Tuesday March 21, 2023

Continuing discrimination against Pakistan

By our correspondents
December 06, 2015
Part - I
According to recent media reports, Indian officials are optimistic about India’s inclusion in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) following the recent visit of the NSG chairman to Delhi. If India is indeed accepted into the NSG, despite objections by numerous states, it will be due to the pressure exerted on these countries by the US which has openly supported and actively pursued India’s NSG membership for the past several years.
Meanwhile, by comparison, the US has not only denied equal treatment to Pakistan with regard to membership in the NSG but has strenuously pursued a multi-pronged approach to compel Pakistan to cap its nuclear and missile programmes. The most recent instance of this policy was in the build-up to the prime minister’s visit to Washington in October 2015; according to press reports, it almost derailed this visit.
This is only the latest instance of American discrimination against Pakistan in the nuclear realm which ironically started after the first Indian nuclear test in 1974. A range of Congressional legislative measures such as the Symington, Glenn and Presseler amendments, were adopted at the time with the aim of preventing Pakistan from acquiring a nuclear deterrent capability against India. It is also ironic that the NSG, which was created to regulate nuclear commerce following the 1974 Indian nuclear test, is now being asked to admit the original culprit of nuclear proliferation in South Asia.
American advocacy of India’s membership in the NSG is a prime example of hypocrisy and double standards. After India and Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998, both countries were sanctioned by the US. Washington also led the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution which intra alia banned any nuclear cooperation with the two countries. However, by 2006, the American strategic imperative of containing a rising China changed the dynamics of Indo-US relations since India was now required as a counterweight to China.

In the emerging Indo-US strategic partnership, the Indian price for cooperation was its acceptance into the international nuclear mainstream with opportunities for international civilian nuclear cooperation. As a result, Washington, in a cynical exercise of opportunism, reversed its own legislation regarding nuclear cooperation with a proliferating country, ignored its obligations under the UN Security Council resolution and, most importantly, violated its commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), especially relating to the inadmissibility of nuclear cooperation with a non-member of the NPT such as India.
As a part of the Indo-US Strategic Partnership agreement, Washington has not only ensured a waiver for India to engage in nuclear cooperation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but has also been pushing for its membership into the NSG and other cartels such as the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australia Group. The US knows that the NSG operates on the basis of consensus votes, and if India joins the NSG it will always oppose Pakistan’s membership in the future.
The justification for this volte-face offered by the Bush administration at the time, and subsequently endorsed by the Obama administration, is India’s so-called impeccable non-proliferation record and responsible behaviour. Such blatant distortion of reality cannot hide the fact that India carried out nuclear tests in 1974 and again in 1998 thereby leading to nuclear proliferation in South Asia. India also opposed and continues to oppose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).
After its 1998 nuclear tests, India proceeded to acquire conventional and strategic capabilities that seriously undermine security and stability in South Asia such as nuclear powered Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs), Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) and Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) which are all capable of carrying nuclear warheads of various payloads.
According to Western sources, such as ‘Jane’s Defence Weekly’, with assistance from Israel and the US, India is also developing a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. In the meanwhile, in its nuclear facilities in Andhra Pradesh (near Hyderabad), efforts are underway to develop thermonuclear weapons with a destructive capacity of several nuclear weapons. In addition to this massive military build-up at the strategic level, India is also spending unprecedented amounts on the acquisition of the latest conventional weaponry, the largest supplier of which is now the US.
The American-backed nuclear waiver for India for ostensible civilian nuclear purposes is also responsible for generating instability in South Asia. After crossing the nuclear threshold in 1974, India was required to distribute its growing stocks of fissile material between civilian uses and weapons production.
After the nuclear waiver India now has access to imported fissile material for civilian uses which frees up its entire indigenous fissile material stocks for weapon purposes. As a result, India can produce as many as 50 nuclear weapons every year.
The impact of the Indo-US strategic partnership has therefore been highly destabilising for security in South Asia. A prime example of this instability is the adventurous Indian policy of ‘cold start or pro-active doctrine’ which envisages a limited conventional strike by India against Pakistan despite the prevalence of nuclear deterrence between the two countries.
By contrast, successive US administrations have followed policies that clearly discriminate against Pakistan in the nuclear sphere. During the 1970s and 1980s various sanctions were invoked against Pakistan for its nuclear programme whereas nuclear cooperation with India was continued by the US and its Western partners despite India’s 1974 nuclear test.
In 1990, the Pressler sanctions were imposed on Pakistan even though it had not conducted a nuclear test. Again, following the Indian nuclear tests in 1998 which forced Pakistan to respond in order to demonstrate a credible deterrent, the US imposed sanctions on both countries without distinguishing between the perpetrator of nuclear proliferation and the respondent.
Moreover, even when sanctions were withdrawn when the US needed Pakistan’s cooperation in its counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan, Washington continued to deny Pakistan access to civilian nuclear commerce accorded to India. This discrimination was justified on the grounds of Pakistan’s proliferation record but, as outlined above, India’s own proliferation record was conveniently ignored.
To be continued
The writer is a former ambassador of Pakistan and was the permanent representative to the UN in Geneva and to the Conference on Disarmament. The views expressed here are his own.