By Saima Aman Sial

Feb 06, 2015

Of Norms, Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime and OutliersThe Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has lately been criticized for its ineffectiveness in containing proliferation and fulfilling it grand bargain promise. These challenges to the NPT are both from within the treaty and from that of the outliers. One can argue that both challenges are interrelated. The existing challenges within the treaty are a reflection of how the treaty has remained ineffective in addressing the regional security issues and proliferation in turn. The outliers have remained a challenge for governing the efficacy of the treaty by creating discontent for a large number of member states of the treaty, who feel that the treaty has failed to fulfil its end of the bargain, enshrined in Article IV of the NPT, i.e., the inalienable right of states to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Countries like Iran and North Korea that wish to acquire or have acquired nuclear weapons are as strong a challenge to regional stability and non-proliferation as to the NPT’s reputation as being at the cornerstone of global Nuclear Non-proliferation Regime (NNPR). Further compounding the challenge is the inability of P-5 to facilitate a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Free Zone Conference in the Middle East.

As the NPT, owing to the changed global realities, cannot control or regulate the behaviour of outliers, with significant nuclear capabilities and technological advancements in nuclear field; one can argue that in the twenty first century with its whole range of global challenges to the efficacy of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime (NNPR), new layers of arrangements need to supplement the NPT. Some measures, already in place, that carry credence in this regard include the multilateral export control regimes, United Nation Security Council Resolution 1540 and initiatives like Global Initiative to Counter Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), etc. However, lately, owing to geopolitical and economic exigencies, these institutions have contributed to undermine the norms of (NPR), i.e., accentuating regional security complexes through exemptions undermining behaviour governed by NNPR norms.

Strategic partnership agreements of U.S. and other Western states with India and commitments to bring it, as an exception, into the fold of NNPR are a case in point. If the credibility of deterrence lies in the adversary’s perception of the threat, then one can state that Pakistan’s perception of Indian deterrence vis-à-vis itself, in wake of the agreements for fissile material production and technology access, have accentuated the threat for Pakistan and undermined its perceived notion of deterrence. This argument cannot be wished away, simply because countries operating in regional security complexes with adversarial relationship and geographically contiguous cannot overlook developments that undermine their perceived notions of deterrence and strategic stability. The concern here does not solely relate to nuclear weapons capability and undermining of defence-offence balance through introduction of deterrence stabilizers like Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) systems or Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs). But, a politically hostile neighbour bent upon belligerence against Pakistan (recent working boundary escalation by India is a case in point), on behest of the global confidence bestowed to it by the world community through subjective notions of a “good non-proliferation record”. By implication, this means that a confident India is a more belligerent regional actor that wishes to solve disputes in accordance with its own inclinations.

Putting this notion of India being streamlined in a “twenty-first century version of NPT” (Hilary Clinton, the then U.S. Secretary of State stated in USIP October 21, 2009), it becomes important to consider the future course of action for another regional actor, i.e., Pakistan. Recently, there has been a debate about Pakistan being brought into the NNPR, based on norms. There are several questions that come to mind, when one undertakes this proposition.

First, do the norms govern the global nuclear non-proliferation regime or the geo-political realities dictate the norms? The Indo-U.S. strategic partnership, as a case in point, unveils the harsh reality that geo-political exigencies take precedence over norms. The norms can be subjectively twisted to cite the good non-proliferation record of an outlier state, which proliferated under no regional threat scenario, to streamline it in the non-proliferation regime. That being the case, one could argue what is the stake of international community in mainstreaming nuclear Pakistan under the global NNPR? If Pakistan’s growing stockpiles of weapons material, which it is producing under an enhanced regional threat scenario, is a global concern, incentivizing the state can lead to changing its behaviour. Opening up the advanced dual-use technological access for nuclear Pakistan could help mainstream it.

Membership of multilateral export control regimes should be based on a criterion that governs prospective candidates’ entry. Subjective and political notions of good non-proliferation record and political stability unnecessarily complicate the efforts for strengthening the non-proliferation regime. Pakistan has been effectively contributing to global non-proliferation efforts through multilateral instruments like UNSCR 1540, Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM); global initiatives like Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT); alongside participating and observing Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), Container Security Initiative (CSI) and Mega Port Initiative (MPI). Pakistan has declared on several occasions its adherence to guidelines of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). This makes it a strong candidate for any prospective membership of the export control regimes as well as a responsible nuclear weapon power with advanced nuclear technology.

The second issue that demands attention is, would the mainstreaming of nuclear Pakistan be an incentive for it to change its behaviour or a reward for a changed behaviour? However, the latter question brings a significant issue to light, i.e., what can change the behaviour of a state operating in a regional security environment inimical to its survival and regional stability and living under constant threat of war? States operating in regionally hostile environment can change their behaviour only if they find that either the threat has been taken out or an overarching incentive is there to make them change their behaviour.

Finally, to realize the changed realities of the twenty-first century, there is a need to supplement the global nuclear non-proliferation regime through measures that neither accentuate regional security complexes nor promote additional layers of discrimination and, therefore, nuclear Pakistan should be considered as essentially a member of “the twenty-first century of NPT” or NNPR as any other state. By promoting exceptionalism, the goal of universalizing non-proliferation norms has been seriously undermined and further discrimination may lead members to be disgruntled and outliers to change their behaviour negatively.

Ms. Saima Sial is currently working as a Research Coordinator in Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily present the position of the Centre.

Send this to a friend