Attending the third Nuclear Security Summit last week, Pakistani Prime Minster Muhammad Nawaz Sharif expressed his desire that Pakistan should become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The desire is neither simplistic nor naïve.
Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state. It has a strong nuclear safeguard system under the National Command Authority. Pakistan’s nuclear assets are as safe as those in other nuclear nations.
Pakistan utilizes a “minimum nuclear deterrence doctrine” and has repeatedly said that its nuclear arsenals are not a threat to other countries.
Politically speaking, if there is no Christian, Hindu, or communist nuclear bomb, certainly there is no Islamic nuclear bomb in Pakistan either. They serve the same purpose. Most of the time, the Pakistani bomb was projected as an Islamic bomb in the West and in India.
It was Canada that constructed the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) in 1972 and after that, aside from China, no other country has ever installed a civilian nuclear power plant in Pakistan. Other than a fault at KANUPP in 2011, no incident has ever taken place in the country’s civilian nuclear plants, especially those latter ones installed by China.
The NSG is a regulatory body of buyers and sellers of nuclear materials, expertise, and technology. Comprised of 48 countries, the group came into being in 1975 as a result of India’s first nuclear blast detonated in 1974. It is a group of countries that excludes both India and Pakistan. The latter conducted nuclear testing in 1998.
The first dent was made in NSG policies in 2006 when one of its members, the US, signed a nuclear deal with India. A waiver for India was given by the NSG in 2008.
Strangely, nuclear-sensitive Japan also favors India’s inclusion and has been negotiating a nuclear deal with India since 2010. The deal has not yet been signed. Many other countries such as Britain and France are ready to supply nuclear power plants to India.
Does Pakistan qualify to become a member of the NSG? What are the reasons? The move is sensible from Pakistan’s point of view as it is a declared nuclear state. Its nuclear weapons are safe and far away from the reach of terrorists. So are its civilian nuclear power plants.
Japan experienced a number of leakages incidents including the Fukushima crippled nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011. And India has also had a number of nuclear incidents. So far six have been reported. It has been more than three years and Fukushima has not yet recovered.
Pakistan is qualified to enter into the NSG, but these decisions are made on purely political grounds. The India case is there, which is strongly supported by the US and Britain.
What hampers access to nuclear technology? Pakistan still needs access to nuclear technology, but restrictions are being imposed on because the NSG says that Pakistan does not comply with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. India’s case is the same. Pakistan faces chronic energy shortages. The country needs civilian nuclear parts.
Furthermore, the country needs to upgrade its medical facilities and provide technology for its agriculture. Pakistan needs uranium ore, which cannot be imported under the prevailing restrictions. And Pakistan needs to safely deposit nuclear waste.
Moreover, Pakistan is a party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Pakistan regularly submits reports to the UN Security Council 1540 Committee on the measure to exercise control over transfers of sensitive materials and technologies.
In order to enable Pakistan to become a member of the NSG, its basic guidelines have to be changed, and Pakistan-specific alterations should be introduced.
Pakistan’s entry into the NSG would further strengthen the organization and provide more safety for nuclear weapons and atomic programs across the world.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ISS or of the Government of Pakistan.