India’s outlook on Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty
A study on Parliamentary Debates
Trombay – Bhabha Atomic Research Centre
On November 29, 2009, India became one of the recognized nuclear power, after it joined the NonProliferation Treaty India’s new stand to be a nuclear weapon state within the NPT, has triggered a debate that centers on continuity versus change. Those who support the change argue that India’s willingness to join the NPT contains the potential to strengthen the NPT and add that by excluding a nuclear-armed, but non-proliferating India, when it is willing to join the NPT, would not strengthen the cause of nonproliferation.
Those who harp on continuity say that at a time when there is international debate over the very rationale of the NPT, why India is showing interest in it? The NPT has failed in checking proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology. Even then why does India want to become a part of this failed treaty?
Non Proliferation Treaty: An Introduction
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a treaty to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The NPT was opened for signature in 1968 and it came into force on 5 March 1970. Currently there are 189 states party to the treaty, five of which are recognized as nuclear weapon states. The NPT consists of a preamble and eleven articles and is based on three pillars–non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right to peacefully use nuclear technology.
Even though the treaty was originally conceived with a limited duration of 25 years, the signing parties decided by consensus to extend the treaty indefinitely and without conditions during the Review Conference in New York City on May 11, 1995.
In the course of its history, NPT has suffered several dents. Its signatories North Korea acceded to the treaty, violated it, and withdrew from it in 2003. The case of Iran, another signatory to the treaty is quite gray. Whereas two non-parties to the treaty, India and Pakistan have openly tested and declared that they possess nuclear weapons, while Israel has had a policy of opacity regarding its own nuclear weapons program. In this context, the relevance of NPT is put on test.
Non Proliferation Treaty: India’s view
India all along has been resisting the signing the NPT saying it’s discriminatory. While the NPT allows vertical proliferation by the nuclear weapons states, it bans horizontal proliferation by nuclear threshold states. Further India says the NPT links to safety and storage factor of the complete bomb as a factor for the threshold countries to refrain from any such ambitions and that’s not acceptable.
India stressed to change in the NPT to make nuclear safeguards applicable to the weapon and no weapons states alike. India proposed an alternative to the NPT with provisions such as no first use, complete test ban, scrutiny of fissile material, no underground tests, threshold test ban treaty and cut off an agreement to prohibit the production of fissionable material and substantial reduction of a nuclear arsenal. It wanted a new provision to be made securing security guarantee to those nations becoming parties to the treaty.
India presented its position based on policy decisions, but it had security interests in having nuclear weapons to deter perceived threats from China. India placed a severe strain on the NPT when it conducted the nuclear tests in the summer of 1998. India’s move once again mounted pressure on it to sign the NPT, but it refused on the grounds of its stated official position.
In this background comes an unexpected development in 2008 when India concluded a civil nuclear deal with the US under which India could access nuclear technologies and materials in return for placing its civilian nuclear facilities under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.
Critics of the Indo-US nuclear accord complained that the US has rewarded India in spite of its defiance to the NPT and has weakened the cause of non-proliferation.
In 2009 India again changed its stand, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that India wants to join the NPT as a nuclear weapon state.
In such situation the non-proliferation community confronts with two conflicting scenarios; first, India’s criticisms of the NPT, which overlap with worries about the weaknesses of the treaty and second to accept India as a nuclear weapon state within the NPT to strengthen the cause of the treaty.
The nuclear diplomacy that we are going to see in the course of 2010 has to confront with the hypothesis; can the NPT, which is the centerpiece of the global non-proliferation effort, be righted, keeping India out, or by keeping it in, it may realize the vision of a nuclear-free world?
NPT: Changed Stand of India
Arguments In Support of Change
According to Professor David P. Fidler and Professor Sumit Ganguly, the US is caught between recognizing India as a democratic, responsible nuclear power and it’s accredited position that non-parties to the NPT should join only as non-nuclear weapons states.
As part of Obama administration is an effort to advance the cause of a nuclear-free world, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1887, on September 24, 2009, which “calls upon all States that are not Parties to the NPT to accede as non-nuclear-weapon states.” Will India accept this position? What about NPT members? Will they take India’s new position or hide behind the UN resolution 1887.
