While the Indian arms race is not new in the region, so are the Modi’s diplomatic turns. Indian Prime Minister Modi carried out high profile visit to USA recently which ostensibly is its plea to be part of Nuclear Suppliers Group or NSG. Compelling Pakistan to go nuclear in 1998, India carried out its nuclear tests first, thus disturbing equilibrium in the South Asian region. And now this new quest of India to be part of NSG is definitely alarming for Pakistan as its case is robust than India and deserves equal status to maintain strategic stability between two nuclear neighbours.
NSG is most heated debate India and Pakistan nowadays. NSG was created consequent to India’s first nuclear test in 1974. Nuclear Suppliers Group is a 48-nation body which was established in 1975, to ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes. NSG is an informal agreement between participating governments which has no legal binding and its guidelines are reliable and balance various international legally binding instruments in the field of nuclear non-proliferation. NSG pursues to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons through implementation of two sets of guidelines for non-nuclear and nuclear related exports. The aim of NSG guidelines is to ensure that nuclear trade for peaceful purposes does not contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and that international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field is not hindered unjustly in the process. NSG requires acceptance of IAEA safeguards on all their current and future nuclear activities; thus ensuring that only NPT parties and other states with full scope safeguards agreements benefit from nuclear transfers.
For the NSG hunt by India it is necessary to understand current global nuclear environment. Climate change and dearth of fossil fuels has prompted an increased focus to nuclear energy. Globally, nuclear proliferation remains a major concern due to likely spread of nuclear race in different regions. However, commercial interest and power politics are more dominant than the broader nuclear proliferation agenda. The increasing shift to geo-economics and emergence of new global power centres is challenging the unipolar world order and affecting nuclear proliferation regimes. To counter Sino-Russian influence and to reap economic benefits presented by India, US is focusing its rebalance to Asia Pacific policy and is projecting India as regional power.
NSG waiver is also a step in the same direction while boosting Indian hi-tech industry. The emerging South Asian nuclear landscape can be better understood if viewed from the prisms of US-Russia-China, US-China-India, and China-India-Pakistan correlations while providing reasons for preferential US leaning towards India. It would also be important to mention that India’s nuclear programme was developed as matter of national prestige while for Pakistan, the nuclear programme was the result of an essential security compulsion.
India was given a special nuclear waiver on intense US pressures in 2008, allowing purchase and sell of nuclear technology to and from USA. India developed its nuclear programme swiftly under this Indo-US deal and it was observed that India increased its fissile stockpile under the veil of this special waiver by NSG.
Similarly, India intended to have nuclear material which was mostly used for military purposes and was against Pakistan and China to initiate nuclear arms race with them in South Asian region. India is now bidding for NSG membership. On the global canvas if India is granted NSG membership then, acceptance of India into the circle of recognised nuclear weapon states would prove that instead of recognised framework, western countries are increasingly deciding between good and bad proliferation thereby undermining NPT and challenging basic concept of NSG. Secondly, non-proliferation commitments accepted by India for initial waiver in 2008 may ensure that nuclear material and equipment imported by India, is not used for weapons production. However, this would provide India the flexibility to divert indigenous material available for weapons production which therefore will impact on global security. Thirdly, this NSG waiver for India diminishes the non-nuclear weapons states’ incentive to remain bounded to NPT. Therefore, following the Indian example, if the non-nuclear weapons states withdraw from NPT then it will have a force effect and there will be many new nuclear states emerging in the coming years.
Pakistan has constantly raised its voice at different international forums against the discrimination and the aftermaths in the region if India is given NSG membership. China and other countries are supportive to Pakistan to veto the NSG membership to India. Pakistan has much stronger position than India in safeguarding its nuclear assets as not even a single incident of nuclear mishap is recorded, nor it misused the nuclear supplies given to it for peaceful purposes and neither there is a case of theft of fissile material in Pakistan.
Special Adviser on Foreign Affairs in a recent statement said that Pakistan had rejected Indian hegemony in the region and has effectively protected its interests and its stance over Kashmir, nuclear deterrence and conventional balance. For upcoming NSG membership in Seoul, where bid for India and Pakistan case will be raised Pakistan is very hopeful and optimistic that its case is more convincing than India, whereas USA has called on the participating governments of the NSG to support India's application. Pakistan is sure of its plenary support by China, Russia, New Zealand and South Korea. Recent statements by Indian officials show that they are feared from Pakistan’s entry into NSG as they consider Pakistan a hurdle into their regional hegemonic designs.
Pakistan is sure that its long lasting friendship with China will help its plea for NSG, as China urges to give an equal status and criteria of selection for any country. Pakistan’s long standing with NSG and its commitment towards global non-proliferation regime are strong points in its favour. If Pakistan is given NSG membership, it will definitely strengthen its case of liable and responsible nuclear country. Pakistan will be able to contribute in lieu of international safeguards and will therefore promote nuclear technology for peaceful purposes without disturbing strategic stability in the region.
The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, an Islamabad based think tank.