“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.” (Omar Nelson Bradley)
The world is familiar with the devastation of nuclear weapons and the enduring impact that they have on the lives of those who had suffered in the horrors of war or tragic accidents around the globe. Practical use of nuclear weapons may have been brought under a check, nonetheless, the proliferation of this dangerous technology is a concern that remains a factor for 'strategic turbulence' in our time. Transformation of crude nuclear technology and fissile material into weapons of mass destruction, somewhat true, has become a thesis for two distinct aspects: one, the institutionalization of regimes and treaties to control and finally disarm the nuclear weapons; second, casus belli for intervention into other States and regime changes. Such proliferation concerns have been the reasons of realization of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other subsequent mechanism. Significant amongst those is the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) that somehow brings in NPT and (now struggles to adjust some of the non-NPT signatories) into a single cohesive framework. This article attempts to expound on its efficacy and discusses Pakistan's membership of NSG. It also endeavours to propose a comprehensive single framework whereby various export control regimes can be converged.
In the contemporary international security environment, the NSG membership debate has emerged as an urgent issue for the states in Asia. It is, therefore, important to seek answers to some relevant key questions: why the group was established and what is its structure and efficacy in today's security environment? What are the problems attached to this group and why violations occur within its designed structure? Why this group is important for the future security and what will happen if it is not fixed? Why is it imperative for Pakistan to attain a membership state status in the NSG and how would that be achievable?
It is important to understand that the NSG is an important part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime (NPR). NPR consists of different treaties, regimes and arrangements which build interaction among states to promote non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, arms control and disarmament. Some of the instruments are more formal such as treaties, conventions and agreements. Others may be informal and voluntary arrangements or in the form of agreed guidelines that participants accept or choose to disregard, as they deem appropriate.
Within this, the first institutional effort to strengthen norms against proliferation of nuclear material took place when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was approved in 1954 and became operational later in 1957. The purpose was to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy ensuring that 'assistance provided by it or at its request, or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose' under the IAEA statute, Article II. The Article III A.5 of the IAEA authorizes this agency 'to establish and administer safeguards' and make institutional safeguards mandatory for Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) party to the NPT. This was a successful institutional effort to create a system of safeguards. For instance, NNWS agreed to report to the IAEA with their civilian activities and also to keep their facilities open for inspection by the IAEA inspectors to ensure that there was no diversion of material from civilian to military purposes.
The most significant and debated measure of the regime, the NPT, was introduced in 1968 and came into force in 1970, with a range of obligations for NWS and NNWS. It was established under the belief that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would enhance the risks of a nuclear war. Thus, the treaty required the NWS not to transfer nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives or control over such devices or assistance to NNWS (Article I Pillar I). The treaty envisages the NNWS not to acquire, manufacture, or seek assistance in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons or explosive devices, (Article II). The treaty gives right for the peaceful uses of nuclear technology without discrimination highlighted under the Article (IV Pillar II) while the NWS were to disarm and subsequently eliminate nuclear weapons (VI Pillar III). Additionally, the treaty gives party states the right to withdrawal by giving a three month-notice. Finally, the provisions of the treaty, particularly Article VIII, paragraph 3, envisaged a review of the operation of the treaty every five years.
After it came into force, the NPT assigned the IAEA the responsibility for verifying its safeguards system at the global level. The IAEA was given a formal responsibility to implement Article III of the NPT and additionally, it serves two purposes of the NPT. The first purpose is in accordance with Article IV.2 of the treaty and the second function deals with international nuclear safeguards in accordance with the article III of the treaty. Under these clauses the IAEA verifies the fulfilment of non-proliferation commitments. These legally binding facts demonstrate that the NPT represented the foundation for an international regime to establish a codified norm against proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world. In addition to the above developments, some important informal measures had been introduced to reinforce the NPT norms and facilitate coordination among its member states. Since the final text of the NPT had yet no clear implementation and enforcement strategy for its article II commitments, therefore, the multilateral negotiations on nuclear export control resulted in the establishment of two separate mechanisms for dealing with nuclear exports, viz, Zannger Committee (ZC), Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Wassenaar Arrangement (WA). In addition to the above developments, some important informal measures had been introduced to reinforce the NPT norms and facilitate coordination among its member states. Since the final text of the NPT had yet no clear implementation and enforcement strategy for its article II commitments, therefore, the multilateral negotiations on nuclear export control resulted in the establishment of two separate mechanisms for dealing with nuclear exports, viz, Zannger Committee (ZC), Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Wassenaar Arrangement (WA).
In 1974 the export control committee known as Zannger Committee (ZC) was established as an intergovernmental group to coordinate export controls on the nuclear material. Under the ZC the NPT article III.2 (focused on safeguarding of nuclear exports to non nuclear weapon states) had been redefined. Whereas the NSG later renamed from its original name London Group (an offshoot of the NPT) was emerged in response to the 1974 Indian explosions with the purpose of halting the further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The aim was to reinforce the NPT's article III and IV to ensure that transfers of nuclear material would not be diverted to unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycles and nuclear explosive activities. It is important to understand here that the NSG further elaborated the NPT article III.2 and IV, thus, its agreements and mechanism flows from the NPT. Thus, the ZC and the NSG are informal arrangements but directly serve the NPT's purpose and strengthen its normative structure.
Question arises why violations occur in this institutional arrangement? Answer in the first place relates to the fundamental structure of the NPT. Had there been no loopholes in the NPT, NSG would have served its purpose more rationally. Since the violations inside the NSG are directly related to some fundamental structural flaws and problems, attached to the formation of the NPT (which is the most powerful organ of the NPR), which weaken the disposition of the NSG, thus, it could not serve the NPT's normative purpose. What are these loopholes?
