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The false and true philosophies behind the war in Afghanistan

Ajmal Sohail

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During the early 70s and late 80s Afghanistan was the center-piece of the foreign policy objective of Moscow, Washington and Beijing. They used Afghanistan as a Grand-chess-board and established three strategic triangles in the country. Each tried to play the role of Bishop, the said three economic, military and political giants convinced to finance and mobilize their proxies in Afghanistan. The KGB supported the Communists, the MSS held up Maoists and the CIA sponsored the Islamic fundamentalists “the so-called freedom fighters” including Osama Bin-laden the master mind of the nine eleven. After the defeat and collapse of Soviet Union, America, China and Russia invigorate their foreign policy objectives. They redirected their focus on Asia-pacific and Middle-east and left the country as result the civil war took place in Afghanistan.

For a while, Afghanistan has once again perched at the forefront of attention of the mentioned three military giants.

So that, I would like to very precisely concentrate on the scenarios of the said countries in Afghanistan.

The Russian scenario 

On the basis of data analysis, the Russian security agencies directly or indirectly encouraged and facilitated the departure of radical Islamists abroad. For instance Saadu Sharapudinov, 39 told Reuters that in December 2012 Russian intelligence officers presented him an unexpected offer. If he agreed to leaves Russia, the authorities would not arrest him; in fact they would facilitate his departure. A few months later he was given a new passport in a new name and one-way plane ticket to Istanbul, shortly after arriving in Turkey, he crossed in to Syria and joined an Islamic group called Sabri Jamaat that would later pledged allegiance to radical Sunni group the Islamic State.

Reuters has identified five other Russian Islamic radicals who left the country with direct or indirect help of the authorities and ended up in Syria, the scheme continued until late 2014. The departure of the Dagostani radicals in large number made the situation in the republic healthier.

In addition, Russian state establishment has got communication channels with main terrorist groups in middle-east and central Asia including Islamic State likely to be used by Kremlin to coordinate efforts  in order to fulfill the country’s foreign and internal policy objectives. Through such channels Moscow provides the outflow of radical elements from Russia to local conflict zones abroad, in order to minimize internal risk posed by Muslims.

As Russia has reached its goals in the middle-east, the country for quite some time redirected the outflow of the radical elements to Afghanistan. Most of Russian and central Asian Islamic radicals who were fighting in middle-east under the banner of Islamic State appeared in Afghanistan most likely the Russian security agencies collaborate their safe exodus from middle-east in to Afghanistan. In fact Russia endeavors to kill two birds with one stone, the Russians for while use the emergence of Islamic State in Afghanistan as a pretext to consolidate its efforts in order to deploy its footprints in central Asia countries. The Russians narrative is, if we do not station our troops in central Asia bordering Afghanistan; the Islamic State would infiltrate into central Asia and disrupt the security situation in the whole region. As soon as their footprint is reinforced, they would have an upper hand in the entire region including Afghanistan.

Actually Russians try to get control of the flow of the white Gold (heroin) in to central Asia, because half of the Afghan precious Heroin makes its way through central Asia in to Russia and from there to the entire European continent.  After the imposition of American and European sanction and the decline of oil price, the Russia economy has badly damaged. It is unlikely for the country to reach its goals solemnly and solely with the oil revenue; therefore Russia needs to get full control of the Heroin ending up in to Europe. While, the Afghan Heroin generates around 60 billion dollars annually, a large share of which flows to defense budget of the country in order to wage the war abroad.

Furthermore, Russia opposes the long-term presence of the US in Afghanistan. Gone are the days when Russia wanted the US to stay in Afghanistan. Russia has expressed its position on several occasions against long-term military presence of the US in Afghanistan including through the Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolaiy Patrushev, therefore, they use every possible means to get rid of the US.

The American scenario

The fact of the matter is that ever since its official launch on October 7, 2001, the US war in Afghanistan has been an open-ended war. Its endgame depends on US’s hegemonic goals in the region. In other words, the US is pursuing a strategy of perpetual war in Afghanistan irrespective of which president holds office.

