Pakistan is wary of major world powers pressuring smaller countries to make exemptions for India to gain entry to the Nuclear Suppliers Group, with officials expressing fears that such a move could affect stability in South Asia.
Islamabad applied to join the NSG soon after India’s bid. However, India’s application has been blocked by Pakistan’s close ally China, which has suggested a two-step approach for new admissions that involves developing criteria for non-NPT states and then inviting applications.
“We are pretty confident that NSG countries would not go down the exemption way, but if they ultimately do so and give exemption to India, there would be serious repercussions not just for Pakistan, but also for other non-nuclear weapon states that may feel being unjustly denied their right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” Kamran Akhtar, director general for disarmament in Pakistan’s Foreign Office, was quoted as saying by Dawn newspaper.
Speaking at a workshop on “Defence, Deterrence and Stability in South Asia” that was organised by Islamabad-based Centre for International Strategic Studies and London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, the officials said they were encouraged by growing support in the NSG for establishing criteria for membership of non-NPT countries.
“There are a lot of countries that now recognise the need for a criteria-based approach rather than granting exemptions, but pressures are still being exerted on smaller countries,” Akhtar said.
He warned strategic stability in South Asia would be undermined if Pakistan’s application was not treated equally with the Indian case.
The NSG failed to evolve consensus on India’s bid and the admission of non-NPT countries at two meetings this year, including one in Vienna last month.
Khalid Banuri, the director general of arms control and disarmament affairs in the Strategic Plans Division, said: “Pakistan wants to deny India space for war and create a space for peace. Its (Pakistan’s) weapons are for maintaining peace in the region and for deterrence.”
Tasneem Aslam, additional secretary in the Foreign Office, said the membership of non-NPT countries is deeply linked to strategic stability in the region.
“Today, the NSG stands at crossroads, once again, as it considers membership for non-NPT states. An even-handed and non-discriminatory approach by the NSG at this juncture would be of far-reaching significance for strategic stability in South Asia and global non-proliferation efforts,” she said.
Aslam also regretted the world’s silence on India-Pakistan tensions. “Unfortunately in bilateral context Pakistan and India seem to be moving backwards, which is not a good sign,” she said, warning that India was upping the ante through “dangerous rhetoric” and “risky claims of surgical strikes”.
The speakers at a session on “Tensions with India” agreed there had been a dangerous escalation in the region and political leadership on both sides need to show political resolve and vision to reduce tensions.
IISS senior fellow Brig (retired) Ben Barry talked about the influence of non-state actors and said, “Further or more serious attacks by non-state actors in Kashmir or (mainland) India could produce a dynamic change of military escalation on both sides.”