India, Israel, and Pakistan remain outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and all three have nuclear weapons, so the international community still regularly calls on them “to accede to [the NPT] as non-nuclear-weapon States promptly and without conditions.”[i]
For the three states to do that they would obviously first have to disarm, which they are not about to do under the current circumstances. Nevertheless, it remains appropriate for the international community to continue to articulate its understanding of the bottom-line, long-term obligations of the three.
According to the NPT there are only five states that are recognized in international law as Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States – inasmuch as the NPT acknowledges only those states that had nuclear weapons at the time it was negotiated, 1968. All other states are required to stay disarmed and to make that disavowal of nuclear weapons permanent and legal commitments as signatories to the NPT. So NPT signatory states continue to call on India, Israel, and Pakistan to reverse their nuclear arms programs, as did South Africa, and to join NPT states in the treaty, as non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS).
As defacto nuclear weapon states (DNWS as opposed to NWS) with waxing rather than waning nuclear ambitions, they will continue to turn a deaf ear to disarmament appeals. That is no reason to discontinue challenging them, but it is good reason for the international community to set out some steps the three could take in order to move at least modestly toward ending their nuclear pariah status. In 2000 the Review Conference of the NPT agreed to 13 practical steps that NWS should take toward meeting their disarmament commitments under Chapter VI of the NPT, and there is now an excellent opportunity for the international community to set out some initial steps for the DNWS to follow.
The opportunity is linked to the proposed US-India deal which proposes the normalization of relations with India for the purposes of civilian nuclear cooperation. The danger in that deal is that it could lead to extensive concessions toward India in civilian nuclear cooperation without requiring any significant steps from India linked to reining in its weapons program. There are two basic steps that are most commonly called for by disarmament advocates – ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and ending the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes pending agreement on a fissile materials treaty (FMT).
A recent letter[ii] to Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) countries, initiated by the Arms Control Association in Washington and signed by a large number of international exports and organizations, raises a number of important flaws in the agreement and makes the point that “before India is granted a waiver from the NSG’s fill-scope safeguards standard, it should join the other original nuclear weapon states by declaring it has stopped fissile material production for weapons purposes and, like the 177 other states that have singed the CTBT, make a legally-binding commitment to permanently end nuclear testing.” An additional requirement should be that, inasmuch as the exemption from the full-scope safeguards rule would essentially treat India as if it were a NWS, India should also be required to issue a national declaration that it understands itself to be bound by the basic Article VI disarmament commitments.
If the above formula were applied to all three non-NPT states, the bottom line requirement would remain the same – requiring the three to ultimately join the NPT as NNWS – but it would be a way of encouraging some positive steps in exchange for some concessions on the rules related to civilian nuclear cooperation.
Some have suggested adding a protocol to the NPT[iii] (so the Treaty itself would not be amended) to cover the situation of these three. It would acknowledge their defacto nuclear weapon status but would limit the further development of their weapons programs and prohibit testing and prohibit or phase out production of fissile material for weapons purposes. It is a constructive idea, but it would be a long, long process that might ultimately probably prove impossible, if for no other reason than Middle East states would be highly unlikely to accept Israel’s nuclear status.
A more immediate prospect for action is through the NSG – that is, to use the carrot of civilian nuclear cooperation to extract some real commitments. India’s intense domestic opposition to any concessions at all on its nuclear weapons program pretty much ensures that such a formula has little chance for success, but the real point here is to ensure that the rules at the NSG will not be changed without getting at least some disarmament/non-proliferation payoff in return.
[i] This demand continued to be voiced by a number of states, including Canada, at the 2007 NPT PrepCom and 2007 UN First Committee.
[ii] “Fix the Proposal for Renewed Cooperation with India,” Arms Control Association, January 7, 2008 (http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/2008/NSGappeal.asp).
[iii] Avner Cohen and Thomas Graham Jr., “An NPT for non-members,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, May/June 2004, pp. 40-44 (Vol. 60, No. 03).