Under the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), the US maintains nine military bases at strategic locations across Afghanistan including those bordering Iran, Pakistan and Central Asian Republics. The Afghan airspace is controlled by the US for all practical and strategic purposes. The latter, thus, enjoys a unique geopolitical lead to project power beyond Afghanistan. The infrastructure allows the US to deploy up to 100,000 troops in two to four weeks.

In the grand geopolitical chessboard of Afghanistan, the US is left with the military option only which it pursues, at this stage, through a combination of terrorist proxies, drone attacks and Special Forces operations. It has locked itself in at a geopolitical space surrounded by hostile regional powers like Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

More recently, by elevating terrorists’ presence in Afghanistan and their level of threat to US enemies such as Russia, China, and Iran, the US is elevating the justification for its own military options intended to go beyond Afghan strategic geography.

The US is essentially playing a destabilizing role in the region as it aims at establishing world-tyranny. Its strategy revolves around the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine which aims at preventing the emergence of a regional or global power that could challenge US’s sole hegemonic status.

However, US’s attempt at establishing its hegemony in Afghanistan and beyond is being challenged by a de facto strategic alliance involving Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan. In other words, the US-NATO coalition is facing a formidable enemy – three of which are nuclear powers – determined to contain US’s hegemonic ambitions in the region.

China and Russia are at the forefront of shaping this new geopolitical reality. At first glance, it seems that China has made lucrative deals at the expense of the security cover provided by NATO-US troops.

However, the start of extraction work of the Chinese workers at Mes Aynak copper mine under the security coverage by 2,000 government troops coincided with the popping up of armed groups which specifically targeted Chinese workers forcing a halt to extraction and their return home.

In the meantime, two governors of Logar province namely Abdullah Wardak and Arsala Jamal, both tasked with facilitating extraction at Mes Aynak, were assassinated in September 2008 and October 2013 respectively. Taliban claimed responsibility for the assassination of Wardak but no group claimed responsibility for assassinating Jamal. Ten years on and the project remains in a limbo.

Similarly, the start of extraction of crude oil by the Chinese in Sar-i-Pul and Faryab provinces was met with attacks by armed groups targeting the Chinese and efforts to destabilize these provinces. Six ICRC staff members were killed in Jawzjan province in February 2017 with no claims of responsibility by any group.

There are also intensified efforts to destabilize Xinjiang and encourage separatism there through the Afghan northeastern province of Badakhshan, a main route in the ancient Silk Road, which shares borders with Tajikistan to the north and east and China’s Xinjiang and Pakistan to the east through the historical Wakhan Corridor. The separatist East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is believed to be mainly operating in Badakhshan.

Xinjiang is an important region of China as it borders eight countries: Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Chinese scenario

China is taking precautionary measures as it expands its economic, security and political role in Afghanistan through bilateral, trilateral and quadrilateral arrangements.

In August 2016, the Quadrilateral Cooperation and Coordination Mechanism in Counter Terrorism, comprising the militaries of Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, and Tajikistan, was launched, symbolically, in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang. In one of the most dramatic turn of events, Chinese military was spotted in early 2017 conducting “anti-terrorism” patrols deep inside eastern Afghan territory marking the presence of Chinese military involvement in Afghanistan and signaling China’s readiness for potential military engagement should developments necessitate. As China expands its security stakes in Afghanistan, it has also started supplying military aid to the Afghan army.

At the December 2017 trilateral dialogue in Beijing, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan agreed to joint cooperation against terrorism tied to Xinjiang specifically against ETIM.

China is also proactively increasing its political influence in Afghanistan in concert with its economic and trade interests. Recently, China stepped up its efforts as a mediator and broker of peace in Afghanistan. In fact, the first round of the trilateral dialogue at the level of foreign ministers of China, Afghanistan and Pakistan in December 2017 is an indication of the shifting geopolitical landscape in the region.

These Chinese efforts are in line with that country’s economic projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond.

China is also a party to the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) involving the US, Afghanistan, and Pakistan which mediates talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. China consolidated its efforts to disqualify Americans in Afghanistan in order to pave the way for its role in the country.

