In the aftermath of World War II, as the United States began its pursuit for global hegemony, the issue of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons came to the fore. One way of establishing its dominion on the international front was by confining the number of Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) exclusively to five (US, France, Russia, China and United Kingdom). For this purpose, an aggressive non-proliferation agenda was enforced based on the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Although many US governments have come and gone, each with their own non-proliferation priorities, the leitmotif has always remained the same: an unchecked proliferation of nuclear weapons is injurious to global peace and security.
In this regard, Washington makes use of every tool at its disposal from military, diplomatic to economic, in order to prevent and contain proliferation activities of nations which in its appraisal are likely to disturb international strategic stability. To put breaks on the horizontal spread of nuclear weapons, a seemingly impenetrable wall of non-proliferation instruments has been built.
Yet despite all, there remain four countries that refuse to adhere to the NPT – Pakistan, India, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The NPT violations, which are quite elaborate and easily detectable, fail to establish rules or a standard procedure that can activate the non-proliferation triggers
Yet despite all, there remain four countries that refuse to adhere to the NPT – Pakistan, India, Israel and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The NPT violations, which are quite elaborate and easily detectable, fail to establish rules or a standard procedure that can activate the non-proliferation triggers. Thus, there emerges a scenario where the reaction to each case of nuclear proliferation depends on the country’s general acceptability in the global community.
Take the case of Israel, for instance. The justification of its nuclear programme hovers around the traditional pretext of national security. Although this excuse has its merits considering Israel’s hostile neighbourhood, the programme is in truth tolerated due to healthy US-Israel relationship. The same cannot be said for Japan, Australia, Germany and South Korea who have been disabused by the US from acquiring nuclear capability by assurances of complete protection under their eclectic nuclear umbrella.
Reconstructing the events that led to the 1998 Indian nuclear tests is not merely a historical exercise. It was an important decision since it tenuously set New Delhi on a path towards nuclearization and compelled Pakistan to follow suit.
Turning our attention to South Asia, the region has been branded a nuclear flashpoint from the global perspective. Reconstructing the events that led to the 1998 Indian nuclear tests is not merely a historical exercise. It was an important decision since it tenuously set New Delhi on a path towards nuclearization and compelled Pakistan to follow suit. This decision also dealt a heavy blow to the American-led campaign for nuclear containment and non-proliferation following the tactic of treaty adherence.
The nuclearization of South Asia has certainly disturbed the stability in the region and made it a more dangerous place. It all started with India who decided to test its nuclear device in 1974 under the pretext of it being a Peaceful Nuclear Explosion. Fortunately, it was not taken at its face value and steps were taken to prevent the illegal flow of fissile material that can potentially be used for the creation of a bomb. However, the flame burned by these tests lost their heat over time which prompted India to take a step further by conducting more tests and eventually declaring itself a nuclear weapon state. Cognizant of New Delhi’s acquired strategic advantage, Pakistan soon followed its neighbours in declaring itself a nuclear power.
Since this cataclysmic change, the issue of accepting both India and Pakistan as de jure nuclear weapon states has been a matter of intense debate. In all fairness, both the countries faced international sanctions and pressure to sign the NPT and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to merit a status as a nuclear power. However, this tactic paid no dividends as this meant that both the countries had to give up their nuclear weapons programme and cut off further production of such fissile weapon materials; something that neither was and is willing to do.
Throughout the nuclear chapter of South Asia, India has traditionally been dealt with a lighter hand by the world community. Following the May 1998 tests, countries like the US and Russia adopted a policy involving more carrot than stick towards Delhi. Trade relations continued to foster and business continued as usual with hardly anyone batting the eye. And to top it all off, the US agreed to aid India in gaining membership to three nuclear entities namely the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the Australia Group and the Wassenaar Agreement. By adding a couple of US-India nuclear deals in between, Delhi has managed to cement its status as a responsible nuclear power. By playing on this growing reputation, India managed to weasel its way into the MTCR in the June of 2006. However, it has not been so lucky when it comes to the NSG where Delhi’s admission into the exclusive group is opposed rigorously by China.
For years now, Pakistan has had to contend with boasts of a responsible nuclear attitude from the other side of its eastern border. Like any jealous neighbour, the ambition to be recognised as a responsible nuclear state has taken root among policymakers in Islamabad. This sentiment found expression in a research paper titled “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan” authored by Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon. The paper suggests three propositions that Pakistan needs to adhere to if it is to be considered a normal (responsible) nuclear state.
The Dalton-Krepon formula is based on the following recommendations. Firstly, the authors suggest a change in Pakistan’s nuclear policy. Such a change requires the country to adopt a less aggressive deterrent posture and shift its stance from a full-spectrum deterrence to a strategic one. It also requires the country to cut back on its Tactical Nuclear Weapon (TNW) production. Secondly, Pakistan is encouraged to separate the civilian and military nuclear facilities. Lastly, the report wants Islamabad to conform to the international norms of the global nuclear regime. This implicates that Pakistan should lift the veto on Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) negotiations and sign the CTBT, and possibly the NPT in an ideal scenario.
The formula suggested by Dalton and Krepon, however, does not make it binding on India to display similar behaviour. This has made the Pakistani government to be extremely tentative about this formula.
The formula suggested by Dalton and Krepon, however, does not make it binding on India to display similar behaviour. This has made the Pakistani government to be extremely tentative about this formula. Indeed, the policymakers in Islamabad need to be cognizant of the sacrosanct status of nuclear weapons in the country and make it clear that no compromises will be made on national security.
Yet, by playing the devil’s advocate, one can analyse the feasibility of the proposed propositions. In regards to the first proposition, the difference between a full spectrum and strategic deterrence is just a matter of semantics and can be tentatively agreed upon. The actual matter at hand is regarding the TNWs. These weapons serve as a credible deterrent for Pakistan against India’s conventional superiority, and offer a possible solution to the stability-instability paradox: a scenario whereby Delhi may decide to engage in lower level conflicts under its Cold Start Doctrine. So, any steps with regards to the TNWs are out of the question unless India agrees to recede on its aggressive posture. Therefore, the TNWs and confidence building measures should be on the agenda when the composite dialogues between the two nations are resumed.
Under the current regional and international milieu, policymakers in Islamabad need to possess the acumen to make sound geo-political decisions to push Pakistan towards nuclear responsibility without compromising on its national and security interests. For this to happen, Pakistan needs to design a roadmap if it is to be recognized as a responsible nuclear weapon state outside of the NPT. Firstly, there is a need to determine the non-negotiable areas for Pakistan. After doing this, the negotiable areas should be identified because a compromise is necessary for a win-win situation. Thirdly, a dialogue should be initiated with the giants of the global nuclear regime for Pakistan’s acceptance as a nuclear weapon state. In order for this goal to be achieved, there is a need for an internal deliberation and debate that is shorn of the traditional puff and emotion.