Tuesday, May 10, 2011

India cannot sign NPT since it is discriminatory....K. Subrahmanyam

The UN Security Council presided over by President Obama has adopted unanimously resolution 1887 on nonproliferation which among various measures calls on states not party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to join it. There are only three countries outside the NPT --India, Pakistan and Israel.

India and Pakistan have declared themselves nuclear weapon states while Israel, though a possessor of nuclear weapons even before the NPT was signed, has chosen to adopt an ambiguous stand of neither declaring nor denying its possession of nuclear weapons. Israel’s stand is that it will neither be the first to introduce nuclear weapons nor will it be the second. The world, however, accepts Israel as a nuclear weapon state.

India has reacted to the resolution by saying that there is no question of India joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state as nuclear weapons are an integral part of India’s security. The NPT only recognises five nuclear weapon powers and other countries can be a party to the NPT only as a non-nuclear weapon state. Therefore the question of India joining the treaty does not arise.

President Obama talks of a world without nuclear weapons. But the NPT was not intended to lead towards a world without nuclear weapons. Initially when it was drafted, it was meant as a bargain between the nuclear weapon powers and non-nuclear weapon states for 25 years. The nuclear weapon powers were meant to not expand their arsenals and had to negotiate in good faith for nuclear disarmament while the non-nuclear weapon states were meant to not acquire nuclear weapons.

The nuclear weapon states did not keep their side of the bargain. Then, in 1995 at the end of 25-year period, they got the NPT extended indefinitely and unconditionally thereby legitimising the nuclear weapons in the hands of the five nuclear powers. If the nuclear weapons were legitimate for five powers, they would also be for all other powers who have not bound themselves not to acquire them. India, Israel and Pakistan did not break any international law when they acquired nuclear weapons.

The supporters of the NPT do not seem to appreciate that the NPT is the main hurdle in advancing towards nuclear disarmament. The term non-proliferation implies that there will be some possessors of weapons and it is meant to stop the new states from acquiring the weapons. It is essentially a discriminatory treaty. Over and above this discrimination, the weapons have been legitimised.

No weapon considered legitimate is ever going to be eliminated.

President Obama will not see the world without nuclear weapons so long as the nuclear weapons are deemed legitimate. If he is keen on advancing towards the world without nuclear weapons, he should progress towards delegitimisation of nuclear weapons. India cannot sign a discriminatory treaty which legitimises nuclear weapons.

India has proposed steps to delegitimise the nuclear weapons. It has called for the nuclear weapon powers to adopt ‘no first use’ policy as a first step towards delegitimisation as happened in the case of chemical weapons in the Geneva Protocol of 1925. That led to the treaty to eliminate chemical weapons in 1993. The nuclear weapons have been used only once against a country which was negotiating its surrender terms. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Mikhail Secretary Gorbachev had jointly declared that a nuclear war could not be won. The delegitimisation path is more likely to lead towards disarmament, as the precedence of the chemical weapons shows rather than the non-proliferation path which surrounds the nuclear weapons with a mystique and endows them legitimacy.

India has been a consistent advocate of nuclear disarmament since the inception of the United Nations. India became a reluctant nuclear weapon state faced with two nuclear neighbours with an ongoing proliferation relationship going back to 1976, with one of them declaring its nuclear arsenal as India-specific.

At the time the NPT was under discussion, Indira Gandhi sent Indian emissary L.K.Jha and Dr Vikram Sarabhai to Moscow, Paris, London and Washington to seek nuclear security assurances for India if it were to sign the NPT. Those assurances were denied and therefore India did not sign the NPT faced with a Maoist China which proclaimed that all peace-loving nations had a right to nuclear weapons.

In Chinese view at that time Pakistan was a peace-loving nation and India was not. In 1971 when the Bangladesh massacre involved a million casualties and 10 million refugees pushed into India, Delhi found itself facing a Pakistan-China-US axis. Therefore India conducted the Pokhran-I nuclear test, but did not follow that up with a weaponisation programme.

In 1976 Z A Bhutto concluded an agreement for nuclear weapon development cooperation with China. The recent revelations from Dr A Q Khan’s letter written in December 2003 when he was detained and facing interrogation give some details of the Chinese proliferation to Pakistan in the eighties which included weapon grade-enriched uranium and nuclear weapon design. In turn, Pakistan helped China to set up an ulta-centrifuge plant with European technology purloined by Dr A Q Khan from Almelo centrifuge facility in Holland where he worked earlier.

Two American authors Thomas Reed of Livermore Laboratory and Danny Stillman of Los Alamos Laboratory in their book “The Nuclear Express” write that China’s late leader Deng Xiao Peng adopted a deliberate policy of proliferation in the eighties towards Pakistan, North Korea and Iran. According to the authors, China even conducted a nuclear test for Pakistan on May 28, 1990.

The Pakistanis conveyed nuclear threats to India during Operation Brasstacks (a military exercise undertaken by the Indian Army during November 1986 and March 1987) and at the beginning of Kashmir insurgency in February 1990. These are recorded in the report of the Kargil Review Committee. Rajiv Gandhi came up with his comprehensive and phased disarmament plan before the UN Special Session on Disarmament in June 1988. He offered that India would not go nuclear if his plan was accepted. When that plan was ignored by the Non-Proliferation Community, he had no choice but to order assembly of weapons in India to catch up with Pakistan, which according to Dr Khan had attained weapon capability in mid-eighties.

While China may have adopted a ‘no first use’ policy its surrogate Pakistan, which it had equipped with nuclear weapons and missiles, asserts its nuclear policy is India-specific and it has a policy of first use of nuclear weapons under certain circumstances. In 1998 Pakistan tested its Ghauri missile. Under those circumstances, India was compelled to test and declare itself a nuclear weapon state.

India found a compromise between its commitment to nuclear disarmament and its security imperatives faced with two nuclear adversaries in the strategy of ‘no first use’. The world has recognised the Indian record of restrained and responsible behaviour and consequently granted India waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. The call for non-nuclear states to join the NPT is a ritual meant to satisfy other non-weapon states and there is no reason for India to be unduly perturbed by it.

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