Conclusion

The mentioned, economic, military and political giants, tries each to secure and expand its national interest in order to achieve its foreign policy objectives all through Afghanistan.

Apiece attempts to play the role of Bishop on the grand-chess-board to debar the other, but they are the Afghan innocent people who pay the price. This situation must come to an end enough is enough the Afghan blood is as precious as of Americans, Russians and Chinese.

Ajmal Sohail is Co-founder and Co-president of Counter Narco-terrorism Alliance Germany and he is National Security and counter terrorism analyst. He is active member of Christian Democratic Union (CDU)as well.

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South Asia

Into the Sea: Nepal in International Waters

Sisir Devkota

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A visit to the only dry port of Nepal will immediately captivate busy scenes with hundreds of trucks, some railway carriages and huge Maersk containers at play. Trains from the Port of Kolkata in India carry tons of Nepal’s exports every week. Every year, Nepal is fined millions of rupees for overstaying its containers at the designated dock in Haldiya Port of Kolkata. Nepal pays for spaces inside Indian ships to carry out its exports via the sea. This is the closest Nepal has come in exploiting economic opportunities through sea waters. Prime Minister KP Oli went one step further and presented an idea of steering Nepal’s own fleets in the vast international sea space. While his idea of Nepal affording its own ship was mocked; on the contrary, he was right. The idea is practical but herculean.

To start with, Nepal has a landlocked right to use international waters via a third country for economic purposes only. Law of the Sea conferences held during the 80’s, guarantees Nepal’s right to use the exclusive economic zone all around the globe. Article 69 of the Law of the Sea convention states that Nepal could both use sea as a trading route and exploit the exclusive economic zone of its sea facing neighbors. Nepal’s closest neighbor, India has a wide exclusive economic zone which consists of 7500 km long coastline. The article also allows landlocked nations to use docking facilities of the nearest coastal nation to run its fleets. An exclusive economic zone in sea waters is designated after a coastal nation’s eleven mile parallel water boundary ends; which is also a part of the coastal nations territory. Simply put, Nepali fleets can dock at India’s port, sail eleven miles further into international waters-carry out fishing and other activities, sail back to the Indian coast and transfer its catches back to Nepal.

Floating Challenges

Before ships can carry the triangular flag into sea waters, Nepal will need treaties in place to use coastal nation’s water to take off and build shipment facilities. Law of the Sea convention clearly mentions that the right to use another nation’s coast will depend solely on the will of the hosting coastal nation. Does Nepal have the political will to communicate and forge a comprehensive sea transit agreement with its coastal neighbors? Nepal’s chance of securing fleets in and around the Indian Ocean will depend on whether it can convince nations like India of mutual benefits and cancel any apprehension regarding its security that might be compromised via Nepal’s sea activity. The convention itself is one among the most controversial international agreements where deteriorating marine ecosystems, sovereignty issues and maritime crimes are at its core. Majority of global and environmental problems persist in the high seas; ranging from territorial acquisitions to resource drilling offences. Nepal is welcome into the high seas, but does it comprehend the sensitivity that clouts sea horizons? Nepal needs a diplomatic strategy, but lacking experience, Nepal will need to develop institutional capacities to materialize the oceanic dream. Secondly, the cost of operating such a national project will be dreadfully expensive. Does the Nepali treasury boast finances for a leapfrogging adventure?

How is it possible?

The good news is that many landlocked nations operate in international waters. Switzerland, as an example might not assure the Nepali case, but Ethiopia exercising its sea rights via Djibouti’s port could be inspiring. Before Nepal can start ordering its fleets, it will need to design its own political and diplomatic strategy. Nepal’s best rationale would lie in working together with its neighbors. The South Asian network of nations could finally come into use. Along with Nepal, Bhutan is another landlocked nation where possible alliances await. If India’s coasts are unapproachable, Nepal and Bhutan could vie for Bangladeshi coastlines to experience sea trading. Maldivian and Pakistani waters are geographically and economically inaccessible but Sri Lanka lies deep down the South Asian continent. If Nepal and Bhutan can satisfy Sri Lankan interests, the landlocked union could not only skim through thousands of nautical miles around the Bay of Bengal without entering Indian water space; but also neutralize the hegemonic status of India in the region. If such a multinational agreement can be sought; SAARC- the passive regional body will not only gain political prowess but other areas of regional development will also kickstart.