Given India’s shifting position on NPT, any response requires a policy question that deserves attention on its merits.
The US has to reconcile these positions, meaning it must make a choice that contains no room for dissembling. The US decision may likely to be determined how European nations and Japan respond, as happened with the Indo-US nuclear deal.
The authors argue that opposing India’s desire to join the NPT as a nuclear weapon state based on Resolution 1887 will do nothing to strengthen the NPT. On the contrary, bringing India into the treaty, especially when it is emerging as a great power, makes more sense than believing that India will disarm unilaterally only to join the NPT.
They further argue that Indian participation in the NPT will not, by itself, eliminate the problems the NPT now confronts. However, with India supporting the NPT regime, the world would have all nuclear-armed great powers committed to the same rules may reinvigorate non-proliferation politics in a manner more meaningful than the distant vision of a world without nuclear weapons.
The authors feel India’s changed stand on the NPT poses hurdles for the treaty and the five nuclear weapon states have to take a call on this. The key states will be the existing nuclear weapon states, especially China, Russia, and the US because all nuclear weapon states must approve the amendment needed to permit India to join as a nuclear weapon state. They argue neither China nor Russia faces additional strategic risks from allowing India to join the NPT because India is already a nuclear-armed power, and supporting Indian accession could be a way to improve relations with the country, as its regional and global influence grows. However, will the other nuclear weapon states would do the same is something that has to be watched.
Arguments in Support of Continuity
Few compelling realities have to be taken into cognizance before India is to sign the NPT as a nuclear-weapons state. The argument runs as follows;
Is India a nuclear-weapon state? According to Dr. K. Santhanam, the former official with the Defense Research and Development Organization, the thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb tests, the first and most powerful of the three tests conducted on May 11, 1998, did not produce the desired yield. The nuclear scientist has advised India not to sign the NPT and conduct more nuclear tests to address its security concerns.
According to a leading defense analyst, Mr. Brahma Chellaney, India has still not weaponized the thermonuclear technology, even though the test was conducted in 1998, and supposes to have catapulted the country into the club of Nuclear Weapon state.
What about India’s traditional opposition to NPT? Since 1968, when the NPT was opened for signature, India has refused to sign the treaty because it is discriminatory. As recently as 2007, India’s external affairs minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee stated: “If we did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because India consider NPT as a flawed treaty, it does not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.”
Now how India will reconcile to its changed decision to sign the NPT in the wake of its traditional opposition to the same?
Then what will be the impact on the South Asian security balance if India signs the NPT as a nuclear weapon power? Will it bolster Pakistan’s claims on similar grounds? How India is going to blunt Pakistan’s demand. Moreover, how does India plan to counter China’s opposition to any such move? Is India prepared for a “two-front diplomatic war” for securing its entry into the NPT regime as nuclear weapon state?
It’s further argued that accession to the NPT is bound to have significant political implications for any government in India. There seems to be no effort on the part of the Manmohan Singh Government to initiate a political and public dialogue on the question of signing the NPT. The widespread perception that prevails in India is it should not sign the NPT because it is discriminatory. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh can’t expect the Indian electorate overnight mandate the change in India’s stated policy on the NPT. The necessity for political dialogue on the issue has to be underlined given the political difficulties faced during the Indo-U.S. Civilian Nuclear deal.
It is asked whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement was to enhance India’s image as a responsible nuclear power or because he may like the international community to credit India as a nuclear weapon state? Notwithstanding the facts, it appears Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement was to send the message to the world that status and symbol matter greatly in India’s strategic calculations.
India’s father of Atomic Energy Homi Jahangir Bhabha was the first person who insists on PM Nehru for developing the capabilities of Atomic energy. He has convinced PM Nehru regarding the necessity of Atomic energy; however, Nehru was committed to its Non-Nuclear policy and promoted the cause of global disarmament. India followed the ideological dictum of Satya (truth) and ahimsa (non-violence). The ruling party the Indian National Congress efficiently concurred with Nehru’s position (Victoria Tuke, 2011), believing that by representing ‘self-restraint’ India could maintain its high moral superiority and role model for the third world countries and mark a distinction with China (Vitoria Tuke, 2011). However, India revisited its policy in the backdrop of Chinese incursion in 1962 and wars with Pakistan. Therefore India reformulated its policy in tune with geo-strategic dynamics of South Asia to regain its Identity in the region (George Perkovich, 1999).
