Islamabad, June, 22, 2016: Given the current Seoul summit of NSG members where a purported Indian membership has been tabled, Vice President PPPP Senator Sherry Rehman said that balance was clearly the need of the hour at such key global forums.
“India’s out of turn inclusion in the NSG will disrupt the balance of power and lead to an unwanted arms race in the region. Efforts for India’s inclusion in the NSG not only defy the principles on which the group was formed, but will also significantly tilt the nuclear balance in the region, with serious implications for regional stability and security,” she said.
The Nuclear Suppliers Group comprises of 48 countries and was instituted to regulate nuclear trade for civilian purposes. Both India and Pakistan are not members of the NSG, but the US has been actively pushing for India’s membership in the group. A meeting of the NSG was held at Vienna this month, to consider India’s request for membership in the group, with the US giving unequivocal support in its favor. However, other countries, including China, have resisted such efforts, claiming that membership of any country should be subject to criteria that India has so far failed to fulfil.
NSG member countries are meeting again in Seoul this week and will reportedly be discussing the issue of non-NPT countries’ membership in the group in plenary sessions on June 23 and 24. Last week, Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar made an ‘unannounced’ visit to Beijing to shore up support for India’s membership ahead of the group’s meeting in Seoul. This was followed by remarks by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, expressing optimism that Beijing was not obstructing India but was only focused on “procedure.” However, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson has said that membership of non-NPT countries, including India, is not on the agenda of the NSG meeting in Seoul. Beijing has also stressed that the NSG is still divided about non-NPT countries’ entry into the group. On the other hand, the US insists that it will continue to support India’s application for membership, regardless of China’s position on the matter.
Rehman said that if the purpose of India’s NSG membership is nuclear transfer for civilian use, then Pakistan’s energy needs are just as acute for it to be considered on equal grounds for membership in the group. “When Pakistan’s nuclear command and control is quite satisfactory, as declared sound from 2012 onwards, particularly at the Nuclear Summit in Seoul,” Rehman questioned “why is Pakistan subject to different membership criteria?”
The NSG membership is normally subject to a nuclear non-proliferation agreement on part of the member states, and nuclear states that are not signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) are restricted from the group. “India has categorically refrained from signing the NPT. Any support for one country’s exceptional membership of the NSG is short-sighted, given the former’s non-NPT status,” the senator said, stressing that India has also not completely separated its civilian and nuclear reactors, indicating diversion of civilian nuclear material towards undetected military use.
Rehman cited a report of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard University which has noted that despite India’s announcement of a separation plan for its civilian and military nuclear programmes, there remain significant overlaps with little transparency to detect the diversion of nuclear material for military purposes. The report also notes that “the overlap between civilian and military nuclear activities is likely to intensify as India scales up its nuclear power program and its enrichment and reprocessing industries.”
India’s arms build-up has also been steadily increasing over the years. “By all counts, Pakistan’s concerns about nuclear imbalance resulting from such measures have been confirmed, as recent studies indicate,” she maintained, adding that on the other hand, Pakistan is being asked by the US to limit its nuclear capability, particularly the Tactical Nuclear Weapon (TNW). “Preferential treatment in NSG membership will add to Pakistan’s security concerns and accelerate an unwanted and dangerous arms race in the region,” concluded the senator.