Most importantly, a transit route (such as the Rohanpur-Singhdabad transit route) from Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan will need to be constructed well before ships start running in the Indian Ocean. In doing so, Nepal will not only tranquilize Nepal-Bhutan relations but also exercise leadership role in South Asia. A regional agreement will flourish trade but will also make landlocked Nepal’s agenda of sailing through other regions of international sea strong and plausible. A landlocked union with Bhutan will trim the costs than that of which Nepal will be spending alone. Such regional compliance would also encourage international financial institutions to fund Nepal’s sea project. Apart from political leverages, Nepal’s economy would scale new heights with decreasing price of paramount goods and services. Flourishing exports and increased tourism opportunities would be Nepal’s grandiloquence. Nepal’s main challenge lies in assuring its neighbors on how its idea would be mutually beneficial. Nepal’s work starts here. Nepal needs to put together a cunning diplomatic show.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hug Diplomacy Fails

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s enthusiasm is only to capture power; the same, however, cannot be said of foreign policy administration, especially in dealing with our immediate neighbors, and China. The best examples of his policy paralysis are the way in which demonetization and GSTs are implemented, or his sudden visit to Pakistan in December 2015. He is always in election mode. During the first two years, he was in the humor of a general election victory. Thereafter, he has spent much of his energy in establishing himself as the sole savior of the BJP in state elections, and this year he will turn his attention to the 2019 general elections.

Two years ago, without doing any homework or planning, Modi travelled to Pakistan from Afghanistan to greet his counterpart, the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, to wish him well on his birthday. He hugged Sharif and spent only two hours with him to try to sort out the 70 year outstanding divergence between India and Pakistan.

Modi strategically hugs fellow world leaders. He has no strategic perception. He believes only in the power of his personal charisma in dealing with foreign policy matters. This strategy has failed considerably with China and with our other immediate neighbors, but he neither intends to accept these mistakes, nor is he interested in learning from them. More importantly, an alternative diplomatic strategy is necessary to maintain our international position; through prudent policy articulations. Let us examine the impact of his hug diplomacy.

During the 2013/14 general elections campaign he attacked the Congress-led UPA government on multiple fronts, including towards former Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh’s policy on Pakistan. He proposed that the BJP government would have more guts to better deal with Pakistan. Under his administration, we lost numerous soldiers in fighting with Pakistan terrorists, experienced a 100-day shutdown in Kashmir, blindly allowed a Pakistan team to inspect our Pathankot Air Force Station, and generally continued down a visionless path in foreign policy. These indicate that Modi’s defensive and offensive strokes against Pakistan have failed completely, including the most politicized ‘surgical strike’ that did not contain the terrorists from Pakistan. Today, the Modi government is searching for policy directions in handling Pakistan, but sat in a corner like a lame duck.

In the beginning, when he took office, Modi perhaps believed that ‘everything is possible’ in international affairs simply by virtue of occupying the prime minister seat. Further, he thought that all his visits abroad would bring a breakthrough. His hugs with counterparts, various costume changes, and the serving of tea, indicate that our prime minister is using soft power approaches. These approaches were used by our first Prime Minister Nehru whilst India did not have a strong military or economy. However, India is not today what it was in the 1950/60s. Presently, hugging and changing costumes will not necessarily keep India influential in international relations, especially at a time when the world is undergoing multi-polar disorder. However, he is in continuous denial that his paths are wrong, especially in dealing with our neighbors.

What is the BJP led-NDA government policy on Pakistan? Does this government have any policy for Pakistan? Since 2014,Modi has not permitted the Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, to contribute to any foreign policy articulations. As long as Sushma fulfills the duty of Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs she will receive praise from the prime minister’s office.

