Legitimizing NSG Membership: Comparing India & Pakistan’s Case


Dr. Syed Shahid Hussain Bukhari

Nuclear technology around the world is usually associated with the negative connotations in international politics. The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shook the world and taught the consequences of the harmful use of nuclear technology. But, apart from the destructive capacity of nuclear technology, it also has very constructive and positive use which could not be left unexplored and made redundant. Therefore, Eisenhower brought the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program to benefit from the positive use of nuclear technology. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created under the auspices of United Nations to contain the negative use of technology provided for peaceful purposes and many countries around the world including India gained civilian nuclear technology and benefited. But this positive process got severely damaged for the first time by India when the so-called ‘Smiling Budha’ test was conducted in 1974 by India misusing the ‘Atoms for Peace.’ India diverted the civilian nuclear technology provided for peaceful uses by Canada to acquire nuclear weapon technology which not only undermined the ‘Atoms for Peace’ like initiatives for future but also ushered a series of new frameworks to strengthen non-proliferation and led to the creation of London Suppliers Group, currently known as Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Therefore, one can say that the NSG was actually ‘Fathered’ due to India’s harmful misuse of nuclear technology provided for positive purposes. It is. Therefore, India can be attributed as ‘Premier Architect of Proliferation (PAP).’ The irony is that despite being the PAP as the foundational actor in the creation of NSG, same India was again given an opportunity to ‘dent’ the smoothly running NSG framework through the provision of state-specific waiver in 2008, marking discrimination on the face of NSG. The situation gets worse when such a state wows to have a so-called clean track-record regarding proliferation and aspires to become the echelon of NSG.

As part of the India-US strategic partnership, India is aspiring to make foothold in nuclear non-proliferation regime with the US support and therefore was able to procure discriminatory state-specific waivers from IAEA and NSG, while despite having fought at front line for the US endeavors throughout the Cold War as well as in the Global War on Terror (GWOT), Pakistan has not been considered for the Civilian Nuclear Cooperation like that of India-US Nuclear Deal. In this scenario, Pakistan launched its efforts to obtain membership in these regimes with the credential of non-discriminatory IAEA safeguards on its all civilian nuclear facilities with an excellent record regarding the implementation of safeguard arrangements in the country. Dedicated civilian nuclear facilities are also one of the significant credentials Pakistan owes to its credit. Pakistan needs not to design a ‘Separation Plan’ for nuclear cooperation agreements because its all civilian facilities are dedicated only for civilian purposes; while India had to provide an ‘Ambiguous Separation Plan’ for such cooperation, which itself is an evidence that all the Indian nuclear facilities have been contributing to the Indian nuclear Weapon Program; therefore, one can infer that India has a better capacity to produce larger quantity of fissile material. Since the IAEA safeguards are the cornerstone of nuclear cooperation with NSG countries, Pakistan has a better track record as compared to India. Pakistan applies non-discriminatory IAEA safeguards while India enjoys discrimination through an India-specific agreement with IAEA which in itself is a manifestation of Indian intentions to divert dual-use technologies towards military purposes clandestinely. Reference history of nuclear program, Pakistan’s nuclear program was started after the creation of significant non-proliferation regime like NPT while Indian nuclear program dates back before the creation of non-proliferation regime, therefore the later was able to obtain unhindered nuclear technology and clandestinely divert it into nuclear weapon technology while Pakistan had to face strict international scrutiny for development of its nuclear program either civilian or military because it started only after its dismemberment by India in 1971. It can, therefore, be inferred that Pakistan’s nuclear program is based on indigenous efforts while Indian nuclear program is the beneficiary of foreign technologies. Taking these facts into account, one can argue that Pakistan has better credentials for NSG membership as compared to India.

It is a fundamental principle of international law that all states are equally sovereign and entitled to avail equal treatment when it comes to the application of international rules and regulations. There is no place for discrimination under the charter of UNO as well. Therefore, Pakistan has decided to convince the participating governments for equal treatment with all the states in conferring international obligations as well as privileges. Since the IAEA works under the auspices of UNO, it is Pakistan’s legitimate right to urge the IAEA for equal treatment with all the states in conclusion and application of its safeguards agreements. Providing opportunities for a country-specific safeguard agreement to any country is not only damaging the original spirit of the IAEA but also a violation of the principle of equality under the UN Charter as well as of International Law.

In the same way, Pakistan’s request for NSG membership also requires equal treatment when the cartel evaluates the Indian and Pakistani applications. Based on this principled stance, Pakistan is now looking towards NSG and seeking a criteria-based approach from the regime. Although Pakistan is pursuing its membership of NSG to obtain civilian nuclear technology for peaceful purposes in her national interest it is following the principle of equality. Pakistan has never sought any discriminatory treatment from any country or even any organization, which is the manifestation of Pakistan’s commitment to the principles of international laws and obligations. Pakistan’s request for consideration for membership of NSG is need-based while India’s request is status-driven which aims at obtaining the great power status. Since India enjoys the country-specific waiver from NSG and IAEA, it is not facing a significant hurdle regarding its fissile material necessities, its efforts to obtain NSG membership has greater objective of gaining supremacy and power-bench in the regime that may enable India to exert her influence around the world in nuclear market contributing to the political strength of India. It is well known that such aspirations of India gained momentum after the India-US strategic partnership that enabled India to enjoy preferential treatment in various endeavors, yet it is not too late for the international community to understand Pakistan’s perspective and let Pakistan join the nuclear regimes on equal footing. Equitable mainstreaming of Pakistan in the nuclear realm is the only choice that fulfills justice requirements.

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