and its nuclear security is supported by five pillars which are: a strong command and control system, an integrated intelligence system, rigorous regulatory regime and international cooperation. The security regime covers physical protection, material control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies. Pakistan also has been regularly submitting reports to the UN Security Council 1540 committee on the measures that it has put in place to exercise control over transfer of sensitive materials and technologies. An incisive look at these measures reveals that they are very much in harmony with the NSG requirements and the objectives of the nuclear security and do qualify Pakistan for a place in the NSG and other international regulatory regimes on the export of nuclear materials. Pakistan and India are nuclear states already, though outside the pale of NPT due to their declared positions on the issue. Therefore they must be treated alike in matters related to export and import of nuclear materials and in regards to securing membership of the NSG.

Both Pakistan and NSG would benefit from the move as it would add to the strength of the organization in furthering the objectives of nuclear non-proliferation, well controlled export of nuclear materials for promoting international nuclear trade and cooperation. Pakistan being a member of the NSG would be in a better position to contribute to the firming up and refining the regulatory guidelines and safeguarding its interests. The membership of NSG would also allow Pakistan to export nuclear materials and technologies to other countries under the gaze of the global community in a legitimate manner with all the accompanying economic benefits as well as reinforcing its image as a useful member of the global community. The acceptance of Pakistan in the fold of NSG is tantamount to formal global recognition of its nuclear status and endorsement of its credentials as a responsible nuclear country, which it rightly deserves.