First, under the NPT, five countries are considered as recognized NWS while the rest of the Treaty's signatories are regarded as NNWS and barred from acquiring nuclear weapons, which is a big question mark. This special arrangement legitimizes the continuous possession of nuclear weapons by five NWS and endorses disarmament of unarmed states. Such arrangement has raised global criticism towards this regime's discriminatory framework.
Second, there is a problem of non-universal role of the NPT, that is, within the NPR, from the outset, most states adhere to a greater or lesser extent to the terms initiated by the NPT, but India, Israel, and Pakistan have never joined the NPT, although India (exploded nuclear devises first in 1974 and later in 1998) and Pakistan (followed the Indian tests in 1998) developed nuclear arsenals and declared themselves to be nuclear weapons states, whilst Israel has maintained the policy of 'nuclear opacity' and ambiguity since 1968. India and Pakistan assert their sovereign right to possess nuclear weapons and have strong reservations towards the status of the NPT from the outset, regarding it as a 'discriminatory treaty'. India, nevertheless, has abruptly changed its policy posture towards the NPT after 1998 test and no longer considers the NPT as a discriminatory treaty because it struggles to create some space in the international nuclear politics. North Korea first joined the NPT, withdrew in 2003, and later tested nuclear devices and now building ballistic missile capability, thus violating the NPT norms. The NPR is incomplete when these four de facto nuclear weapon states remain outside the NPT treaty, because they are not being accepted as NWS as per NPT conventions.
Within this, third problem is attached to the article IV of the NPT, which has failed to restrict states' access to the full fuel cycle, to prevent the diversion of peaceful technology for the development of nuclear weapons. Thus, the North Korean behaviour has tested the efficacy of the NPT's article IV. The danger is, Iran might follow the North Korean steps. Another issue is that within the NPT article III and IV, vaguely defined NSG has been used to give waiver to state to transfer nuclear technology. The Indo-US civil nuclear deal is glaring example in this case, which damaged the original essence of the NPT. Fourth, no progress has been made towards the article VI (disarmament – because Treaty gives no time-frame) which has not been fulfilled by the established nuclear weapon states thus, aggravating the 'crisis of trust' in the NPT regime.
Fifth, within the NPR, export control regimes (particularly the NSG) are under immense challenge because of globalization. The consequence of which has been the easy exchange and transfer of knowledge and the flow of dual-use technologies. Rapid technological advance bringing a decrease in the value of old technology and an increase in the supply of discarded technology increases the risk of the proliferation of nuclear-related material and technologies. Additionally, these export control regimes are fairly weak with no legal legitimacy.
Finally, over the last 35 years, the IAEA safeguards system under the NPT has played a vital role in detecting and curbing the diversion of civil uranium to military usage and verifying states' nuclear facilities. However, these IAEA safeguards confront a number of challenges, such as detecting undeclared nuclear activities; risks from the states, which have not joined the NPT; and states which have significant unsafeguarded activities. Nuclear fuel making which is regarded as a right under Article IV of the NPT creates many problems because verifying enrichment or reprocessing facilities is a difficult task. If the IAEA cannot effectively safeguard nuclear materials needed for civilian purposes, then this is a severe weakness in the agency's ability to prevent such virtual NWS from becoming actual NWS. The Additional Protocol (which reinforces the IAEA safeguards is not universal yet) addresses such gaps; without this protocol, the agency cannot monitor the research and development activities.
These above facts powerfully demonstrate that today the entire non-proliferation regime is widely considered as a 'system in distresses'. There are mounting apprehensions about the regime's efficacy as a cordon to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is of paramount importance that the NPT regime be systematically strengthened in this environment to meet present challenges. If the current challenges attached to NPT are not addressed, there remains question about its future adequacy given the significant rise in interest in pursuing nuclear power in a globalized environment.
With NPT in distress, the NSG has become far more relevant today. Due to rising economic interests and maintaining a flourishing trade, more and more states aspire to adhere to the export control regimes. For example, many analysts have lauded that the present century belongs to Asia. It is due to the fact that Asia is a continent with large, fast-growing economies that will demand a great deal of energy including nuclear energy. It is observed that more and more states are acquiring additional reactors and connecting to the grid in Asian region. Conversely, today, several countries that have achieved mastery in the nuclear fuel cycle remain outside the NSG umbrella. Certain other countries, which may not have the requisite expertise over the entire nuclear fuel cycle but still possess resources or expertise valuable to one or more stages of the fuel cycle, have not gained membership either.
The NSG has to recognize its potential role to make it consistent with current realities. Question arises, is it ready to meet today's challenges? In times, the NSG will have to reflect emerging trends such as in the global nuclear power industry. As agreed in the NPT article IV, the group, by no means, will oppose development of peaceful nuclear energy, even as it remains strongly opposed to proliferation and proliferation networks. The current guidelines, which were written in 1978, specify that supplier states exercise “restraint” in exporting enrichment and reprocessing items. Moreover, the NSG lacks legal legitimacy, institutional mechanism to address states’ power demands on the given criteria.
India and Pakistan are aspirant states, which seek to add more reactors to their power grid. The NSG members in search of their geostrategic interests and trade expansion, exempted India from the existing rules and India escaped the constraints associated with its status. Nevertheless, being a political arrangement with no legitimacy, in my opinion, NSG may not decide on expanding membership outside its defined criteria. NSG member states clearly laid down the admission criteria of new states in 2001 Aspen Plenary: item 4 of 5 on the list that says: the new aspirant states should be a party to the NPT and have in force a full-scope safeguard with the IAEA. Nevertheless, India, a non-NPT party state, did not place its facilities under the IAEA full-scope safeguards, thus, is not entitled to enjoy the benefits of the NPT membership and was subjected to the NSG rules that forbid nuclear cooperation with states that have unsafeguarded facilities. India has not signed CTBT and has not addressed matter of moratorium on fissile material (FM) production yet within the conference on disarmament (CD). Therefore, as a result of Indo-US deal, its eight nuclear reactors are under the IAEA question mark. Without addressing apprehensions on these urgent matters, Group membership extension would damage the efficacy, spirit and structure of the NPT and entire NPR may appear to be ineffective. Through selective admission for individual states, the NSG will undermine its credibility not only within the NSG but within the NPT NNWS and outside.
