PM makes forceful case for joining NSG

Courtesy:-  MA Malik

At the just concluded third Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif while assuring the global community about Pakistan being a responsible nuclear state engaged in promoting objectives of non-proliferation, pleaded for making Pakistan a part of all international export control regimes, especially Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Before venturing to unravel why Pakistan is so keen to join the NSG and what benefits it would accrue to her, it would perhaps be pertinent to have cursory glance at the objectives of the NSG and Nuclear Security Summit in preventing nuclear proliferation and promoting nuclear safety.

NSG seeks to further the objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, through regulatory guidelines in regards to the export of nuclear materials, nuclear reactors, non-nuclear material for reactors, plant and equipment for reprocessing, enrichment and technologies covering these items. The NSG guidelines also govern export of nuclear-related dual use items and technologies which could make a substantial contribution to an un-safeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity. The need for these regulatory guidelines stems from the recognition of the need for international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field for peaceful purposes, as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and NSG guidelines on the subject. The overall aim of these guidelines is to ensure that nuclear exports are carried out with appropriate safeguards, physical protection, and non-proliferation conditions, and other appropriate restraints.

The objectives of the Nuclear Security Summit, launched by President Obama in 2010 in the backdrop of the threat that terrorism poses to the global peace and security and the likelihood of terrorists getting their hands on the nuclear weapons and materials which they could use to kill human beings and destroy human assets, basically aims at drawing up cooperative measures to combat threat of nuclear terrorism, protection of nuclear materials and related facilities and prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. Added to this are also concerns for preventing nuclear accidents and fostering international cooperation in this regard. Reportedly between 1952 and 2009 there have been 99 accidents at nuclear power plants, including major accidents like in Chernobyl in Ukraine in April 1986, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 and Mayapuri radiological accident in India. Ensuring nuclear safety at the nuclear plants and reactors has all along been a matter of concern and consequently a number of preventive and safety regimes have also been drawn up through international cooperation. However, the rise of international terrorism has added new dimensions to the concern on safety of the nuclear weapons and materials, necessitating the adoption of fool-proof and stringent arrangements and regulatory regimes to ensure the safety of the nuclear installations and assets as well as checking the illicit export of nuclear materials.

As is evident, NSG and Nuclear Security Summit have identical objectives consistent with the aims of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Though Pakistan is not a signatory to the NPT, it has all along supported nuclear non-proliferation and abided by the parameters spelt out by it and different international treaties. Therefore, joining the NSG as desired and pleaded by the prime minister would tantamount to global recognition of those efforts. But the question is: has Pakistan done enough to deserve membership of NSG? For that one requires to look at the qualifying criteria set by the NSG. It stipulates that an aspiring country should have the ability to supply nuclear items covered in the NSG guidelines; should have a proven record of adherence to those guidelines taking necessary actions in that regard; must have enforced legally based domestic export control system; should have complied with obligations under the NPT and other treaties; supported international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif staked his claim for the membership of NSG and other international control regimes declaring that Pakistan had been running a safe and secure civil nuclear programme for the last 40 years and attached highest importance to nuclear security and had the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy; it has pursued a policy of restraint as well as credible minimum deterrence and its nuclear security is supported by five pillars—a strong command and control system, an integrated intelligence system, rigorous regulatory regime and active international cooperation. The security regime covers physical protection, material, control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies. Pakistan, he said, also has been regularly submitting reports to the UN Security Council 1540 committee on the measures that the country has put in place to exercise control over transfer of sensitive materials and technologies. An incisive look at these claims reveals that they are very much in harmony with the NSG requirements and the objectives of the nuclear security and do qualify Pakistan for a place in the NSG and other international regulatory regimes on export of nuclear materials.

If Pakistan is accepted into the fold of NSG, it would tantamount to formal global recognition of Pakistan as a nuclear state and endorsement of its credentials as a responsible nuclear country. Both Pakistan and NSG would benefit from the move as it would add to the strength of the NSG in furthering the objectives of nuclear non-proliferation, well controlled export of nuclear materials for promoting international nuclear trade and cooperation. Pakistan being member of the NSG would be in a better position to contribute to the firming up and refining the regulatory guidelines and safeguarding its interests. The membership of NSG would also allow Pakistan to export nuclear materials and technologies to other countries under gaze of the global community in a legitimate manner with all the accompanying economic benefits as well as reinforcing its image as a useful member of the global community.

The prime minister made a very forceful case for joining the NSG and those who say that he returned empty handed and the visit to The Hague was not as fruitful as expected, are guilty of naivety of the first order. Managing international relations is all about perseverance and determination. No body expected immediate membership of NSG. The ball has been set rolling and there are encouraging portents in this regard. In terms of the outcome, the fact that the prime minister had the opportunity to present Pakistan’s case so eloquently and interact with the world leaders, in itself, is a very productive undertaking. Further it was for the first time that the US Secretary of State expressed his confidence in the safety of our nuclear assets and acknowledged the impregnability of our nuclear security measures.


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