India’s Nuclear program and its role in disarmament program can be divided into three phase. The first phase began with the establishment of Atomic Commission in 1948 and ended with ‘Operation Smiling Buddha’ in 1974 (.D.R. Sar Desai and Raju G.C. Thomas, 2002). The Second resulted in severe sanction from the developed countries against India Nuclear tests in 1974. Therefore India decided to self-restraint its Nuclear weapon program. However, in its third phase, 1995-1998 India became a full-fledged nuclear state with Operation Shakti, and nuclear tests were conducted near Pokhran called Pokhran-II. India has successfully deployed its nuclear arsenal under the third phase. However, its nuclear program is still covered with complication which leads the parliament to raise debates at several times.
First Phase 1948 to 1974
In its first phase India’s development of nuclear program has to be seen through its neutral stand during the cold war, China’s nuclear aggression and US-Pakistan Nexus during this period. In this situation, Homi Jahangir Bhabha convinced Nehru for the Atomic weapons policy. However, Nehru approach was tilted towards equitable military free global order.
After 1962 war with China Indian leader got awakened and realized the dual use of the army, civilian potential of a nuclear program which was suggested by Homi Bhabha. The first political stirring came against Nehru from the Jana Sangh Party for his clear nuclear policy of peaceful uses only in December 1962. The result of above incident forced the government to change its recourse on nuclear policy. The defense budget was increased, and certain changes were brought within nuclear arsenal program. The first major debate took place in Indian parliament over the India’s nuclear policy after the nuclear explosion done by China on October 16, 1964. Even though Nehru was idealist, he had played a dominant role in the International affair and openly addressed the requirements of India’s national security.
The death of Nehru in May 1964 opened the door to rethink about India’s position in the new world order and how to retain the India’s prestige after humiliated by the China in 1962 war. The Successor of Nehru Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and Krishna Menon continued strong opposition to building nuclear weapons. Swatantra Party’s gave preference for an alliance with West and Jana Sangh’s with intellectual nationalist advocacy stand for the continuation of a nuclear program to build a nuclear weapon. Bhabha as before played the central role in the whole debate (D.R. Sar Desai and Raju G.C. Thomas, 2002).
On March 27, 1967, the Lok Sabha convened a discussion on nuclear policy. India’s foreign minister M.C. Changla state that “India’s security problem was unique because it is a non-Aligned country and hence did not enjoy the protection of a nuclear umbrella.” Jaita Mishra in his article NPT and Developing Countries has explained the India’s reservation for not signing the treaty as follows India would not accept a treaty that impeded further development and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Prime Minister Secretary L.K. Jha said the NPT is an unequal treaty that is a strong discriminatory policy against the non-nuclear weapon states. He further said the discrimination lies in the fact that the nuclear weapons power states do not submit their peaceful facilities to an inspection whereas the non- nuclear states must offer the same argument has been raised by A.G. Noorani in his article the nuclear guarantee in Frontline. On April 5, 1968, Prime Minister let Smt. Indira Gandhi assured the house during Lok Sabha debate on Non-Proliferation stating “we shall be guided entirely by our self-enlighten and consideration of national security.” By this time it is very hard to escape from inherent in the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although, she was emphasizing the country’s commitment to nuclear disarmament government position to nuclear non- Proliferation remains unchanged. On the other side of the debate, the nuclear power dominance of China in the region and rivalry with Pakistan determined the Indian nuclear capacity building.
India had great experience of establishing a strong personality, morality, institutional structure and political economy in the journey of first Pokhran test in 1974 (D.R. Sar Desai and Raju G.C. Thomas, 2002). However, India could not move forward on further test for last 24 years. First Pokhran test conducted during Indian National Congress government led by Mrs. Gandhi. She wants to regain India’s prestige which was lost in 1962 war against China and provide national security from the external threats. Indeed, a realist like Henry Kissinger, strategists like K.Subrahmanyam and nationalist scientists who are the helm of Indian AEC all believes that this nuclear explosion was so decisive for the India’s national security. They also suggest that India should proceed consistently toward developing a nuclear arsenal. But Mrs. Indira Gandhi preference of polity over the development of strong security capabilities brought political and domestic turmoil within the state that made the euphoria of Pokhran test distant memory. Soon after this major event of the post-1974 phase of India’s nuclear history Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in June 1975.