Pakistan also seeks membership in the NSG and MTCR, but directed by a 'criterion-based approach', which may create a new mechanism to build nuclear cooperation with these new nuclear weapon states. Such a proposition, pragmatic in nature and consistent with time-sensitive strategic urgency, is paramount for Pakistan as it aspires to institute three additional nuclear power plants to generate 8800 MW of electricity by 2030 and 40,000 MW by 2050 to make up for the ominous power deficiency that has rattled it so far. Pakistan has already initiated a nuclear power plant Kanupp-2 (K-2) in Karachi. Pakistan plans to lay down two additional plants, NPPs, Chasma-1 and Chasma-2. Thus these evidence compel Pakistan seek membership in the NSG as an urgent case.
How then the criterion based approach can be adopted, which Pakistan has floated? How to legalize the role of the NSG and formally attach it to the NPT? In author's view, there is an urgent need to revive the non-proliferation regime and enhance the role of non-NPT states in the full spectrum of non-proliferation and disarmament standards and obligations instead of breaking the designed structure of the NPT on selective basis. Less restrictive rules for some states and greater demands on the others will surely exacerbate the crisis of trust in the NPT regime. Within this the NSG guidelines and structure necessitate a revision in line with emerging and potential developments and set new criteria for membership considering the Non-NPT states.
The contention is that a new broad formula needs to be defined for export control policies that can meet current and future challenges in the realm of inhibition of proliferation. States which are not member to the NPT should be considered on a separate legal formula recognizing the security paradigm and security imperatives of these states. This document new formula or document would be linked with export control regimes. This document would recognize the new realities facing the world today such as globalization, rise in energy demands, information revolution and changing nature of security constructs. Secondly, dual-use technology considerations under the NSG are very critical. There is need to address sensitive technologies more clearly and consider their registration carefully, with emphasis on greater transparency in nuclear export controls. Denial Information is not shared outside the Group, whereas in my considered opinion, openness does not have an alternative, therefore sharing of best practices at the international level is exceedingly important for better manifestation of the effectiveness of export control regimes. More of the dual-use items are tangible and can be controlled but it is difficult to control intangible technological transfer and that demands more focused and practically durable operational procedures in that area. Most important of all, the export control process needs to be formally linked to the NPT.
Instead of having four multilateral regimes in institutionalized manner, there should be one regime, may be called Comprehensive Nuclear Proliferation Inhibition Regime (CONPIR) merging the four into one to develop more effective export control mechanism worldwide. This arrangement may take these factors into account:
•It should be cognizant of the fact that Pakistan and India are declared nuclear states and, therefore, they should be treated as NWS as per provisions of the NPT.
•Further testing and acquisition of NWS status should be banned.
•Unsafeguarded nuclear facilities of new NWS and of those NNWS, which aspire to become part of the NPT framework, for peaceful uses of nuclear technology, should be subjected to IAEA mechanism of inspection.
•Access of nuclear material and technology for peaceful uses must be conditioned with signing of the NPT and an unambiguously declared moratorium on testing of any nuclear devices under any circumstances or conditions.
•A realistic and workable framework for nuclear disarmament with defined time-lines to achieve disarmament objectives.
In my reckoning, the major challenge would be to create some space for India and Pakistan within the non-proliferation regime so that they come under the same obligation as NPT's description of NWS, as outlined under the article VI of the NPT. India and Pakistan are independent sovereign nuclear weapon states and can be incorporated within the NPT through the 2015 NPT review conference. If it is too late to pursue India and Pakistan to give up their nuclear weapons, then we should introduce new arrangements through which the two states can be attached to the NPT so that they become full partner to the regional and global disarmament process. Pakistan had been advocating for long either amending the NPT or creating a protocol so that Pakistan may be attached to broader ambit of NPT. This would allow them to retain their nuclear weapons and restrict them to restrain their further developments.
After this process, the cooperation with international export controls may become more viable. This will create an effective and enduring 'criteria based approach' for these states to join NSG, prohibit the explosive testing of nuclear devices and call for the phased elimination of fissile material production, which should include the existing stockpile into it. Further benefit would be that both the states would abide by the obligations of the NPT. Such a regime like CONPIR will strengthen international framework rather than weaken it. Since these countries have no legal non-proliferation obligations, and Indian role in the NSG will raise question for south Asian regional balance, therefore, inclusion of these states into the NPT through CONPIR will create a strategic stability in the region.
The writer is a PhD in International Security and Nuclear Non-Proloferation from University of Leicester, UK and is on the faculty of NDU, Islamabad
What purpose did Short Range Nuclear Weapons (SRNWs) or Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) play in the history of nations’ security policy? Why did the U.S. make the TNWs during the Cold War? Did this weapon introduce stabilizing or destabilizing effects? During the Cold War, nuclear weapons indeed remained central to the U.S. strategy of dissuading Soviet aggression against the U.S. and its allied nations. The U.S. invented diversified platforms that could carry nuclear warheads, thus crafting a complex countermeasure strategy and detailed operational plans to guide the use of these weapons in the event of a conflict with the former Soviet Union and its allies. Due to cost-effectiveness of this weapon, both the nations developed thousands of these to deploy outside their own territories. For example, the U.S. had over 7000 weapons deployed in Europe and about 2000 in the Pacific. Soviets also deployed these weapons at nearly 600 bases, with some located in Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe, some in the non-Russian republics.
