Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons: A Pakistani View

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The Treaty on Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons or TPNW is an outcome of Non-Nuclear Weapon States’ (NNWSs) frustration with lack of progress on Article-6 of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that obliges the established Nuclear Weapon States (NWSs) to pursue disarmament. An additional factor is the discriminatory access to civil nuclear cooperation, under Article-3 of the NPT, whereby likeminded states are deemed eligible for cooperation even if their military nuclear programs benefit from the same. The exemplary success of NPT is restricted to horizontal non-proliferation i.e. non-development of military nuclear option by the NNWSs which is simultaneously supported by mechanisms like export controls, IAEA safeguards, and UN Security Council Resolutions like 1540. Given such a disparity in fulfilment of the rights and obligations of the NWSs and the NNWs; NPT will come under immense pressure in the future review conferences in what has been termed as ‘legitimacy crisis.’ Luckily or unluckily, NPT outlier states will not be sharing the same stress as the P-5.

The established NWSs or the P-5 have come out unequivocally in their opposition of TPNW. Two of the NPT outlier states (India and Pakistan) have also expressed their opposition to the treaty even though they do not share table with the other opponents of the treaty – i.e. the P-5. The unanimous opposition by the nuclear-armed states (P-5 and the NPT outliers) is rooted in their non-participation in TPNW’s negotiation process. Consequently, the indispensable stakeholders feel that their legitimate security interests have not been factored in.

If, ever, the P-5 chose to pursue disarmament and address NNWS’ concerns on discriminatory access to civil nuclear cooperation; the next big question would be over taking the NPT outlier NWSs (that includes Israel and DPRK besides India and Pakistan) on board. On this account, DPRK is an exceptional case where efforts for its denuclearization are pursued by the U.S. through various means. Likewise, Israel continues to possess the capability while not sharing the requisite responsibilities. The other significant stakeholders are then India and Pakistan.

Because of an exceptional NSG waiver and various civil nuclear cooperation agreements, India finds itself entitled to all the rights of a NWS. On the contrary, notwithstanding its implementation of strategic export controls, India has not taken over the same obligations as the NWSs other than committing to disarmament in its nuclear doctrine and by its political leadership.

Even without similar incentives, Pakistan has implemented effective strategic export controls to address the threat of horizontal proliferation and has committed itself to the objective of verifiable and non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament. Pakistan’s experience with disarmament diplomacy indicates that there are no takers in the region or globe. Preceding its nuclear tests of 1998, Pakistan made various attempts at regional disarmament which were not accepted by India and neither did the international community provide the sufficient security guarantees to address Pakistan’s genuine security concerns.

The discrimination from pre-1998 phase morphed into another form of discrimination in the post-1998 era. While India was granted access to civil nuclear cooperation – despite its abuse of the same in 1974 – Pakistan was denied this legitimate demand. The U.S. led west adopted an even worse approach to facilitate buildup of Indian military nuclear capability by negotiating and implementing an IAEA safeguards mechanism that is ‘not fit for the purpose’ and enables India to advance its military nuclear program.

Pakistan’s pre and post-1998 experiences will dictate that it cannot comfortably rely on foreign entities to meet its national security imperatives. Pakistan has long advocated the objective of global nuclear disarmament by arguing at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) that nuclear disarmament and negative security assurances should take precedence over a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) that only preserves the status-quo in favor of a few.

An FMCT, therefore, appears a politically motivated measure to appease the NNWSs without the P-5 having to take up any additional obligations since their existing nuclear forces are sufficient to address their security concerns. Pakistan on the other hand faces India’s unabated vertical-proliferation. India’s largest and oldest unsafeguarded nuclear program – along with the NSG waiver and various nuclear deals – affords it the comfort zone to agree to a future ban on fissile material production. Pakistan cannot afford such an approach when Indian bomb-making capacity falls at over 2600 nuclear warheads unless existing stockpiles are taken into account.

While the P-5 claim that, “[TPNW] is creating divisions across the international non-proliferation and disarmament machinery;” they overlook how they have extended discrimination towards to NNWSs within the NPT ambit and those who possess nuclear weapons outside NPT framework. Likewise, Indian assertion that CD “is the world’s single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum working on the basis of consensus;” seems ill-informed since the past three decades of CD’s functioning have injudiciously focused on a discriminatory fissile material treaty instead of genuinely focusing on the objective of disarmament.

For Pakistan, support to international legal arrangements – existing and prospective – remains issue and principle-based. Pakistan supports the rights and obligations that each party has undertaken through international legal instruments. Pakistan’s support for global nuclear disarmament remains firm but will be channeled through the appropriate forum, i.e. the CD, as and when it chooses to dedicate requisite attention to the issue of disarmament instead of serving the political interests of a select few.

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