In an explosive world: On making India a part of the Nuclear Supplier’s Group

Published: June 20, 2013
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India is not an NPT member and terms it discriminatory. PHOTO: AFP

On May 18, 1974, India conducted its nuclear test. It reaffirmed the international community’s fears that nuclear technology and materials provided for peaceful purposes can be used in nuclear weapons. In 1975, in order to curtail such gross misuse Canada, France, West Germany, Japan, Soviet Union, United States and United Kingdom got together and formed the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG). The purpose was to regulate the nuclear trade so further diversions like India’s don’t take place.

Forty years later the situation has changed.

France, Russia, the UK, and the US are campaigning to make India a member of the NSG. The motives are simple; the huge potential for nuclear economics in the Indian market and to help India grow as a counterweight to China. Britain states that India qualifies because of accomplishing a healthy civil nuclear industry and has good non-proliferation credentials. While the first point may be true the second is doubtful.

It’s ironic how these advocates of Indian inclusion into the NSG are also advocates of nuclear non-proliferation (to curb the spread of nuclear weapons) and have given a commitment under article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) towards nuclear disarmament. Having already failed on the latter they would also lose their moral authority over the former. The irony also lies in the fact the same states who felt hard done by Indian transgression is 1974 are pushing its membership.

The quintessential criterion for NSG membership is a good non-proliferation record and adherence to international non-proliferation treaties like the Non-Proliferation Treaty, as well as other bilateral or multilateral agreements. It also entails a support to international efforts to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). India fails miserably on both these accounts.

India is not an NPT member and terms it discriminatory.

India championed for nuclear disarmament before the treaty was signed, yet hypocritically pursed a nuclear weapons path alongside it. This programme bore fruits four years after the treaty was operational when India tested its nuclear device. India in breach of its international agreements with Canada, diverted plutonium from the Candian-Indian Reactor, US (CIRUS) reactor provided solely for peaceful purposes and used it for military purposes of the 1974 testing. This shows a blatant breach of non-proliferation laws and norms by the State of India.

Similarly India and Pakistan signed an agreement on chemical weapons on August 19, 1992. They agreed not to develop, produce or acquire chemical weapons, while reassuring each other of not having any existing stockpiles of such. However, after denying the existence of chemical weapons for years, India in 1997 declared its chemical weapons stock pile. Almost 20 tons of sulphur mustard was filled in artillery shells while some 984 tons was stored! The State of India had yet again failed its commitment to stop the growth of WMD’s by breaking the agreement.

Diplomatic campaigns aside if India is allowed membership of the NSG it would serve the worst precedents in the non-proliferation regime history. Break laws, norms and breach agreements; no punishment will ensue if you provide good economics.

This trend will tempt non-nuclear weapons states inside the NPT to withdraw since there is a better trade off- becoming a Nuclear Weapon State and a nuclear beneficiary rather a reliant state. In the Cold War phase the emphasis was how to acquire nuclear weapons, now it will be how to acquire nuclear weapons and develop an effective civil nuclear industry. In the end all sins are forgiven.

Recently, the NSG trade waiver to India already set a new non-proliferation low. The resulting Indo-US nuclear deal allows India to retain eight heavy water nuclear reactors outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. It provides the capability to produce 1,250 kilograms weapons grade plutonium, which translates to roughly 250 nuclear weapons a year. This capability increases regional instability and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Following the Indian example, if the non-nuclear weapons states withdraw from NPT then it will have a cascade effect. Conclusively, we will have many new nuclear weapon states emerge in the coming years. This will escalate vertical and horizontal proliferation trends, increase the risks of nuclear misuse and accidents or terrorists getting their hands on nuclear weapons.

This will be an utter nightmare for all. Are economic interests now more important than a safe and secure future world? Is this rational behaviour from world leaders?

The only solution lies in having an equitable non-proliferation order, where the root causes of acquisition are addressed. This would precede further nuclearisation as well as diminish the need to keep hold of them.

Follow Ali on Twitter @ali9119

Ali Mustafa

Ali Mustafa

A Masters Graduate in Strategic & Nuclear Studies and independent researcher from Islamabad. He tweets @ali9119

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