It is significant to mention here that the fundamental purpose of deployment of this weapon by the U.S. in the battlefield was against the advances of advarsaries’ conventional forces and proxies in the Western Europe. This was the U.S. signalling to the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact that any aggression or conventional move could invite nuclear retaliation. Nuclear learning curve remained consistantly changing during the Cold War in regard to the size and strucure of both strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces in response to transforming nuclear technologies and evolving threat spectrum.
It appears that NATO will continue to maintain this full range of capabilities as long as nuclear weapons exist and to deter and defend against any threat. This is why the New START Treaty was silent on limiting or banning these weapons. Although neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union had used these weapons during the peak time of Cold War, however, despite the end of the Cold War, the TNWs still continue to play a role in the United States’ extended deterrence in Europe to have stabilizing effects in their strategic competition.
Later, the former Soviet Union broke America’s nuclear supremacy and monopoly, which had certainly helped regulate the intensity of war. Thus, based on their technological capabilities, both the nations realised there could be no victory in the nuclear domain. The introduction of new conventional technologies, such as ballistic missile defences and missile interceptors, reduced the role and utility of these weapons globally and indeed modified the U.S.’ behaviour. The U.S. later began to reduce these forces in the late 1970s with the number of operational non-strategic nuclear warheards declining from more than 7000 in the mid 1970s to below 6000 in the 1980s to fewer than 1000 by the middle of 1990s. In 1991, the then U.S. President, George H. W. Bush ordered to withdraw all land-based TNWs from overseas bases and all sea-based TNWs from U.S. surface ships, submarines and naval aircraft. Resultantly, the U.S. dismantled approximately 2,150 warheads from land-based delivery systems. Later, in 1991, NATO decided to reduce by about half the number of weapons for nuclear capable aircraft based in Europe which led to the withdrawal of an additional 700 U.S. air delivery nuclear weapons. TNWs were removed from bases in Korea and Europe by 1991 and 1992 respectively as a result of reduced threat in the backdrop of Soviet disintegartion.
Despite its superior conventional force, the TNWs still loom large in NATO’s deterrent policy against potential existential threats. Each nation still possesses thousands of these weapons deployed with their troops in the field, aboard naval vessels and aircraft. For example, the U.S. has approximately 760 non-strategic weapons with some deployed in Europe and the remaining in the U.S. Russia also possesses nearly 1000-6000 warheads for non-strategic weapons in its arsenals at present. It appears that NATO will continue to maintain this full range of capabilities as long as nuclear weapons exist and to deter and defend against any threat. This is why the New START Treaty was silent on limiting or banning these weapons. Although neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union had used these weapons during the peak time of Cold War, however, despite the end of the Cold War, the TNWs still continue to play a role in the United States’ extended deterrence in Europe to have stabilizing effects in their strategic competition.
A question now arises that why did Pakistan include Short Range Nuclear Weapons (SRNWs) in its inventory? What is the purpose of these low yield weapons and how long would Pakistan rely on them? As a result of the Indian crafting the Cold Start Doctrine (based on offensive orientation thereby maximizing the probability of a limited war to achieve limited objectives in short time, thus denying Pakistan the opportunity to climb the escalation ladder), Pakistan crafted a re-balancing strategy to address Indian aggression, brinkmanship or punitive actions. Pakistan thus chose to include SRNWs in its inventory. Pakistan opted for countermeasure strategy to prevent such eventuality by denying India a space for war. Pakistan’s development of short-range missile, Nasr (60-70 km) is not meant to wage a limited war against India, but to prepare for such an eventuality thereby signalling to the adversary strong and punitive retaliation and reducing the probability of any kind of aggression or limited war. The short range Nasr is a quick response system to deter evolving threat at the limited level. Therefore, the Cold Start Doctrine appears to be offensive whilst Nasr is a defensive system designed to uphold deterrence and strategic stability in South Asia and prevent a major or limited war. Second, the development of Nasr as a low-yield battlefield weapon can therefore, also be seen as an instrument for nuclear peace in South Asian deterrence stability disrupted by India’s Pragati/Prahaar short-range nuclear capability. Third, the political considerations with regard to Nasr's development remain consistent with Pakistan’s credible minimum deterrence posture. Thus, aim of inclusion of this strategic platform in existing inventory was to increase value of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent force. Pakistan’s highly modest and comprehensive nuclear weapons program, Nasr is a part of Pakistan’s all-range counter measure capabilities, directed to outweigh Indian pressure from strategic to sub-strategic level. By preventing war, it makes peace secure and region stable and Pakistan’s deterrence credible. The TNWs have taken away Pakistan’s stress in terms of Indian brinkmanship, bullying, punitive action and any kind of major aggression in the conventional realm. Four, Nasr has proven to be a cost-effective tool for Pakistan against conventionally stronger India.
Five, it is a centralised weapon and weapon of last resort. Hypothetically speaking, in response to present Indian belligerent policies, Pakistan should have placed this weapon on high alert and under the field commanders. However, being a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan has shown restraint and patience. This gives credence to peace credentials of Pakistan. It seems that SRNWs have created more space for flexible response and counter-force targeting options. There are reservations at the global level that if Pakistan delegates these weapons to field commanders to use these low range missiles during a crisis situation, this will create risk of prompt employment. Pakistan’s centralized command and control, non-deployment of its SRNWs due to.
geographical contiguity and proximity between India and Pakistan immediately rule out these risks. In a fair assessment, Pakistan’s low yield weapons neither will be deployed in forward location, nor power will be delegated to field commanders unless India compels Pakistan in that direction. Pakistan has highlighted that these weapons will be used as a last resort unlike the U.S.’ strategy of first resort during the Cold War to outweigh Soviet proxies in Western Europe.
