Expert Speak India Matters
Published on Jun 06, 2016
Why The New York Times is wrong again The New York Times has done it again. With incorrect statements and faulty analyses, it has come up with an editorial advocating keeping India out of the Nuclear Suppliers Group right before the Group’s annual plenary. First, the editorial claims that civil nuclear deal with India has encouraged Pakistan to expand its nuclear weapons programme, which is already the fastest growing in the world. This argument reflects a poor understanding of Pakistan’s current nuclear weapons policy. Pakistan has gone down the path of increasing reliance on nuclear weapons to cover up for the disparity that exists on conventional military strength vis-à-vis India. The shift to full-spectrum deterrence and introduction of tactical nuclear weapons indicate how Pakistan now sees their utility in countering threats of conventional aggression. As India grows stronger conventionally, Pakistan would, by the current understanding, continue to expand its nuclear arsenal, irrespective of whether India pursues civil nuclear cooperation with its like-minded partners. Second, while it is correct that all members of the Group are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the editorial forgets the fact that one of NSG founding members – France – had been in the group before signing the NPT for nearly two decades. There is a need to re-examine the case of France and assess as to why the US government in 1974 had called upon France, then not a signatory to the Treaty, to join in the setting up of the London Club – eventually renamed as NSG. The argument that including in NSG a country which is not a party to the NPT would weaken the latter requires a nuanced and careful examination. Third, signing the NPT has been equated to undertaking a legally binding commitment to pursue disarmament negotiations. Though Article VI of the Treaty indeed makes its signatories commit to pursue negotiations in good faith, the progress NPT’s nuclear weapon states (NWS) have made on disarmament has been rather disappointing. This has resulted in growing difference between NWS and non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS), captured at last year’s NPT Review Conference, with the latter increasingly calling for a nuclear weapons convention outside the Treaty. Furthermore, signing the NPT has been argued to be a reflection of a country’s commitment to halting production of fissile material. That a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) is a separate treaty to be negotiated at the Conference on Disarmament based on the 1995 Shannon Mandate and that India has been supportive of early start to those negotiations has been completely overlooked. The editorial also claims that by “continuing to produce fissile material and to expand their nuclear arsenal,” India have fallen far short on the promise it made in being “ready to assume the same responsibilities and practices” as other nations with advanced nuclear technology. Again, this takes no cognizance of the commitments India had undertaken while negotiating the civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US. That India has separated its civil nuclear facilities, placed them under IAEA safeguards, ratified additional protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA and harmonised its export controls with the guidelines of the NSG and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) have simply been ignored. The editorial, moreover, notes that if India gets into NSG, it would block Pakistan’s entry into the Group, which would give the latter the incentives to misbehave as it did in supplying nuclear technology to Iran and North Korea. Again, this does not take into consideration the position which New Delhi has already iterated that it would take decisions on all future membership applications based on the merits of including new members, informed by their respective non-proliferation credentials. The world will be giving into Pakistan’s blackmail if India’s inclusion into NSG is blocked on the fears of Pakistan’s nuclear misbehaviour. Finally, the editorial argues that to meet the nuclear group’s standards, India must open “negotiations with Pakistan and China on curbing nuclear weapons and halting the production of nuclear fuel for bombs.” In effect, the editorial bizarrely argues that it is India’s responsibility to manage nuclear arsenal of Pakistan and China and keep them in control if it seeks to join the Group. Unfortunately for the NYT, factors considered for admission of new members to the Group does not include any such conditions. The editorial, in fact, has compromised on the quality of debate on the implications of India’s entry to the NSG with factually incorrect claims and arguments. This will only hurt those who continue to oppose India’s integration with the global non-proliferation architecture.
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