During 2015 he met Sharif at his residence in Islamabad to give him a hug. This happened exactly two years ago. Further, this is a very serious question that the Media and Modi-supporting TV channels forgot to raise. Instead, without hesitation, they praised him for touching the sky, and described the moment as a diplomatic initiative for a breakthrough with our neighbor Pakistan. The Media will realize this mistake when their traditional viewers switch over to other channels to get centrist news.

What are the outcomes of Modi hugging Sharif at his residence? The results are terrible. India’s relation with Pakistan touches the lowest ever level in a history of 70 years. The Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest and has started a political party to contest the general elections in Pakistan next year. This government does not have the guts to put pressure on Pakistan to provide the evidence – as requested by the Pakistan’s Court – essential to keeping the trial alive against Saeed. Modi has often preached that his government succeeded in isolating Pakistan in the international domain. The reality would be as much India diplomatically isolating Pakistan from the international community as the vacuum has been comfortably filled by China without any difficulty. These are the achievements that Modi’s hugs have brought to India.

The stability of Afghanistan is in India’s long-term strategic interest. India’s ‘aid diplomacy’ to Afghanistan in various fields has been increasing day after day, including infrastructure development and the training of Afghan security forces. Yet, India’s influence in Afghanistan is in disarray. Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said, “India should have its own policy on Afghanistan”. However, Modi’s policy makers in New Delhi are expecting the US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to maintain India’s active and significant role in Afghanistan.

India showed its displeasure during the constitutional crisis in Nepal, in halting energy supply to Kathmandu. This forced the land-locked country to obtain easy support from Beijing. Nepal was once the buffer state between India and China; it is now sitting on China’s lap and steering India. Modi’s mute approach to the Rohingya crisis speculates India’s major power ambition. This is a serious setback to India’s diplomacy: it is now pushing Myanmar to get support from China, along with our neighbor Bangladesh, in resolving the crisis with Rohingya refugees.

The first democratically elected government under Mohamed Nasheed was toppled unconstitutionally in Maldives. Since India has failed to raise any substantial voice against this atrocity, China has jumped onto the scene. New Delhi ought to have designed a policy to resolve the political crisis, but India, the world’s largest democracy, has watched this incident as a movie in the Indian Ocean Theatre. The highlight was the decision of our Prime Minister to skip a visit to the Maldives whilst on his tour of the Indian Ocean islands.

In Sri Lanka, China is designing its future battlefield against India. As the war against LTTE was over, Colombo started travelling in a two-way track, with India and China. Beijing’s love affair, apparently with Colombo, but with an eye on New Delhi, is no secret. Since Modi has allowed these developments without exercising any diplomatic resistance, he has given China a comfortable seat inside Sri Lanka. China has now realised that her weaved network against India can be strengthened easily in the Indian Ocean, because New Delhi only displays silent concern. After Modi took office, India – China relations have remained static. The border talks are on stand still. Beijing holds on to extend a technical hold on Masood Azhar, a UN designated terrorist. The dragon pulls our immediate neighbors to her side. These developments indicate that our foreign policy articulations are not supported by any clear strategic trajectory.

Modi’s diplomacy is like an air balloon which, once torn, cannot be refilled; a new balloon is needed. Hugging a leader does not lead to any commitment in foreign affairs. Personal charisma does not work as a foreign policy tool in dealing with a world power. For this reason, Modi cannot understand the setback he is facing with China, Pakistan, and our other neighbors. In comparison, Vajpayee’s or Dr. Manmohan Singh’s combined simple charisma as leaders or economists with appropriate home-work in the past; has caused tremendous results in foreign policy, including expected results in Indo-US nuclear negotiations. This is completely missing in Modi’s administration.

Hence, the newly elected Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi has said, “Modi’s hug diplomacy fails”. It was a valuable comment that the ruling elite should consider as a meaningful insight. Alternative approaches are vital to regain our neighbors’ trust, as opposed to China’s. However, Prime Minister Modi’s this year of work will be focused on the 2019 general elections, compromising the proper attention due to India’s international diplomacy.