Opinion is divided that Pakistan may behave irrationally or employ these weapons (in definitive patterns of behavioural rationality). Contention here is that rationality relates to the states’ preferences. Sometimes, one state’s rational act is irrational for the adversarial state. Thus, it is very hard to judge Pakistan’s preferences under enormous pressure and during a war-like situation. Apparently, it seems that Pakistan’s strategy could be to make a highly calculated move during war-like situations. However, in response to any irrational and irresponsible Indian move, risks attached to SRNWs may not be discounted. India reportedly seems to employ massive retaliation in response to a nuclear attack (even low-yield), anywhere, within or outside its territory at any level. Nevertheless, India’s possession of the capability to institute a graduated response with its short-range nuclear capable missiles such as short range Prithvi, Dhanush and Pragati/Prahaar cannot be discounted.
India's No First Use (NFU) that is publicly undeclared posture received no consideration in Pakistan from the outset. New debate on Indian NFU suggests that India may transfer from NFU to First Use (FU) force posture and it may embrace pre-emptive, damage limiting counterforce strikes. Such nuclear romanticism would increase nuclear risks by forcing both the states to increase nuclear readiness by pulling the warheads and missiles off the recessed posture. Therefore, the development of Nasr, specific to India’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons and Cold Start Doctrine, becomes part of Pakistan’s deterrence capability without which its deterrence credibility could be completely undermined.
Finally, Nasr’s development falls within the broader contours of Pakistan’s declarations on credible minimum deterrence. It does not imply numerical expansion in deterrence forces. The increase within Pakistan’s deterrence capability would be in proportion to India’s planned expansion. This may, however, not exactly be within the parameters of weapon-to-weapon competitive strategy practiced during the Cold War. Whether Pakistan would practice recessed deterrence or follow the ready-arsenal strategy for some of its deterrence forces would depend on the prevailing strategic dynamics. Nevertheless, use of the SRNWs in the battlefield from any side carries the potential to escalate the dynamics of conflict perilously, thus leaving high prospects for nuclear exchange. It can be suggested that SRNWs would only induce caution and result in a stalemate thereby injecting rationality in both states’ strategic behaviour even during peace times. Pakistan has to be extra cautious in taking a decision to employ SRNWs. India, a so-called larger democracy, may provoke Pakistan towards a prompt employment and resultantly it could back off to declare Pakistan as a pariah state in the comity of nations. India will stand responsible for any such conventional move that intends to invite regional nuclear holocaust. Consideration on this paradox must be established at the highest strategic level.
The writer is a PhD in International Security and Nuclear Non-Proliferation from University of Leicester, UK and is on the faculty of NDU, Islamabad.
India claims that it has a flawless non-proliferation record and it should be made part of the mainstream nuclear club. It also wants a membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) partially based on this “spotless” non-proliferation record. In reality India’s non-proliferation record, however, is not as clean as it would have us believe. One of the most glaring examples is the 1974 nuclear explosion itself, for which India diverted nuclear fuel from Canadian reactors – supplied for peaceful and civilian use – to conduct a nuclear weapons test. Ironically, the NSG was created in the wake of this explosion specifically aimed at preventing the diversion of civil nuclear technology for military purposes in future. While India has always taken the moral high ground in non-proliferation by demanding complete nuclear disarmament and non-discriminatory approach, in practice it has pursued an aggressive nuclear weapons programme in order to achieve a major regional and global power status. India’s path to a nuclear weapon status is replete with many proliferation activities like illicit procurement, centrifuge know-how leakage, and a poor implementation of national export control system. Moreover, the safety and security of its nuclear installations is also in question where there are many instances of nuclear thefts and security breaches. India’s non-proliferation record is far from impeccable as it claims due to long list of documented breaches.
Diversion of Foreign Civil Nuclear Assistance for Weapons Use The single most important and glaring example of India’s nuclear proliferation is the 1974 nuclear explosion, called the ‘Smiling Buddha.’ The nuclear explosion used the plutonium from the nuclear reactor supplied by Canada. Thus, India is the first country that diverted plutonium from reactors supplied for peaceful purposes towards making a nuclear bomb. The plutonium was produced in the Canadian-Indian Reactor, U.S. (CIRUS), which had been operating since 1960. It was built by Canada under the “Atoms for Peace” programme. The 21 tons of heavy water needed to operate the reactor were supplied by the U.S. In return, India had a written agreement with the suppliers that obliged it to use the nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes. Once confronted, India claimed that it was a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”
India had another agreement with the U.S. in 1963, which covered the two nuclear power reactors at Tarapur and their fuel. The spent fuel from these reactors is in storage and contains India’s most reactor grade plutonium. India claims that it can reprocess the spent fuel to extract plutonium for use in its civilian power reactors as fuel. That plutonium can be used for nuclear weapons. Reportedly, the plutonium from Tarapur reactors is enough to make hundreds of nuclear warheads. However, the 1963 agreement required India to get approval from the U.S. for reprocessing the plutonium placed at its disposal. India disputes this and insists that it is free to reprocess the spent fuel at any time. The U.S. has kept the matter dormant because it is an irritant in relations between the two countries. This is yet another glaring instance of nuclear proliferation done by Indian.
Illicit Procurement Indian nuclear entities and companies have procured nuclear dual-use material and equipment without revealing to the supplier that the end user is an unsafeguarded uranium enrichment plant. The Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS) released two reports in 2006, which give details of India’s proliferation activities.1 The ISIS reports reveal that India has a tendering process for acquiring equipment for its gas centrifuge programme. The Department of Atomic Energy’s (DAE) sub-entity Indian Rare Earths (IRE) uses websites and newspapers to invite companies for supply or manufacture of equipment without specifying that the end user is a gas centrifuge programme under the DAE. According to the ISIS report, this process has been going on for years with hundreds of advertisements for tenders.