In 1977 State of emergency ended, and first non-congress Prime Minister was elected. The Janata Party whose leader was Morarji Desai became the prime Minister of India. Desai has firm belief in Gandhian philosophy, and his moral position was unusually rigid. His idea was ‘One should act in life according to truth and one’s faith’ (Ramchandra Guha). Even though Desai was very much unhappy about the first nuclear test in 1974, he kept India’s nuclear reactors stating “They will never be used for atomic bombs, and I will see to it if I can help it.” On March 24, 1977, Desai told to German interviewer, “I will give to you in writing that we will not manufacture nuclear weapons. Even if the whole world arms itself with the bombs, we will not do so”. Desai never shows any kind of support towards Indian Nuclear weapons program nor evinced a strong support towards the leadership of the Indian Nuclear establishment. Even though Desai shows his apathy towards Indian nuclear weapon program, he did not allow the Charter administration who sold heavy water and Uranium to India for its nuclear reactors, in lieu they want to the inspection of nuclear material in 1977, seeing the American stance as contradictory in light of it’s on a nuclear arsenal. It clearly shows that India would not sign the NPT because of its discriminatory policy towards non-nuclear states. However, India under Desai continuously tried to reflect its moral self-image and demonstrated India’s moral superiority internationally. But in a realistic perspective, India could not earn more International respect and prestige, but she lacked the economic and military strength to win international due.
Due to Desai a typical rigid idealistic image leader of the pro-bomb Jana Sangh later it became Janata Party including foreign minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee went along with this nuclear policy knowing that Pakistan was gearing up construction of the Kahuta Uranium enrichment plant (D.R. Sar Desai and Raju G. C.Thomas)
Indian Nuclear weapon is the by-product of large domestic pressure and bitter experience of the hegemonic of the nuclear power state. Indian perspective on NonProliferation Treaty was that it should not be discriminatory against developing countries. Therefore full filing the objectives of nuclear disarmament non –proliferation treaty has been extended during the fifth review conference in Article-xii which is politically based on three main factors (1) strengthen the review process, (2) principle and objective for nuclear nonproliferation (3) and the indefinite extension of the NPT. So that none of the countries will get the tag of the nuclear power status in future. Thinking that it will prevent the developing countries like India, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea Israel to limit their nuclear option. But India detonated five nuclear devices in May 1998 and Non-proliferation efforts suffered a setback. The government is assuring to the people of India stating that India’s national security and its interest are more paramount than any other thing. In a letter to the President Bill Clinton dated 11 May, Vajpayee stated that we have an open nuclear state on our borders and bitter experience of 1962 Chinese aggression against India motivated the test. However, the proliferation trauma inflicted by India’s nuclear explosions gave the alarm to the world to rethink over the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and its disarmament program. As a result, all the nuclear supplier nations established London Club with three objectives.
To prevent the export the nuclear logistic technologies exchange for reprocessing Uranium enrichment.
To make standard and strict safeguard, physical protection system.
To strictly monitor proliferation-related activity.
India conducted a nuclear test at the Pokhran test range which is located in the Thar Desert of the Indian state of Rajasthan. The growing pressure from the leaders of nuclear establishment the test site was built in early 1980’s. However, Narasimha Rao felt that the US position on non-proliferation was so hypothetical as to be immoral (D.R. Sar Desai and Raju G.C.Thomas). He also believed that the nation is bigger than that the political system. Rao requested to the nuclear establishment to prepare for nuclear tests. Unfortunately, in 1995 The New York Times revealed that US spy satellite had detected test preparations. The Clinton administration warned and mobilized quietly to dissuade the prime minister from testing, now that the matter burst into the public sphere and raucous debate erupted in India.
