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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and India

18 Feb 2015 11:02 AM, IST

Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and India
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena addressing media in New Delhi on 16 Feb 2015 (Photo - PIB).

By S.M. Azhar,

After the end of World War II, the world got involved into an armed race of producing nuclear weapons. To slow this malicious race, many arm control treaties such as SALT-1, SALT-2, LTBT, START-1 and START-2 were proposed and signed by several nations across the globe. Among such treaties was Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) - arguably most pivotal, global, and influential among them.


The NPT was launched in 1958 by Frank Aiken, the then External affairs minister of Ireland. At the time the NPT was proposed there was a prediction that within next two decades the world would have 25-30 nuclear weapon states. The NPT is based on a central bargain “The NPT non-nuclear states (states that did not possess nuclear weapons before 1968) agree never to acquire nuclear weapons and NPT nuclear states (states that possessed nuclear weapons before 1968) in exchange agree to share the benefits of peaceful nuclear technology. The NPT consists of a Preamble and eleven articles.


The NPT was opened for signature in 1968 and enforced in 1970. So far 190 countries have joined the treaty, Finland was the first country to sign. The NPT recognises five Nuclear Weapon states: USA, UK, USSR (Russia after breakdown of the Soviet Union), France and China. Four UN member states never joined NPT: India, Pakistan, Israel, South Sudan. North Korea accepted the treaty in 1985 but withdrew later in 2003.


India’s stand on NPT

India is among the very few countries who have never signed the Nuclear Non- Proliferation pact. India maintains its position that it can join the NPT as a nuclear non-weapon state citing that “externally prescribed norms or standards” cannot be accepted on the issues that are contrary to its national interests or infringe on its sovereignty. India’s stand is based on the argument that the NPT is the last vestige of the apartheid in the international system, granting as it does to five countries the right to be nuclear-weapons states while denying the same right to others. If nuclear weapons are evil — and India agrees that they are — then no one should have them. What is the moral, ethical, or legal basis for suggesting that some can and others cannot? What virtue do the “official” nuclear powers possess that democratic India lacks?


India also remains a strong proponent of universal nuclear disarmament. India’s approach is based on the belief that non-proliferation cannot be an end in itself; rather, it must be linked to nuclear disarmament in a mutually reinforcing process. India expresses its disappointment with limited progress on nuclear disarmament, where five authorised nuclear weapon states still have 22,000 warheads in their combined stockpile and have showed reluctance to disarm further. India argues that the UN has failed to comply with Article VI as they could not make disarmament a drilling force in national planning and policy with respect to Nuclear weapons. India believes effective disarmament must enhance the security of all states, not, as the NPT ensures, merely that of a few.


India further strengthens its stance by showing serious concerns over its security issues due to border disputes with one of the five nuclear weapon states China and nuclear power Pakistan. India has already fought 5 wars with its neighbours, 4 with Pakistan and 1 with China. India argues that China, which went to war with India in 1962, has nuclear weapons pointed at it, making it impossible to sign a treaty that would disarm India unilaterally.


India realizes that in the foreseeable future, nuclear weapons will remain active tools of international diplomacy and may well decide the contours of power politics just as the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review underlines the salience of nuclear weapons in the contemporary world. In this scenario, India would very much like to hold onto its nuclear weapons. The recent civilian nuclear agreement between India and the USA, also called ‘the Indo-US nuclear deal’, has accepted India as a country with advanced nuclear technology - a tacit acceptance of its weapon capabilities. It has provided India with a special status of being the only country outside the NPT which has been allowed to commerce in sensitive nuclear technology and material. Article III of the NPT prohibits nuclear trade with non-NPT states. This exception is further strengthened by the IAEA-India Safeguards agreement. The agreement allows India to have both civilian and military nuclear programmes. Under the NPT only the Nuclear Weapon States - states whose possession of nuclear weapons is accepted under Article I of the NPT- have this privilege.


The chances of India joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state are bleak. However, no one will want to see the treaty undermined by accommodating India as a nuclear Weapon state. The only viable option which serves the interest of both India and the NPT is to maintain the “status quo.”

The writer can be contacted at [email protected] .

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Keywords : Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty ,   NPT ,   Nuclear weapons  

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Dr S H Mir

18 February 2015 03:26 PM
Nicely written article.

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