By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
May 01, 2014
Developing countries like Pakistan need robust scientific knowledge, expertise and infrastructure to proceed on the path of progress and prosperity, and to uplift their societies from the darkest depths of ignorance, poverty, and under-development.
All this comes from developed countries. In international normative and legal structures, it is the inalienable right of all developing countries to have access to scientific technology, knowledge, and innovations.Nuclear technology introduced the most destructive weapons mankind had ever seen or imagined. But that was just one side of the coin; since the great catastrophes of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear technology has also proved hugely beneficial for the development of scientific knowledge and expertise for the service of humanity. Especially in Pakistan’s case, the civil nuclear programme has contributed greatly to the development of a scientific base, knowledge, expertise and infrastructure in fields as diverse as agriculture, food, health and industry.
The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) has been running successful nuclear power plants and other projects in civilian and commercial sectors for more than four decades. The knowledge, experience and expertise gained by the PAEC have no match in the region.Nonetheless, if one sees Pakistan in the context of a contemporary nuclear world order from top to bottom, there are two main challenges that the country is facing at the moment. First, there are several misperceptions that have been attached to Pakistan’s nuclear programme since it began almost four decades ago. These misperceptions, at times, create an environment of suspicion and mistrust in which it becomes difficult for Pakistan to play an active role in international nuclear diplomacy. Although the second challenge is actually a part of the first, it would be appropriate to treat it separately to avoid confusion. This is because, in diplomacy, or at the policy level, people do know the difference between reality and misperception. The second challenge is how Pakistan can benefit from the peaceful uses of nuclear energy when it is being discriminately denied of opportunities to access nuclear supply cartels.
The question is how to include Pakistan in the international nuclear export control regimes, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), to fully exploit its right to use nuclear technology for national development?In an anarchic international system, states do what serves their national interest. To comprehend this properly, academicians or theorists of international relations have given various names and interpretations to the word ‘interest,’ such as geopolitical interest, geo-strategic interest, geo-economic interest or national interest, regional interest and global interest. But the big problem with ‘interest’ is that it develops, changes, shifts and transforms from time to time. It can change its shapes, colours and appearances as the definers so desire.In the early 1950s, when the US was preparing to tackle the perceived Soviet threat to its international hegemony through making alliances with various regional powers, the incentive of nuclear technology was one of the juiciest carrots it had to offer its allies to pursue its geopolitical, ideological and geostrategic interests. Pakistan, which was facing imminent threats to its survival, found it appropriate and rational to benefit from that newly innovated nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
Mark Fitzpatrik, an imminent writer on nuclear non-proliferation issues, writes in his book, ‘Overcoming Pakistan’s nuclear danger,’ that “Pakistan’s nuclear endeavours began with peaceful intentions.”To fully utilize nuclear technology for national development, the PAEC was established in 1956, and soon after, hundreds of students were sent abroad for training in nuclear-related fields. It is important to note that the three reactors which Pakistan established with the help of the U.S. and China; namely, PARR (Pakistan Atomic Research Reactor) in 1963, KANUPP (Karachi Nuclear Power Plant) in 1972, and PARR-2 in 1989; were and are under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. It has been endorsed internationally that Pakistan has always complied with and respected all international agreements that it has signed or ratified. It is also acknowledged that whatever nuclear infrastructure or material Pakistan acquired for peaceful purposes, though very limited, was never diverted towards its military programme. Currently, all nuclear power plants working in Pakistan are under IAEA safeguards. Pakistan had no intention to develop nuclear weapons, till it was forced by extraordinary circumstances and the existential security threat posed by India.
The 1965 war, the 1971 debacle, the Indian nuclear test in 1974 and the unreliability of its allies were the circumstances which forced Pakistan to pursue a military nuclear programme. Despite all that, Pakistan proposed many initiatives at international and bilateral levels to keep the region free of nuclear weapons, but all were rejected by India. Pakistan’s official position in this regard has been very consistent and sober. In the National Command Authority’s (NCA) statement of July 14, 2011, the NCA reiterated “Pakistan’s desire to constructively contribute to the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons and to the goals of non-proliferation on the basis of equality and partnership with the international community. Accordingly, Pakistan was keen to join the four international export control arrangements.” The statement clearly verifies Pakistan’s nuclear policy line. Pakistan has taken a principled position which is in line with international law, norms and customs on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. In addition, Pakistan is also keen to pursue its right to acquire nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
As far as the safety and security aspect of its nuclear programme is concerned, Pakistan is fully committed to the objectives of enhancing nuclear safety and security and has been actively engaged with the international community to promote a nuclear safety and security culture. However, according to the official statement submitted by Pakistan at the Nuclear Security Summit 2014, it considers the matter of nuclear safety and security as a “national responsibility.” It is also important to note that Pakistan has shown tremendous progress in this regard which has been acknowledged by the international community many a time. Unfortunately, in contemporary international politics, the nuclear non-proliferation objectives have been taken over by the geopolitical and commercial interests of major powers. Favouritism and exceptionalism have become the guiding principles of nuclear non-proliferation policies of major powers. In this environment, some have become more equal than others. Pakistan is facing discrimination in the field of nuclear science and technology.
It has been consistently denied its right to utilize nuclear technology for its national development. Despite having a clean record of adherence to not only international agreements that it has signed or ratified but also to some of those it has not signed, Pakistan is being isolated, thus denying the legitimate opportunity for its people to benefit from nuclear technology. Pakistan fully qualifies and fulfils every criterion to be a member of the NSG. Therefore, it should not be denied its legitimate right to exploit civilian nuclear technology for the broader service of its people. The writer is a member Senate Standing Committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Human Resource Development & Overseas Pakistanis.