First published in Congress Sandesh

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Potential Consequences of Nuclear Politics in South Asia

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Established in 1948, Indian atomic energy commission turned towards United Kingdom for their first help in the making of Apsara. Subsequently, with a similar vision, the CIRUS reactor was supplied by Canada, where, the heavy water came from the United States.

India, over the years, has built a nuclear program that has led to the making of a number of reactors. India’s 1974 “Peaceful nuclear explosion” implies to their hegemonic ambitions as India has the capacity to produce around 300-400 nuclear weapons. The continuous upgradation of weapons by India could lead her as a hegemon nuclear power that can deeply unsettle Pakistan and China.

Calling into question India’s stated intentions, when it comes to nuclear tests, the plutonium for its 1974 and 1998 tests was diverted from its “civilian” nuclear facilities. After 1974, India continued to claim its explosion was “peaceful” and advocated global nuclear disarmament, even as it rejected proposals by Pakistan to denuclearize South Asia.

From Pokhran-I to Operation Shakti, India has traditionally relied on plutonium and thermonuclear technology. In 1992, the then Chairman of Department of Indian Atomic Energy  acknowledged that India had succeeded in the past for achieving the target of highly enriched uranium, while the centrifuge program was facing critical and technical hindrances. Also, it was admitted by the former Chairman of AEC, Raja Ramanna that India was working to produce more efficient centrifuges which were used for military purposes.  At the peak of all these developments, it is important to note that thermonuclear weapons have far more destructive power than a nuclear bomb.

India may also be considering using its civil power reactors to increase its stock of weapon-grade plutonium. Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s former top nonproliferation official told the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in March that the officials in the Bush administration had the ambition to sign a nuclear deal with India, to “work together to counter China- to be a counterweight to an emerging China.” He further expressed his views that the nuclear deal had unfortunate repercussions, because other nations concluded that Washington was playing favorites with India.

India is the only country in the region having uranium reserves that are higher than what other countries in the region hold. India has already received roughly 4,914 tons of uranium from France, Russia, and Kazakhstan, and it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina, and Namibia for additional shipments. It also signed a uranium deal with Australia that has sparked considerable controversy at home.

This massive production of uranium annually can support its nuclear submarine program and current weapons grade plutonium production rate indirectly. These uranium reserves are enough for approx. 6-10 bombs per year.

Adding a twist to the existing fissile material build-up process, the Indo-US strategic partnership supplemented it. Under this dangerous bargain, it would continue to not only allow India to increase its fissile material but also the capacity to increase the build-up of nuclear weapon material.

Hence, the strategic stability in South Asia has been negatively impacted since the initial stages due to the hegemonic designs which India pursued with the start of CIRUS reactor. With the passage of time, the Indo-US nuclear deal and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver have already added more repercussions and now the discriminatory move to try to facilitate Indian NSG membership will further erode the strategic stability in South Asia.

Indian NSG membership and its potential exemption has adverse implications on non-proliferation regime. This has allowed India to expand its military program. As a result of 2008 exemption it has signed a number of agreement in nuclear domain with different countries. Interestingly, Mansoor Ahmed states that India has the capacity to utilize the uranium it is importing from these countries to produce more bombs.  The aforementioned reasons sum up India’s keenness to obtain NSG’s membership. This U.S.-backed move to make India a member of the NSG will be good neither for Pakistan nor for China, and it would set off nuclear instability in the region.

While looking at the dynamics of left alone Pakistan since late 1990’s, starting from Indo-US strategic partnership to now this geoploliticising of NSG. Consequently, this shall allow India to use all this a means of making the most optimum use of all its natural uranium stocks for weaponization. To offset the stakes, it might be prudent to have a close check on the international architects of India’s nuclear build-up. The alleged misuse of U.S. and Canadian controlled items by India must be enough to refrain from any cooperation if it is not abiding by group’s guidelines and commodity control list.

Furthermore, the more discriminatory the international nuclear order becomes, the less would be the effectiveness of deterrence and strategic balance in the region. The NSG will have to identify that India’s 1974 nuclear explosive test was the reason that nuclear supplier states established the NSG. It must also emphasize upon its commitment to uphold the principles of the nonproliferation.

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