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Pakistan against signing the NPT as a non-nuclear weapons state

Dr. Ch. Viyyanna Sastry was Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
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  • March 08, 2010

    There appears to be a fundamental shift in the Pakistani position on the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, to which it had been chained for more than three decades. Simultaneously, Pakistan has made known that its reliance on nuclear weapons has increased and it would keep increasing its weapons number.

    The revelation came through the Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, who reportedly told Kyodo news agency recently that Pakistan has abandoned its historic position that it would sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear non-weapons State (NNWS) in case of India joining it so. When asked to spell out the new terms under which Pakistan would consider joining the NPT, Basit told the news agency that it would only join as a recognised nuclear weapons State (NWS). Further, Basit put the blame on the United States and other countries for destabilising the security environment in South Asia and thus forcing Pakistan to increase its dependence on nuclear weapons.

    Explaining further, Basit said that Pakistan cannot give up nuclear weapons either. He said “if you have a conventional imbalance between Pakistan and India, then obviously our reliance on nuclear deterrence increases correspondingly”. The meaning is that Pakistan would enhance its capabilities and number of weapons as well.

    Since 1967 when the NPT was being drafted and opened for signature, Pakistan has been maintaining that it would sign the NPT if India also signs the Treaty. Its position is the same with respect to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well. The CTBT was opened for signature in 1996 but has not entered into force till date.

    The remarks by Basit may not be seen in isolation. Pakistan has been greatly upset by the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement signed between the US and India and the subsequent waiver granted in 2008 by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to allow export of nuclear equipment and materials to Indian civil nuclear industry. India has subsequently concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, UK, France and Russia. Pakistan had been canvassing that the deal is discriminatory, that it would undermine the nuclear balance in South Asia and lead to an arms race. At the same time, several attempts were made to impress upon the US and other nuclear supplier countries that Pakistan is also facing severe power shortage, that it is planning to install a capacity of 8800 MWe by the year 2030, and hence it should also get a similar deal. Some experts are of the view that China might have concluded a nuclear deal with Pakistan and agreed to assist Pakistan in its quest for nuclear energy. The US has, however, made it categorical that it is not willing to consider a similar agreement with Pakistan. The dismal nuclear proliferation track record of Pakistan was also cited in this regard.

    There are ample indications that Pakistan has not given up its hopes for a civil nuclear cooperation deal with the US and de facto recognition as a nuclear weapons State. During the recent visit of Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, Islamabad reportedly urged him that the US should conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement with Pakistan and to recognise it as a nuclear weapons State.

    The recent Pakistani objection to the adoption of the agenda at the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva – it would not accept a treaty which only bans future production of nuclear fissile materials, and it is linkling this issue with disparity in conventional weapons in South Asia including in the field of missiles – gives clear indications about the changed Pakistani thinking.

    Pakistan is aware that there is a growing gap with India as far as the defence and military capabilities are concerned and it is trying to bridge the gap by increasing its dependence on nuclear weapons. It is well known that Pakistan is engaged in the construction of two plutonium production reactors, a facility to build reactor fuel, and a reprocessing facility to enhance its nuclear capabilities. One reactor is expected to begin operations in 2010.

    Pakistan might have come to terms with the reality that there is no chance that India would join the NPT as a non-weapons State, especially after the Indo-US nuclear agreement/NSG clearance. The only option, though remote and most cumbersome, is of India joining the NPT as a weapons State. In any case, the NPT has to be amended if any modifications to the Treaty were to be considered, which is very unlikely. With four of the five weapons States having finalised their nuclear agreements with India on enhancing civil nuclear cooperation, Pakistan seems to have decided that it is best to press the US and others to accord it a similar deal while at the same time advocating that it is willing to join NPT as a weapons State and pursuing its weapons programme unabated.