Another instance is when in August 2005, an Indian ordnance factory attempted to use a Polish and a Europe-based Egyptian firm to obtain a controlled item – a three-roller four-axis CNC flow-forming machine from a European supplier. The accompanying specifications showed that it could be used to manufacture missile casings.2
The ISIS 2008 report establishes Indian illicit procurements of Tributyl Phosphate (TBP), which is a dual use chemical used in nuclear programme to separate plutonium. India used her trading companies to procure TBP secretly from German and Russian suppliers. The end user for the substance was Nuclear Fuel Complex in Hyderabad. These middle companies procured the TBP without the supplier knowing that the substance was meant for unsafeguarded nuclear programme.3
Centrifuge Know-How Leakage The ISIS reports also reveal that India’s tendering process for acquiring equipment for its gas centrifuge programme also leaks sensitive gas centrifuge information. Interested bidders can purchase documents, which cost around U.S. $10, and some of them contain detailed drawings and manufacturing instructions for direct use centrifuge components and other sensitive centrifuge related items. The tender advertisements do not indicate to the bidder that the items will be used in a gas centrifuge facility. However, the whole tendering process was meant to outfit the Indian gas centrifuge programme, codenamed Rare Materials Project (RMP) under the DAE. The tender documents contain drawings and precise specifications. The level of detail is such that these documents would be considered classified in supplier countries. The bidding companies may leak the designs for secret nuclear programmes. Therefore, this opens many direct and indirect avenues for proliferation.
Poorly-Implemented National Export Control System Indian export controls are poorly implemented with a greater possibility of onward proliferation. An ISIS report raises the issue that under inadequate Indian export controls, once imported items are re-exported it can be a great source of concern vis-à-vis onward proliferation. This turns more dangerous as proliferant states are known to target Indian industries.6 With the India-U.S. civil nuclear deal coming through and many other Western countries engaging in nuclear trade with India, there will be a dramatic increase in nuclear dual-use items. This will further strain an already inadequate export control system.
Illicit Heavy Water Acquisitions India's nuclear programme requires a steady stream of heavy water. During the 1980s, India arranged secret shipments of Chinese, Soviet and Norwegian heavy water to help start the Madras and Dhruva reactors through a West German nuclear materials broker named Alfred Hempel. Between 1983 and 1989 India received at least 80 tons of Soviet heavy water under the table, and 26.5 tons of Norwegian heavy water through diversions.7
Nuclear Thefts and Accident India has had a long history of thefts of nuclear material and mishaps or near-accidents at its nuclear facilities. This raises concerns over onward proliferation of nuclear materials as well as the safety and security of its nuclear facilities. Limited access to fissile material and international safeguards on nuclear facilities are the main barriers to nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism. However, India has a poor record on both counts. In fulfilment of the terms of the India-U.S. nuclear deal, India has placed 22 of its nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.8 But there is a long list of incidents of theft of nuclear material as well as concerns over the safety of its nuclear installations. Potential effects of plutonium or uranium thefts go beyond national borders with the possibility of onward proliferation and threats of nuclear terrorism.
According to a 1996 report made available to IAEA, Indian nuclear facilities have had 130 instances of safety related concerns, of which 95 required urgent action.9 According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or security related occurrences were reported in Indian atomic energy plants between the period 1995 to 1998. Out of these instances, 28 were of acute nature and 9 of these occurred in nuclear power installations.10
The incidents of nuclear theft date back to the 1980s but increased manifold in the 1990s and 2000s. This article would just mention a few of the theft cases. In July 1998, Indian Central Bureau of Intelligence (CBI) uncovered a theft racket of Uranium in Tamil Nadu. Of the 8 kg seized, 6 kg was weapons grade unenriched uranium.11 This led to cases of further seizure of uranium on July 31, 1998 of 2kg uranium. Samples showed 2.2% enrichment which indicated that it had come from an atomic research centre. On May 1, 2000 Mumbai police seized 8.3 kg uranium from scrap dealers which originated from the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), which was said to be depleted but radioactive.12
Also in November 2000, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported two incidents of uranium theft in India. In one incident, the Indian police seized three uranium rods and arrested eight persons on charges of illicit trafficking of nuclear material. In the second incident, the Indian police seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men on charges of illicit trafficking of radioactive material.13 Again in November 2000, the Indian intelligence seized 25kg of highly radioactive uranium from a scrap dealer in Bibi Cancer Hospital.14 In August 2001, the revelation of 200 grams of semi-processed uranium theft in West Bengal led to the arrest of a uranium smuggling gang.15 In December 2006, a container packed with radioactive material was stolen from Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai. Again in September 2008, Police in the north-eastern Indian state of Meghalaya arrested five people on charges of smuggling uranium ore.16
In March 2010, a gamma unit containing Cobalt-60 pencils was improperly disposed off by University of Delhi in violation of national regulations for radiation protection and safety of radioactive sources. This incident resulted in the material landing in the hand of a scrap dealer in West Delhi which led to the death of one person and seven were reportedly affected by radiation injuries.17 Also in 2013, leftist guerrillas in Northeast India illegally obtained uranium ore from a government-run milling complex and strapped it to high explosives to make a crude bomb before they were caught by the police.18
There have been instances in India where employees have carried out damaging activities within a nuclear facility. For instance, in 2009, a disgruntled employee at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka was reportedly responsible for contaminating drinking water supply with heavy water from the plant which led to the poisoning of 45 employees. Similarly, there have been media reports that there have been 25 intrusions at Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) in the last two years.19
The long list of nuclear thefts in India raises concerns over the presence of a nuclear mafia in India and organised crime relating to nuclear materials. This has been a great source of concern since the effects of national nuclear theft go beyond national borders. Such incidents are likely to lead to nuclear terrorism which is an international issue of concern.
