Courtesy: Hindu Business Line

Courtesy: Hindu Business Line

Entering the Gymkhana of Nuclear Nations

Standing before the grandeur of a chateau one feels the need to either escape such a romance or own it. One gaze upon a place for elites and an entire nation can be subdued to acknowledging existence of a natural hierarchy of power among humans. Things aren’t always what they seem and the Gymkhana analogy is precisely that. To those who know what Gymkhana is and to those who don’t, there is a commonality; the place mentioned herein represents a posh visage and unveils what one might refer to as the right to be a snob, no offense intended. A member sees it as a status symbol and a glorified pedestal achieved with finesse but to a bystander, it represents restricted access zones and places where a layman is too rudimentary to apply right of entrée to a finely distinguished audience. Sometimes, being in the company of those cream of the crops makes one feel partly aristocratic and this psychology is exactly what one plays for when wrangling a defenselessly blinded prey. The glare alone is enough to restructure priorities of a man who is helpless before the chasm between what he has and what he thinks he ought to have. More accurately so, states being rational organic entities that are governed by human beings and man-made legislative imperatives, such a snare works equally efficiently as a man standing in awe and wonder to a place reserved for gentry. Don’t believe me? Look at the Nuclear Supplier’s Group and an aspirant South Asia.

If there is one thing we learn from the colonial era, it’s the fact that no incentive is devoid of any particular strings attached and one particular arrangement is the Indo-US nuclear deal that, since its entry into prospective compliance, has returned no substantial benefit. The reason is simple: a contract of such complexities is not something that can be complied with immediately without assuring its accessory arrangements. Bureaucratic processing particularly on three distinct issues: the Liability Framework and Indian Contributive Pool, finalization of distinction between civilian and military installations in the course of construction of multiple facilities and synchronous with the Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage when it comes to a worst case scenario, has been often dubbed a ‘snail’s pace’ endurance. Bottom line is expressly evident; India and the US have so far not been able to administratively convince both one and other and their own selves about taking a risk. The US does not want to deliver both technology and the ability to manage reactors sustaining Indian aspirations while India does not want to surrender its civilian nuclear framework before international regulations and still manage accident scenarios despite housing one of the most significantly vulnerable populations on the planet.

One fundamental point of concern for international nuclear community is authorizing India with the capability to maintain military nuclear potential unrestricted by international regulations and still be able to enhance its nuclear footprint by being one of the components in international nuclear commerce. What entails further is threefold; Indian compliance to NPT-oriented regulations over military enhancements, growth of Indian nuclear potential alongside potential hazard to its population and peripheries, and Pokhran-I revisit that initiated the NSG in the first place. Interesting to note is the fact that India remains one of the most aggressively growing nuclear states and its attractive technology vacuum attracts states that remain dented by recessive economic patterns despite being technologically well-placed. That being said, India’s financial capability to compel international community in authorizing entrance into NSG seems like a possibility, primarily because India has clarified its status by reevaluating its doctrinal postulation. However, the fact that the NSG is not entirely about nuclear potential is a plausible analogy. The NSG may have expressed the admission of states to the club that have acquired clarified nuclear transparency and affirmation of same from international nuclear arrangement but also those states that have stability in their position and consistency in their regional setting. Given these conditions, India has been able to steer American leverage in the right direction, warranting similar authentications in its favor towards membership in the nuclear regime.

Deficit of trust remains against India and its inclusion in the NSG as an operating component, but the groundwork for achieving this milestone is near completion. Consistency in enhancing India’s regional footprint both technologically and militarily is being strategized to create a Chinese checkmate in order to allow the US to enhance its own outreach in a nuclearised South Asia. The incentive of including India in the NSG is a promise which they intend to keep for maintaining this checkmate. Indian doctrinal shift from aggression to retaliation via second-strike might work to diffuse aggression as a nuclear option, yet it raises some fears in a direction India cannot afford at this sensitive junction. Where India has matured its posture to a second-strike oriented state that does not believe in aggressive decapitation of an adversary through strategic deployment, it has been unable to clarify means to acquire such docile maturity. With separation of civilian and military installations, prospective nuclear projects and their status and track record acting as a suspiciously delayed enterprise, the NSG remains achievable at a turbulent cost to national objectives. American assistance and diplomatic inclination towards the NSG requires India to move beyond Pakistan and focus on being an auxiliary extension to American policy regarding China, enhance its domestic condition and still retain sufficient resources for prospective autonomy, and to maintain a steady growth of compliance irrespective of domestic political constraints while still be able to justify avenues to be exploited for maintenance of a formidable second-strike capability.

I don’t want to push the bounds of propriety by saying that this is all somehow a neo-colonial resurgence and I most definitely do not want to undermine what is happening for the sake of offering blatant criticism. Yet Indian inclusion in the NSG is far more insecure with respect to domestic vulnerabilities than Chinese NSG veto, if there is such a thing. What matters most is that China keeps Pakistan what US keeps India and in this gambit, none of the states in South Asia seem to have a winning side: India will remain wedged between a regional hegemony and international submissiveness and Pakistan would have to live with an unstable nuclear state status. Both assertions are neither safe nor progressive and where they act as a strong bridle for superpowers, they can also act as an alibi for future retribution. India cannot afford to be on a list of states that was denied access to international nuclear order only because its regional security order got in the way and Pakistan cannot most certainly progress tagged as a Chinese proxy that has a bad proliferation record. The issue is not an NSG equipped India but a region where uncertainty and irregularity dominate strategic balance, swaying stabilized deterrence away from bilateral benefit. Pakistan and India, contending for an NSG membership will also have to agree to international nuclear regulations, and if the object of acquiring nuclear technology is to serve civilian ends, then international agreement to comply to nuclear standards would become a forerunning requisite if not a qualifying prerequisite. Neither India nor Pakistan would be willing to sacrifice a sure footing in managing and enhancing nuclear deterrence but temptations to be a supplier is equally alluring. For India, a chance to outgrow Pakistan means a chance to be a regional bipolar entity with China. This will be a huge boost to its morale and pride which can act as fulcrum to enhance further. For Pakistan, NSG acceptance would mean a chance to remove the proliferator tag and be able to initiate a positive posture in international community providing Pakistan with a much-needed commercial outreach. True enough, neither India nor Pakistan can afford to be under international nuclear reprimand via restrictive regimes that are both counterproductive and contradictory to deterrent stability.

Simply put, sitting in the Gymkhana of Nuclear Nations, China and USA are friends who have been a part of a higher society since the 70s and have invited two commoners to dinner. One can dine but at one’s own dime with a friend who offers only entry to this palace but cannot go further. The NSG is like a club where the high society may allow entrance but acceptance would never be there, evident when ‘haves-not’ gain access to a place reserved for the ‘haves’. There is a lot to be done to gain admittance in the NSG, and a lot many ‘don’ts’ once entered. Neither New Delhi nor Islamabad would be able to do and not do what shall or may be asked but if New Delhi is willing to do what is necessary, it will lose what it has in its reach: regional up-gradation. Apart from these concerns, will New Delhi be able to strike all the deals and make all the financial pools before Modi runs out of time? Will Donald Trump or Hillary be as affable as Obama? And, most importantly, will this be a financially and strategically sound strategy?

Muhammad Sharreh Qazi
is a member of CSCR Board of Directors.He is a lecturer at University Law College, Lahore. He is also a former alumni of the SNS department of NDU and can be reached at

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