Over NSG, India is its own rival

Despite support from the US, India could not get Nuclear Suppliers Group membership during the two-day plenary at Seoul in June. New Delhi’s eagerness to gain a seat at the table that controls the global nuclear commerce fizzled and it has tried to place onus of sour grapes on Beijing’s so-called procedural hurdles. This is an untruth.

As the CPI (M) Polit Bureau member Prakash Karat recently said, “The government is trying to say it was only China which opposed India’s entry into NSG. That is not correct. Out of 48 countries, 10 countries, including China, and our own partners in BRICS like Brazil and South Africa, did not favour India getting into the NSG.” This has happened because India is its own rival and its increasing hubris even at Rio Olympics has blindsided it from making rational choices.

India has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which is the keystone of the nonproliferation regime and sine qua non for membership of the NSG. New Delhi has two stark choices to overcome this dilemma: 1) it should either sign NPT as a non-nuclear weapons State or 2) it should swallow its pride and seek simultaneous entry of all non-NPT States in the NSG. It is crystal clear that India shall never be able to enter into NSG alone. The non-proliferation purist countries - not China only - will never like to repeat their mistake of 2008 and allow India permanently enter in to their fold. Despite its poor proliferation record and besides keeping its eight so-called civilian nuclear reactors outside IAEA safeguards, India managed to secure a trade waiver from the NSG. Some participating governments have learnt their lessons and won’t repeat the error in judgment.

Realizing the sensitivity of the issue, a number of American experts and lawmakers have voiced serious reservations on Obama administration’s persistent push on Indian bid. Democratic Senator from Massachusetts Edward Markey in a recent statement said, “Today, the NSG reaffirmed its strong support for the NPT by refraining from admitting India.” Earlier at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on US-India Relations, he had warned that India’s admission into the NSG without signing the NPT would trigger a “never-ending” nuclear race in South Asia. It clearly shows that Obama administration is deeply divided in its desperate quest   for India’s hasty inclusion in NSG. This push is more about Obama’s efforts to leave a legacy rather than genuinely promoting non-proliferation. If it were so, his administration should have no qualms roping in all non-NPT states into NSG simultaneously because their participation would strengthen the regime.

Earlier, Pakistan warned international community by saying that admitting only India into the club would threaten strategic stability in South Asia and permanently damage the non-proliferation regime. Since the 2005 nuclear deal with the U.S. and the 2008 trade waiver, India has vertically proliferated and built huge stockpile of fissile materials for its burgeoning nuclear weapons program. Every gram of nuclear fuel India imports from these states has unencumbered its indigenous resources for weapons development.

This vertical proliferation and utter disregard of norms will only shrink global support for India in its quest for NSG membership and irreversible destabilize strategic and deterrence stability of the Pak-India subcontinent. If NSG membership is so important for New Delhi, it should be subjected severe oversight, asked to take additional commitments and forced to constrain its nuclear and conventional force posture developments.

I propose that NSG participating governments should condition Indian entry into Group to the following four conditions.

One - New Delhi should be asked to bring all its current and upcoming reactors under safeguards. Recent Belfer Centre study reveals that Indian nuclear program has three streams, civilian safeguarded, civilian unsafeguarded and military facilities in its surreptitious fuel cycle. Report further clearly explains that the ‘three streams’ are not transparent in their overlapping and some civilian facilities operating under International Atomic Energy Agency, also contribute to India’s stockpile of unsafeguarded weapons-usable nuclear.

In this regard, India should certify that once admitted simultaneously with other non-NPT States like Pakistan, it would never seek enrichment and reprocessing technology from the NSG. There is substantial evidence that New Delhi’s enrichment program benefitted from the international black market and that it was the Fourth Customer of the non-state network. Likewise, it is worth recalling that NSG was created after India proliferated from Atoms for Peace Program and reprocessed the safeguarded fuel to make its first weapon. A moth eaten safeguards arrangement and a shallow Additional Program would not ensure tracking the imported fuel and ensure that it is not diverted to weapons.

Two - India should be asked to reverse seven developments in its force posture and doctrine: a) Development of intercontinental ballistic missiles; b) Verifiably stop pursuit of MIRV technology; c) It should be forced to return the leased nuclear submarines to Russia and verifiably close submarine-launched ballistic missiles development program; d) India should halt the ballistic missiles defense shield program because it would enhance its pre-emptive tendencies; e) It should reverse development of Prahaar and Pragati tactical nuclear weapons systems and f) Rollback doctrines and related developments on ground that seek fighting limited wars under nuclear overhang and g) lastly give up its doctrine of massive retaliation.

If India does not take these steps in the interest of global and regional stability, its DRDO should be placed under UNSC sanctions in order to regulate its irresponsible behaviour. Some apologists in the West would consider these emplacing these conditions not workable because India is a big market that they cannot afford to ignore and that the country has successfully used China as a bogey to play on Western security sensibilities.

Three – It is well known that India has only provided lip service to eschew further nuclear weapons testing. New Delhi should follow Pakistan’s lead in at least declaring a bilateral moratorium on nuclear weapons testing. In a statement on August 12, 2016, Sartaj Aziz reiterated the country’s offer saying, “Pakistan has consistently supported the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). We voted for the Treaty when it was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1996. We have declared a unilateral moratorium on further testing. Pakistan is prepared to consider translating its unilateral moratorium into a bilateral arrangement on non-testing with India.”

Four – Irresolution of Jammu and Kashmir and water disputes are the roots of instability between India and Pakistan. Islamabad’s repeated efforts to use the negotiating table rather than arms racing has fallen of deaf New Delhi ears. The silence of the civilized world for the sake of economic and political imperatives has emboldened India to grossly suppress the freedom struggle with an iron hand. Thousands have been killed, maimed and raped over the years in Indian occupied Kashmir. If the free world and true democracies use their leverage on India, resolution of disputes between Pakistan and India can bring lasting peace to the region and complement global efforts for general and complete disarmament and non-proliferation’s half-measure to attain this ideal.

It is time that NSG’s participating governments take the unruly bull by its horns and likewise UNSC should exercise its usually selective authority to constrain India behavior and condition its quest for mainstreaming into the non-proliferation regime to its behavior as a responsible player in the world. Till such time this does not happen, India will be its own rival and will stand on the wrong side of history. The civilized world shall remain understandably polite in pointing out Indian follies for political and economic imperatives. Although Confucian wisdom holds that one should never stop an adversary once he is committing a mistake, in this I thought that an advice would serve a global good.

Anaya Shahid graduated from Defense & Diplomatic Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi

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