Event ReportsPublished on May 20, 2011
With the ongoing multi-polarisation of global politics, new powers would emerge which would in turn increase global insecurity and lead to a greater demand for nuclear weapons even by the countries that as of now do not possess them, cautioned Prof. Rajesh Rajagopalan during an ORF roundtable on nuclear non proliferation.
Is India ready to be a part of the Non Proliferation Regimes?

As debates on nuclear non proliferation are gaining fresh momentum in the backdrop of US President Barack Obama’s proposal to invite India into some of the technology control regimes, the Observer Research Foundation organised a roundtable discussion on "Non Proliferation Issues: India Pacific Concerns" on May 20, 2011. The discussion brought forth many issues and challenges that the current technology export control regimes have been facing and how India can contribute to these regimes.

Dr. Manpreet Sethi, who presented India’s Concerns on non proliferation, pointed out that while the complexity of the issue of proliferation has changed with the passage of time, yet the solution has never been found. The international community had only been able to find fixes for the problem through technology control regimes and treaties. She pointed out that the way in which the countries like Iran and North Korea would be treated if they acquire the nuclear weapons in the near future would determine the course other countries with nuclear ambitions would take. And also the way in which the Sino-US relations will develop under the nuclear umbrella will frame the future of non proliferation. Charting out the challenges for India, she pointed out that India being in the proliferation region needed to do more for its own security interests. She recommended possible solutions such as reducing the attractiveness or the demand for nuclear weapons by reinforcing the norm of non use of nuclear weapons through security assurances or by having a universal ban on use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. She said that this is where India could find association with like minded nations and explore the window of opportunity. She highlighted that it would be in India’s interest to proactively contribute in the Conference on Disarmament, Nuclear Security Summit, the International Fuel Bank and the United Nations 1540 resolution.

Dr. Rajiv Nayan, talking about the technology export control regimes, said that such regimes drew their mandates from the Non Proliferation Treaty. He spoke on the time line of export control regimes and elaborated on the three phases of it:

  1)  The first phase was of the 1970’s with the signing of Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT),

  2)  The second phase was the post Cold-War phase where Gulf War and Saddam Hussain were the drivers of the export control regimes

  3)  The third and the current post 9/11 phase, where the issue of terrorism drives the export control regimes.

He pointed out that the US was still leading the technology control regimes in the current phase and largely countries are following the US systems for technology export control. He said that the challenge ahead for technology control regimes is the controllability of dual use items and the use of clandestine networks for their proliferation.

Prof. Rajesh Rajagopalan explained India’s options with the emerging nuclear order. Detailing the basis of the current nuclear order, he said that the reduction of understanding between the US and Russia was one of the reasons why it became difficult to effectively use the existing orders. He observed that with the ongoing multi-polarisation of global politics, new powers would emerge which would in turn increase global insecurity and lead to a greater demand for nuclear weapons even by the countries that as of now do not possess them. The decline of the US and the rise of China will also shape the future of non proliferation regimes. He raised scenarios which would concern not only India but also the international community as a whole. A possible scenario he mentioned was that of the time when China demands a change in the existing order or creates its own rules. He pointed out that China may start a relative increase in its nuclear arsenal in the next decade. He attributed this to certain aspects like the increasing role of the Chinese military in the foreign policy making and China’s economic as well as technological growth. Talking about disarmament he noted that countries like Iran and North Korea attaining nuclear weapons is a bigger issue than disarmament. Given these situations he said that India has a greater role to play in the future to rebuild the consensus about non proliferation. He also mentioned that India needed to understand that the NPT had certain things that could benefit it and thus needs to develop ways to work better with such regimes although keeping open the option to disagree when it has to.

Suggestions were made during the open discussion which followed the presentations about India’s preparedness to join the existing or any other global non proliferation regime that may be formed like knowing the number of nuclear weapons that it needs to maintain as minimum credible deterrence. Questions on the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of non state actors and also a possible increase in its nuclear arsenal were raised. Also the need for India to prepare for issues that might be raised by certain countries during its membership into the technology control regimes was highlighted during the discussion.

The discussion, chaired by Ms. Arundhati Ghose, former Indian Representative at the UN, was attended by diplomats,  government officials and strategic experts besides the ORF faculty.

(This report was prepared by Rahul Prakash, Research Intern, at Observer Research Foundatioin).

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