The US is leaving no stones unturned to bring India into the fold of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). In this context, the chairman of the NSG has recently visited New Delhi to meet Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. This meeting is a deliberate part of a diplomatic outreach that seeks to forge a consensus in order to include India into the NSG at the organization’s annual meeting in June 2016.
The 48-nation club’s membership would mostly legitimize India’s nuclear programme. In the post-membership period, India will be entitled to acquire all sorts of nuclear assistance from the members of the NPT and NSG. Therefore, suchmembership to a non-signatory of the NPT would significantly help India further foster the third leg of her nuclear deterrence—naval nuclear capability. Along with Israel, Pakistan and, North Korea, India has not signed the NPT yet, so it is subjected to the Article 1 and 2 of the NPT as well as NSG rules and regulations that stringently forbid the members from any kind of nuclear cooperation with a non-signatory. Moreover, India also possesses un-safeguarded facilities and has not placed its nuclear reactors under the IAEA’s full-scope safeguards so far—thus it is not entitled to enjoy the benefits of NPT members.
The US forced the NSG to revise its guidelines so as to accommodate new American policy towards India aimed at ensuring uninterrupted supply of nuclear material and technology to India. In August 2008, the IAEA approved safeguards agreement with India. In September 2008, the NSG granted India a waiver allowing it to access civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries. Since the implementation of the NSG waiver, India has signed nuclear deals with several countries including France, United States, Mongolia, Namibia, Kazakhstan and Australia, while the framework for similar deals with Canada and the United Kingdom is also being prepared. As a result, it is likely to turn the stability of South Asian deterrence and balance of power into ominous instability due to Indian further armament and bellicosity; which does not bode well for the regional security. Such detrimental and prejudicial western policy under the garb of “clean waiver” has tremendously helped India to divert its nuclear material to finalise its underway triad.
To counterbalance Indian aggressive doctrines and brinkmanship, Pakistan included tactical nuclear weapons to foster its defensive-offensive capability. Its short-range Nasr missile with a range of 60 km is capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. According to Lt Gen Kidwai (Retd), Pakistan’s short-range missile system is intended to “pour cold water on Indian Cold Stated doctrine”. Due to resource constraints and dearth of advanced technology, Pakistan is lagging behind in attaining the third leg of its deterrence. However, the establishment of Naval Strategic Force Command (NSFC) headquarters has indicative of Pakistan inclination towards initiating the work on building submarines capable of carrying nuclear warheads primarily aimed at balancing India.
India’s rapidly increasing armament and advancement in the nuclear field has insidiously undermined the regional balance of power, deterrence stability and aggravated an arms race in South Asia. As a result, the probability of war in the region is increasing day by day. It is worrying that if the balance tilts towards India, the chances of war from Indian side will also increase. Already due to Modi administration’s anti-Muslim and anti-Pakistan behaviour under the sway of RSS, there exist alarming insecurities about Indian strategic assets.
For the sake of regional peace and stability, the US along with other NSG members should revise their policies by abiding by the principles of the NPT which forbid cooperation with non-members such as India. Such continued disregard to these obligations by the big powers will further exacerbate nuclear arms race in South Asia.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Karachi.