Of even greater concern are finding of a 2012 analysis by the British Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi which highlighted the potential of theft of material suitable for use in weapons of mass destruction from insufficiently protected nuclear and chemical facilities in India. The report concluded that there is a potentially high risk of the material falling into the hands of wrong elements and radiological material being used in the form of a “dirty bomb” in terrorist activities.20
Another analysis published by the Foreign Policy magazine expresses grave concerns that India is not adequately safeguarding its fast-expanding nuclear installations and materials. An incident in October 2014 raised fresh concerns over the safety of Indian nuclear facilities when a person of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which was assigned to protect India's nuclear facilities and weapons related materials and installations, opened fire and killed several people in the very facility he was assigned to protect.21
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an estimated 90 to 110 nuclear warheads are stored in six or so nuclear sites which are guarded by CISF. A 2013 confidential draft report of the Home Ministry revealed that the force is short staffed, ill equipped and inadequately trained.22
The U.S. and other Western countries have long expressed concerns over the safety of India’s nuclear facilities. However, India refuses any help from the U.S. in improving its nuclear safety and its nuclear programme that still remains shrouded in secrecy. This, however, is a matter of grave concern, especially with India-U.S. civil nuclear deal coming through. Moreover, many other countries are eagerly engaging in nuclear trade with India. This means that close to 60 reactors may be operational in the next two decades. With a poor nuclear safety and security record, it only means that there would be dozens more nuclear reactors that would be vulnerable to theft and accidents.
Of even greater concern are latest reports that India is also building a top secret nuclear city to produce thermonuclear weapons in Southern Karnataka. Reportedly, it will be the subcontinent’s largest complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic research laboratories and weapons testing facilities and is expected to be completed in 2017.23 Of much significance are the reports that India is building thermonuclear weapons which have a much greater explosive force. This again follows the same clandestine pattern where India exploded its first “peaceful” nuclear device, when it tested first in 1998, and is now pursuing thermonuclear weapons without the international community and especially the U.S. being aware of it. This signifies that India is the engine of nuclear proliferation and nuclear competition in South Asia. This will not only further heighten Pakistan’s threat perceptions and that of China, but may give them an incentive to pursue thermonuclear weapons of their own. This would only fuel a pointless nuclear arms race. Moreover, having a nuclear city means adding to the already extensive number of Indian nuclear facilities that need to be safeguarded. The safety and security of India’s nuclear facilities thus becomes a matter of even graver concern. This may lead to onward proliferation or nuclear terrorism, or both.
It is clear that India has a poor nuclear materials safety record. According to the 2014 NTI (Nuclear Materials Security Index), which assesses the security of nuclear materials around the world, India scores below Pakistan, and is ranked only above North Korea and Iran.
Black Diamonds Incident Black diamonds are found naturally and considered rare. However, Indian scientists have been trying to create them artificially through radioactive processes. In 1992, scientists from BARC were reportedly involved in exporting ‘black diamonds’ internationally. Scientists were using research reactor APSARA to irradiate natural diamonds, making them darker and radioactive and selling them on the international market. These diamonds have dangerously high levels of radioactivity.24 BARC is central to India’s nuclear weapons infrastructure. The fact that scientists from this facility were willing to engage in illegal and dangerous practices heightens fears that other nuclear material may also be available for illicit trade.
Proliferation by Individuals and Entities: Links with Iranian and Iraqi Programmes India has a history of cooperation with Iran.25 It had a nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran signed in 1975. During the period of 1980-3, India helped in building the Bushehr nuclear plant and also sent scientists and personnel to Iran in 1982. India negotiated a deal for the sale of a 10 MW nuclear reactor to Iran in 1991 despite U.S. displeasure. Nuclear scientist Dr. Prasad, head of the Nuclear Corporation of India worked in Bushehr after his retirement. Another scientist Narander Singh also worked in Iranian nuclear facilities.26
President George W. Bush administration sanctioned several Indian entities for transferring technologies and know-how to Iraq and Iran that could contribute to chemical or biological weapons programmes.27 The U.S. clamped sanctions on five Indian entities and four individuals for their involvement in proliferation. In 2002-03, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the Indian entity Hans Raj Shiv for transferring WMD equipment and technology to Iraq.28 Protech Consultants Pvt Ltd came under sanctions in 2003 for transfers to Iraq. NEC Engineers Pvt Limited came under the U.S. sanctions in 2003 for proliferation activities related to chemical and biological weapons.29
An Indian scientist Dr. Prasad and former Chairman of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited Dr. Surendar came under sanctions in 2004 for facilitating WMD and missile related programme.30 In 2007, two Indian nationals Sudarshan and Mythili were arrested in the U.S. for illegally transferring latest computer technology meant for missile guidance system for their government’s research and development entities.31 Likewise, Sabero Organic and Sandhya Organic Chemicals Pvt Ltd were sanctioned in 2005 for proliferation to Iran.
Conclusion India has time and again claimed that the country has a spotless non-proliferation record. However, the long list of proliferation activities ranging from nuclear theft and accidents, diversion of peaceful material for weapons use, illegal nuclear materials procurement, centrifuge know-how leakage prove that this claim is a myth, far removed from the reality. In fact, “the spotless nonproliferation record” is a narrative that India is being aided and abetted by its Western allies firstly, because their strategic interests are converging and building India as a strong regional power to counter a rising China is in their interest. Secondly, the narrative also helps pave a smooth path for Western countries to engage in lucrative nuclear business with India.
The writer is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad and focuses on nuclear and arms control & disarmament issues.
