You are here

NPT: Crisis of Compliance

Manish was Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • May 24, 2005

    The agenda of the NPT Rev Con, currently underway in New York, has now been finalized. Moreover, the Chairman of the Rev Con, Ambassador Sergio Duarte of Brazil has also been able to finalize upon the three Main Committees (MC) and the three Subsidiary Bodies (SB). These three subsidiary bodies will look into three important issues: practical steps towards disarmament (SB1), regional issues including the issue of Middle East (SB2) and the issue of withdrawal from the NPT (SB3). Although, it is not yet final, it is believed that SB1, SB2 and SB3 would be headed by members of the NAC, the European States and the NAM states, respectively.

    Among other things, it is now clear, that the review would be conducted only in the light of the decisions of previous Rev Cons, particularly the decisions of the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference and the 2000 NPT Rev Con.

    To recall, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995 only in the backdrop of two other negotiations. First, the negotiations on a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which had then started in 1994 at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) at Geneva, and secondly, the ‘Shannon Committee’ which was formed to negotiate a fissile material production ban. At the same time, progress on these two treaties was also linked to the extension of the NPT which was then due in 1995. The NPT was extended indefinitely on May 11, 1995.

    This extension was, however, not ‘unconditional’. It was part of a larger bargain between the P-5 and the NAM countries wherein, the former had pledged to assess effective implementation of the NPT on the basis of ‘Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament’. It was clear that this would mean a P-5 commitment under Article VI to pursue in good faith ‘negotiations on effective measures relating to disarmament’.

    The 1995 Conference had for the first time identified three specific measures as an important commitment to the implementation of Article VI. These were: (a) negotiations on a CTBT no later that 1996, (b) conclusion of negotiations on a convention banning production of fissile materials, and (c) determined pursuit by nuclear weapon states of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce and further eliminate these weapons.

    In addition, in the area of ‘peaceful uses of nuclear energy’, the 1995 Conference had reiterated the ‘right’ of NNWS to ‘develop research, production and uses of nuclear energy’ consistent with Articles I, II and III of the NPT. Contrary to what is being argued today by the US, it should be noted that this Conference had called for a ‘preferential’ treatment in nuclear cooperation for the NNWS parties to the treaty. It was against these yardsticks that the NPT was indefinitely extended in 1995.

    The 2000 Rev Con further reiterated the 1995 commitments. Indeed, this conference went a step further in identifying the ‘tangibles’: the ‘13-practical’steps which were floated by the New Agenda Coalition (NAC) states formed in 1998 comprising of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. These ‘13-practical-steps’ or the ‘Action Plan’ included the signing of the CTBT, FMCT, along with efforts to reduce and further eliminate nuclear weapons. These were also identified as the areas on which future progress towards meeting Article VI was possible.

    Five years after the 2000 NPT Rev Con, new rationales for retaining nuclear weapons have been discovered. The US Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) of 2002 clearly stated that nuclear weapons would constitute an important component of the US military doctrine. Moreover, the US has stated that it would view the Treaty on Strategic Offensive Reductions (SORT) to be an important step towards disarmament. This treaty was signed by the Russian and US presidents at the Moscow Summit on May 24, 2002 wherein both sides agreed to reduce the levels of their strategic nuclear warheads to 1,700-2,200. However, it should be understood in the context of the treaty that ‘reduction of strategic forces’ is actually decreasing the ‘status of readiness’ of strategic weapons. Perhaps this is what the US meant when it submitted its Working Paper in appreciation to its disarmament commitment!

    It is, therefore, clearly evident that the promises made by the NWS at the 1995 Indefinite Extension of the NPT and the 2000 Rev Con have been abrogated. Prior to this, the ABM treaty was unilaterally abrogated. Moreover, the entry-into-force of the CTBT is blocked due to US non-ratification of the treaty. Development of the National Missile Defence (NMD) is also in progress. The US approach to Article VI, therefore, contradicts the NAM/NNWS perceptions, and indeed is in contradiction to the 1995 NPT Rev Con and the ‘13-point’ Action Plan which sets tangibles for the review of Article VI. Britain, which fortunately had committed to the ‘13-point’Action Plan in 2000, has also reversed its position after 9/11.

    This attitude of the two key NWS towards disarmament, therefore, would come in conflict with the NAM/NAC approach towards meeting the Article VI obligations. As mentioned earlier, the 13-point Action Plan was conceived as an incremental process through which disarmament commitments could be accounted for, something which was regarded as ‘irreversible’. Any backtracking on these practical steps would then certainly be viewed as a lack of commitment on the part of NWS. Moreover, it would also represent non-compliance with NPT commitments by the NWS and also raise doubts about the overall review process and the future of the NPT.