However, Rao soon realized that nuclear test was not India’s primary interest. The Indian economy was not yet ready to withstand the inflationary effect of international sanctions. As the general election neared in the spring of 1996, Rao government focused on the electoral politics rather than nuclear weapons establishment, in this situation Indian foreign policy and national security issues did not get serious attention. Finally, congress led Rao government decided to cancel the nuclear weapon test plan. In Mid of May in 1996 government has lost the general election and BJP led NDA government came to power. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn as the prime minister of India. He authorized Rajagopala Chidambaram and Abdul Kalam to proceed to prepare for nuclear tests. On 11 May 1998, Operation Shakti was completed which surprise the whole international community.
However India considered the nuclear non-proliferation policy as discriminatory. No Indian government could agree to sign this treaty. Moreover, India’s nuclear policy was never Pakistan centric. Despite it, Pakistan had developed its own nuclear and missile capabilities to counter India. Neither of them signed the NPT and in 1996 did not sign the CTBT (B.K.shrivastava). The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government had taken same stands on India’s nuclear policy what NDA government took before. In October 2004 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a joint press conference with the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated that the India would not sign the NPT but he gave the assurance that India will not go for further tests, it would maintain the no first use nuclear policy to any nations. It also says that India would not be a part of an arms race in this sub-continent but it would maintain minimum deterrence and would not transfer the nuclear technology and related material to any country those who does not possess it.
However, India considered the nuclear non-proliferation policy as discriminatory. No Indian government could agree to sign this treaty Moreover India’s nuclear policy was never Pakistan centric. Despite it, Pakistan had developed its own nuclear and missile capabilities to counter India. Neither of them signed the NPT and in 1996 did not sign the CTBT (B.K.shrivastava). The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government had taken same stands on India’s nuclear policy what NDA government took before. In October 2004 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a joint press conference with the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated that the India would not sign the NPT but he gave the assurance that India will not go for further tests, it would maintain the no first use nuclear policy to any nations. It also says that India would not be a part of an arms race in this sub-continent but it would maintain minimum deterrence and would not transfer the nuclear technology and related material to any country those who does not possess it.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a once-in-a-generation opportunity for reorienting ties with the United States. Obama administration took this opportunity to strengthening and reorienting relations with India. Especially Barak Obama and Modi Developed personal rapport, and both of them like to institutionalize this rapport so that long term sustainable outcomes can be achieved (Harsh V. Pant, June 2016). Modi Show his great credential as the politician during US visits.
However, India considered the nuclear non-proliferation policy as discriminatory. No Indian government could agree to sign this treaty; moreover, India’s nuclear policy was not solely Pakistan centric. Despite it, Pakistan had developed its own nuclear and missile capabilities to counter India. Neither of them signed the NPT, and in 1996 they also refrained from signing the CTBT. The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government followed the footsteps of NDA government. In October 2004 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a joint press conference with the German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated that India would not sign the NPT. However, he gave the assurance that India will not go for further tests, and it would maintain the no first use nuclear policy. It also says that India would not be a part of an arms race in this sub-continent but it would maintain minimum deterrence and would not transfer the nuclear technology and related material to any nonnuclear state. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi successfully reoriented India’s ties with the United States. Obama administration took this opportunity to strengthening and reorienting relations with India. President Obama and PM Modi Developed personal rapport, and both of them like to institutionalize this rapport so that long term sustainable outcomes can be achieved (Harsh V. Pant, 2016).
India’s changed stand on the NPT adds complexity to the nuclear diplomacy that was unfolded in India’s nuclear negotiations with NSG and America. However, India has successfully maneuvered the relations and negotiated the deal with the USA as well as got a waiver from NSG. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has shrewdly tried to elevate India’s interests, influence, and status. It places a premium on the existing NPT members to respond to India’s policy shift even though it would be highly controversial to bring India within the NPT as a nuclear weapon state. Nonetheless, Prime Minister’s statement highlights problems with the NPT, creates challenges for India’s allies and rivals, and forces non-proliferation advocates to re-think how to strengthen their efforts to de–nuclearize the world, even though this goal remains a little hope!. Although India parliament raised sufficient debates on its NPT stand. However, the external threat perception created a unison opinion regarding national security which paved the way forgo nuclear India and develop other arms for deterrence and security of the nation. The parliament at the same time kept its policy of truth and ahimsa intact by opting second strike option. India also showed its commitment to principles of non-violence by giving the command for the use of nuclear weapons under the hands of political leadership rather than military.