India is rapidly increasing its military muscle both in terms of conventional and unconventional forces. Indian aggressive military doctrine is not limited to a specific single agenda. It is in pursuit of regional hegemony and to fulfil its global aspirations. Presently, Indian armed forces consist of approximately 1.4 million men, possessing sophisticated military technology, nuclear weapons, long-range ballistic missiles and an Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capability. The rapid expansion of Indian military capabilities puts a question mark over the peaceful future of the South Asian region. According to an analysis, “Indian defence spending has doubled in real terms since 1997, growing at an average of 6.3 per cent per year.”1
According to SIPRI reports, Indian political leadership seems more ambitious in building military forces rather than focusing on socio-economic development. Recently, Narendra Modi’s government has announced a further 11 per cent hike and has raised military budget to U.S.$39.8 billion in 2015-2016.2 According to SIPRI's report, Indian defence expenditure in 2015 is $51.3 billion – higher than the previous year.3 India is the world’s leading buyer of conventional arms, with upwards of $100 billion estimated to be spent on developing its conventional [defence] forces over the next decade.4 There are speculations that the Indian estimated defence spending could be even higher in the coming years.
India’s Cold Start Doctrine (CSD) or threatened provocative proactive operations are estimated to be the most expensive military strategy. India is exceeding Pakistan in ‘revolutionary’ military resources such as high-performance aircraft, wide-area communications, reconnaissance, and battlefield awareness.5 This Indian military modernisation has further widened Pakistan’s conventional imbalance vis-à-vis India. India is also building and designing its own aircraft carrier. “The Indian Navy already has clearance to build six SSN Submersible Ships and Nuclear Submarines (nuclear-propelled but not nuclear-armed submarines).”6
India's credibility of sticking to a peaceful use of nuclear technology is already in question. The nuclear arms race in the South Asian region is a blatant consequence of non-compliance with the non-proliferation regime. Its quest for hydrogen bomb, fragile nuclear waste management system, weak nuclear security culture, lack of trained human resource, serious internal security threats and environmental effects are all a cause of grave concern for both the region with one-fifth of the world population as well as the international community.
In addition, after having received the “green signal” from the U.S., India – a non – NPT state-is expanding its nuclear program. It is making new nuclear deals with the international nuclear industry. India also plans to develop dozens of new nuclear power plants. Currently, there are 21 nuclear reactors7 already in operation. India has formulated a three-stage nuclear power program which was designed by Homi Bhabha in the 1950s:8
• Stage I – Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor [PHWR]
• Stage II – Fast Breeder Reactor
• Stage III – Thorium-based Reactors
It is a known fact that India has one of the largest shares of global thorium reserves. India plans to spend an estimated U.S. $150 billion adding dozens of new reactors around the country. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, “Within the next two decades, as many as 57 reactors could be operating (in India).”9 In order to facilitate India in the international nuclear club, the U.S. granted it a special “waiver” by violating all nuclear non-proliferation norms. Since 2008, India is being granted free access to international nuclear industry. “It has already received roughly 4,914 tons of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan, and it has agreements with Canada, Mongolia, Argentina, Namibia, United Kingdom, Canada, Kazakhstan and South Korea for additional shipments.”10 Now question arises as to how much uranium India requires for civil nuclear energy purposes? What is the actual quantity of fissile material produced by India itself? What would be the criteria to check whether India will not misuse uranium from international market for military use? The technology acquired in 1970's for civil nuclear purposes from the U.S. and Canada has already been used for explosive purposes.11 India carried out its first nuclear explosion in 1974 and named it deceptively as "Smiling Buddha".
To establish and operate nuclear industry on a large scale, a huge number of trained and reliable human resources are required. Personnel and Human Reliability Programs (PRP and HRP) are a very important mechanism for a safe and secure nuclear program. To sustain a safe and secure nuclear program, a strong Nuclear Security Culture (NSC) is also vital. Is India well equipped to endorse all the criterion? According to one report, “the Indian Paramilitary Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), which has a total of 95,000 personnel under civilian rather than military control and a U.S. $785 million budget, is supposed to keep these nuclear materials from leaking from India’s plants but it is short-staffed, ill-equipped, and inadequately trained.”12 This implies that the safety and security of India’s nuclear facilities is not reliable.
Another source of concern is India’s pursuit of a thermonuclear bomb. Former senior British and U.S. officials have confidently stated that India is actively developing a thermonuclear bomb and we are constantly monitoring it.13 Former project leader for nuclear intelligence at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Robert Kelley, stated that after analysing the available satellite imagery, as well as studying open source material on both sites, he believes that India is pursuing a larger thermonuclear arsenal. “Its development,” he warned, “will inevitably usher in a new nuclear arms race in a volatile region.”14
India's credibility of sticking to a peaceful use of nuclear technology is already in question. The nuclear arms race in the South Asian region is a blatant consequence of non-compliance with the non-proliferation regime. Its quest for hydrogen bomb, fragile nuclear waste management system, weak nuclear security culture, lack of trained human resource, serious internal security threats and environmental effects are all a cause of grave concern for both the region with one-fifth of the world population as well as the international community.
India needs to address these concerns before applying for Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) membership. It is obligatory for the member states of NSG to seriously and impartially consider the above mentioned apprehensions if non-proliferation is desired.
Peaceful use of nuclear technology is a fundamental right of every sovereign state. However, there are various procedures and arrangements to ensure before pursuing high level expansion of nuclear technology. In addition, there is also a need to address socio-political aspects while expanding the nuclear technology. Unfortunately, India has paid minimal attention to socio-political and domestic challenges. Despite being the largest democracy of the world, its non-inclusive policies and war prone mindset to control the region is more dominant. India is rapidly building its conventional and unconventional forces.
Furthermore, what would be the consequences if India conducts a thermonuclear device test? Such Indian moves needs to be monitored before they proceed beyond the red lines. Unconditional nuclear favours to India will have very serious implications for global nuclear non-proliferation commitments. India is on the trajectory of rapidly growing nuclear installations with the undue support of the U.S. This would have implications not only for South Asia, but for other regions as well.