By Air Commodore ®Khalid Iqbal                                                                                                                                             

It is refreshing that Pakistan has once again articulated it’s just stance on fissile material management at the United Nations. Since the utopian slogan of ‘Global Zero’ by President Obama, the cartel of major stock holders of fissile materials, led by America, has been pursuing a concerted campaign, to bulldoze a Pakistan specific Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT). Last week, Pakistan aptly told the ‘First committee of UN General Assembly`s Disarmament and International Security’ that “Clearly it is not through choice but necessity that Pakistan is opposed to negotiations on Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, as no country can be expected to compromise on its fundamental security interests.”

Pakistan wants the international community to approach the issue of fissile material via nuclear disarmament. When effective disarmament regimes are in place, there would be no-incentive or temptation for producing the fissile material.  Banning production of fissile material without first capping its weapon related applications would only encourage clandestine production, thus feeding the black market. America’s emphasis on early adoption of controversial FMCT, in isolation, is quite illogical. This amounts to treating the symptoms while ignoring the root causes.  

America through its Agreement 123 with India has changed the strategic environment of the South Asian region. In a follow-up to this agreement, nearly a dozen other states have also embarked upon an unfettered and discriminatory nuclear cooperation arrangements with India, in gross violation of their international commitments. “They have no moral authority in calling for strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime when they are themselves responsible for undermining it… This has accentuated our security concerns as such nuclear cooperation shall further widen the asymmetry in stockpiles in our region,” the deputy permanent representative of Pakistan told the first committee.

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Line comparison of America’s Agreements 123 with India and the UAE brings forth the ideological bias of America’s nuclear cooperation policy. Flood gates have been opened for piling up mounds of fissile material by India, which is a non-signatory to NPT, and has flouted a number of International obligations on nuclear matters. On the other hand an NPT pliant state, UAE, has been deprived of all options of research and development in the field of nuclear sciences.

Since the introduction of the treaty into the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), Pakistan has been pointing out that a treaty to cut off future production of fissile material will freeze the existing asymmetries in fissile material stockpiles, which will be detrimental for its national security. India is developing a Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD). Recently America has also indicated its willingness to help India in setting-up such systems. An effective BMD would warrant that Pakistan should have around three times its existing warheads to maintain its posture of minimum credible deterrence.

‘Survival Instinct’ has been the main driver of Pakistan’s nuclear capability. Nuclear threat became a reality for Pakistan after India’s first nuclear test in 1974. Pakistan’s principle worry is its disparity with the Indian stockpile of fissile material that threatens the strategic stability in the region. Pakistan is keen to debate across the board nuclear disarmament on non-discriminatory basis at the CD forum.

Earlier this year, during the plenary session of CD, Pakistan had cautioned the world community in categorical terms that growing international support for India’s nuclear programme would destabilize the region and force Pakistan to augment its deterrence. Pakistan’s Ambassador Zamir Akram had sharply criticized the moves to bring India into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and other bodies that allow trade in nuclear materials.

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It is interesting to recall that the NSG was created in 1975 to standardize nuclear trade rules as a reaction to India’s testing of a nuclear explosive device in 1974. To carry out that explosion, India had clandestinely diverted Plutonium from a power reactor provided to it by Canada; a reality that Canada chose to ignore while signing a recent instrument of nuclear cooperation with India.

Zamir Akram had aptly pointed out, “Apart from undermining the validity and sanctity of the international non-proliferation regime, these measures shall further destabilise security in South Asia…As a consequence, Pakistan will be forced to take measures to ensure the credibility of its deterrence. The cumulative impact would be to destabilise the security environment in South Asia and beyond.”

At this time only Pakistan, India, and probably North Korea and Israel, produce fissile material for weapons. The major nuclear powers, after having accumulated thousands of weapons, have declared unilateral moratoriums on its production. Likewise, issue of fissile material is not very significant to any Non Nuclear Weapon State that is party to NPT, because these states have already abdicated their right to pursue nuclear program for military purposes.

An agreement on fissile material management is held hostage to intricately intertwined Indian policies of nuclear security and power generation. India has piled up over 1600 tons of reactor grade fissile material churned out by its nuclear power reactors over the previous years. Reactor grade Plutonium was used in one of the Indian nuclear explosions of 1998.

Current impasse on FMCT emanates from the most unlikely cause that is India’s nuclear energy policy rather than its nuclear security policy. To understand the real significance of the FMCT for Pakistan, one needs to dig deeper into India’s nuclear energy program. Pakistan’s principal worry is India’s accumulation of reactor grade plutonium for its fast breeder reactors (FBRs). FBRs form the backbone of India’s grand plans for nuclear energy. Their number would increase by 5 times by 2020 and more than 60 times by 2050.  India’s ambitious plan for fast breeder reactor technology has serious implications for the nuclear stability in the region. India has refused to accept any safeguards on its FBR programme.

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Pakistan looks forward towards a global disarmament regime, which should be legally binding, internationally verifiable and universally acceptable.

Pakistan is following a contemporary practice of insisting that its security interests be accommodated in a binding treaty. Arms control efforts over the decades have conformed to such flexibility.          Whenever hard-core calculations of security are involved, nations have to be engaged to forge agreements; they must be neither isolated nor coerced

There is a need to proceed on disarmament matters in a wholesome manner; so that its work is on equal pace on all interlocked agenda issues like disarmament of outer space, negative assurances, abolishing of missile defence shields, conventional arms race and fissile material management etc.

Pakistan’s National Command Authority has done an admirable job by formulating a visionary stance on the issue; likewise foreign office has also undertaken commendable campaign in winning support amongst G-21, a group of like-minded states within the CD. America lead cartel’s bluff has been called. It has failed to move the treaty negotiations outside the CD. America is fearful that in case treaty negotiations are moved to an alternative venue, it could lose whatever leverage it presently has.

Hopefully, the worst is behind Pakistan, at least for the time being. Pakistan should continue to consolidate its support for worst case scenario; the final battle may be fought at the first committee. Pakistan should maintain close liaison with the OIC and NAM for their support on the issue. It is time to urge the counties hiding behind Pakistan’s negative vote at the CD to come clean on the issue and start voting alongside Pakistan.