Arms Control & Disarmament

The concept of arms control and disarmament is as old as warfare. Traditionally it meant disarming and disbanding the armies of the losing states. Sometimes vassal state could retain a token military force, with the obligation to provide military assistance to the dominant state in case of war. In case it was not allowed to have men bearing arms, it would be forced to pay tribute in cash and kind to the dominant state to ensure its own safety and security.

After the First World War, the victorious powers imposed harsh terms to the losing Germans in the Treaty of Versailles (1919). Besides losing large chunks of territory and paying heavy reparations, Germany was also to be disarmed. The Inter Allied Military Control Commission (IAMCC), a military/diplomatic organization oversaw the disarmament process. It worked from 1920 till 1930 and its British, French, Belgian, Italian and Japanese officers inspected German factories and fortresses, searching for military depots, and oversaw destruction of war materiel. By 1923, Germany was effectively disarmed. The German army was reduced to the treaty strength of 100,000 men and hundreds of factories were converted to civilian use. Another significant result of the First World War was the ban on the use of chemical weapons. After the Second World War, both Japan and Germany were not allowed to have their own militaries. However, as the Cold War grew, former enemies – Japan and Germany – were formally inducted into bilateral and multilateral economic and military alliances. While their primary defence against the communist forces was ensured by extending the nuclear umbrella by deploying the US and NATO forces on their territories, they were allowed to establish small military forces. Overseas non-deployment of forces was included into their constitution.

During the Cold War, a whole range of bilateral and multilateral arms control and nuclear non-proliferation treaties were enacted to regulate the use, development and possession of various types of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). These treaties regulated weapons use under the customs of war (Hague Conventions, Geneva Protocol), banned specific types of weapons (Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Convention), limited weapon research (Partial Test Ban Treaty, Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty), limited allowable weapons stockpiles and delivery systems (START I, SORT) and regulated civilian use of weapon pre-cursors (Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Convention). The arms control treaties also ensured the element of mutual vulnerability among nuclear weapon states (NWS) by limiting the anti-ballistic missile interceptors through the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The spread of nuclear technologies geographically was limited through the Nuclear Weapons Free Zones (NWFZs).

The US and erstwhile Soviet Union began signing bilateral agreements limiting their strategic offensive nuclear weapons in the early 1970s. As the Cold War drew to a close in the late 1980s, the pace of negotiations quickened, with the two sides signing treaties limiting intermediate range and long-range weapons. The progress slowed in the 1990s, as US missile defence plans and a range of other policy conflicts intervened in the US-Russian relationship. At the same time, however, the two sides began to cooperate on securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The US allocates more than $1 billion each year to threat reduction programmes in the former Soviet Union. A new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed after Obama came into power further reducing the number of deployed nuclear warheads.

The US has the lead role in perpetuating the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. The architecture of international arms control includes formal treaties, export control coordination and enforcement, UN resolutions, and organizational controls. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the broadest plank of this regime, with all but four nations participating in it. The exceptions are India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) acts as the global nuclear watchdog. Other measures, such as sanctions, interdiction efforts, and informal cooperative endeavours, also seek to slow or stop the spread of nuclear materials and weapons. A number of international agreements address non-nuclear weapons. The Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty and Open Skies Treaty sought to stabilize the conventional balance in Europe in the waning years of the Cold War. Other arrangements seek to slow the spread of technologies that nations could use to develop advanced conventional weapons. The Chemical Weapons and Biological Weapons Conventions sought to eliminate these types of weapons completely.

After the end of the Cold War, the nature of arms control and disarmament changed in many ways. The US faced increasing problems in enforcing nuclear non-proliferation. In 1998, India and Pakistan came out of the closet to declare their nuclear credentials. Other countries began actively pursuing their nuclear programmes. Alarmed by the nuclearization of South Asia, the US was particularly irked with the nuclear ambitions of Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea. Although the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak had been destroyed by a pre-emptive airstrike by the Israelis on June 7, 1981, a media campaign was launched to prove that Iraq had developed WMDs to destroy Israel at will. The hype became so high pitched that the US abandoned its main effort in Afghanistan in 2002 and attacked Iraq. It bypassed the UN and headed a 'coalition of the willing,' which prominently included the UK but excluded countries like Germany and France, which were derogatorily termed 'Old Europe'. An extremely kinetic approach was adopted to disarm Iraq of its purported arsenal of nuclear weapons. The IAEA weapon inspectors did not find any trace of WMDs after the defeat of Sadam Hussein. Libya was subsequently disarmed through a policy of economic inducements. On December 19, 2003 Gaddafi announced that Libya would voluntarily eliminate all material, equipment and programmes that could lead to internationally proscribed weapons, including weapons of mass destruction and long-range ballistic missiles. Gaddafi would regret his decision. He had to run for his life as NATO bombed him out of his palace and a crowd of rebels lynched him on the ground. North Korea, however, continues to defy the

US by flaunting its nuclear muscle on the basis of its close relations with China in exchange for economic gains like high speed oil.

Two more cases of arms control and disarmament need special mention. Syria, like Iraq, had its nuclear plan nipped in the bud through an Israeli aerial strike on its Al-Kibar nuclear reactor on September 6, 2007. To counter the Israeli nuclear weapons, Syria had started building chemical weapons in the 1970s. As the civil war spread in Syria in 2012 there were increased press reports of Syrian chemical weapon stocks and how the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps were helping test them. In July 2013, Syria, a non-signatory to CWC accepted that it had chemical weapons. On August 21, 2013 testimony and photographic evidence emerged indicating that the Assad regime had launched a large-scale chemical weapons attack on the town of Ghouta. The US immediately ordered its forces in the region to punish Syria. As naval fleets moved in menacingly to rain Damascus with missiles, the US offered a reprieve, if Syria signed the CWC. Russia, a close ally of Syria, immediately pounced on the offer. On September 14, 2013, the US and Russia announced an agreement that would lead to the elimination of Syria's chemical weapon stockpiles by mid-2014. On October 14, 2013, Syria officially acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention clearing the way for OPCW-UN Joint Mission to destroy Syria's declared chemical weapons manufacturing and mixing equipment.
The next case is that of Iran. During his term of office, former President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad made the acquisition of nuclear technology a rallying cry of his presidency. His alleged statement of wiping Israel off the face of the earth ran the alarm bells. Iran was soon subjected to multiple economic sanctions. From 2006 onward, layers of UN, US and EU sanctions were used to severely limit its oil income and isolate it from the rest of the world. Plans to bring about a regime change did not materialize, and a stuxnet attack on the centrifuges and a planned assassination of its scientists did not stop the nuclear programme. None- theless, the sanctions finally began sapping the patience and the endurance of the common man. The Riyal rapidly lost its value and Hasan Rouhani as the moderate new president decided to reconsider his country's stance on nuclear weapons. The US resumed its policy to engage with the Iranians through the 5+1 (the permanent 5 and Germany) countries. On November 24, 2013, the Geneva interim agreement, officially titled the Joint Plan of Action, was signed in Geneva, Switzerland. It consists of a short-term freeze of portions of Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran, as the countries work towards a long-term agreement.

In this emerging milieu, it is important to understand the kind of challenges that Pakistan faces. It has many problems to contend within its legitimate pursuit to build credible nuclear deterrence to ward of an existential threat. It survived a host of economic and military sanctions under the Glen, Symington and Pressler amendments and physical threats to its uranium enrichment facility in Kahuta. After the nuclear tests of 1998, Pakistan was saddled with a fresh dose of economic sanctions.

Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state and has built an effective command and control structure, physical security structures and export control regimes. The propaganda, however, never ceases. The current negative themes include Pakistan's intransigence in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on the issue of non-acceptance of the draft Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), its short range missile programme (dubbed as the tactical missiles) and the alleged terrorist threat to its nuclear arsenal.

Pakistan is being denied a criteria-based civil nuclear deal and its civil nuclear power cooperation with China is being questioned. The tone and tenor of this virulent campaign to vilify Pakistan heightens each time there is a need to arm twist it. We need to be cognizant of all these challenges and adopt a policy that is able to safeguard Pakistan’s vital national interests in the long-term.


The writer is a retired Brigadier and PhD. Presently he is Associate Dean Centre of International Peace & Stability (CIPS) at the National University of Sciences & Technology (NUST) Islamabad. [email protected]

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