Report on In-House Seminar on “India’s NSG Politics” – November 8, 2016

Report on In-House Seminar on “India’s NSG Politics” – November 8, 2016

Authored by: Asma Khalid

Edited by: S. Sadia Kazmi

Strategic Vision Institute (SVI), Islamabad

Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) organized a one day In-House Seminar on “India’s NSG Politics” held on Tuesday 8th November 2016. Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Associate Professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University and Mr. Muhammad Kamran Akhtar, Director General Disarmament (MOFA), were the guest speakers. The discussion was chaired by Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, President/Executive Director SVI. 2Dr.Cheema in his opening remarks and welcome address thanked the guest speakers and participants for affording valuable time for the In-House. He stated that it has been quite long now that the membership of NSG has become much contested, especially because of India and Pakistan’s interest into the NSG and particularly after 2008 when a waiver was given to India. At that time Pakistan didn’t seriously contested the waiver.  However, now Pakistan is seriously pursuing it. He stated that the irony of NSG politics is that the group was created after India’s 1974 nuclear test and instead of India paying a price for that it is Pakistan, which is being singled out by the West led by the US. Otherwise, this issue could have been resolved amicably by both India and Pakistan to become members of the NSG

The first guest speaker for the occasion Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal while talking about NSG politics highlighted three dimensions to the whole issue: Commercial lobby being the first dimension, 3he stated that the commercial purpose was the main idea behind Indo-US nuclear deal in 2005 and later in 2008 when waiver was granted to India. Second is the politics of Norms. Taking norms as the main factor behind nuclear politics, the Indo-Us nuclear deal and NSG waiver should strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime.  Because the NSG’s primary objective was to prevent the transfer of nuclear technology to the states which are using it, or which are not having the comprehensive safeguards on their facilities under IAEA. The third is the “geopolitical” perspective with strategic undertones.

Elaborating on the first dimension identified as commercial he explained that the nuclear commercial lobby was behind the deal because the idea was to create 27,000 jobs and generate billions of dollars. However till 2016, not even a single agreement matured between the US and India. Despite that US has been lobbying for India’s entry as a member of the club. This factor explains that if economic dimension is reason behind NSG politics, then in the last 10 years, India has been given some kind of advantage by the US within the nuclear commercial sphere.  At the theoretical level, inclusion into the NSG would facilitate commercial objectives but at the practical level one doesn’t see a substantial tangible outcome. It illustrates that India’s politics and its membership of NSG doesn’t have a commercial or financial dimension. Another dimension is that the NSG member states are not ready to give waiver to Pakistan, because its economic situation is not in a position to let it purchase the nuclear reactor or material.This is the main reason that Pakistan is not economically attractive to the nuclear supplier nations. But if poor economic credential is the reason then one should recall that despite a stable economy in 2006 India didn’t qualify for the membership. Hence there is much more to the whole politics of NSG than just the economic factor.

Discussing about the second aspect i.e. Norms, he stated that the non-proliferation regime was conceived during the Cold War period and has since then gradually lost its significance. Norms’ applicability can be viewed while examining all the treaties regarding non-proliferation. In this regard the UNSC resolution 1540 (2004) could be taken as the finest arrangement within the export control norms. He further elaborated that Pakistan is one of the leading states who prepared a legislative law which became a statute in September 2004. Since that day until now it is very much a well referred document in the UN as a primary document with regards to the export control laws. Such features provide enough justification for Pakistan’s case as a well-qualified state for the export control regime, while on the other hand India’s export control laws were presented long after Pakistan’s. Hence in this context it is important to appropriately define and understand the concept of Norms. He explained that if we look upon the norms in NSG context, it is seen that there is remarkable change in NSG’s own arrangements because no more comprehensive IAEA safeguard are essential for India and this is a very important shift in the norms. Another shift in the norms can be witnessed in the two acts: one in 1954 and then 1978, which is termed as 123 Agreement in the US law. In 2006, an interesting debate was followed about the amendment of 123 agreements with 126 deal to supplyombat aircrafts to India.  This increased number has changed the very nature of the initial agreement. However such kind of deal is not realized yet. The third important norm in this case is the NPT itself. Article I of NPT has been violated and ignored by the US itself. However the US justifies the stationing and delivery of nuclear weapons to NATO countries by maintaining that this kind of cooperation is legal under the grandfather clause. However one needs to keep in mind that such deals with India directly or indirectly will contribute to its nuclear arsenal program. This in turn is the sheer violation of Article I of NPT which the US cannot justify that.  Hence the factor of Norms is completely lacking when it comes to the nuclear deal.

Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal highlighted that the third important factor is the policy both in terms of strategic and political policy. The trend of cooperation and policy conversion can be witnessed between the US and India at various moments in time. The Indo-US deal on space technology existed since 2004 long before the Indo-US nuclear deal. Now it is believed that India will be able to enhance the sophistication of its missiles. Things further gained pace in 2010 and an idea was adopted that India should be the member of all the cartels such as Australia Group, MTCR, NSG etc. By then the NSG waiver had already been granted to India. India now is the strategic partner of the US and enjoys more autonomy than other allies of the US. The American history demonstrates that almost all of its allies have always been dependent on the US’ military assistance for their survival. But the case of India as a strategic ally is quite different as it is not dependent on the US for its sovereign survival.  This is the reason why the US’ attitude is also slightly different as can be seen from the US compromise on the tracking issue vis a vis India.  It is a win-win situation for both strategic partners. Dr. Jaspal recalled the January 2015 visit of President Obama to India where during the Republic Day Parade, India exhibited all of its weapons except for Agni-V. One has to keep in mind that it is the only weapon by which India is capable of targeting Chinese major cities and hotlines. The intention behind this was to give out a message that India is not yet an “allied” state. But recent developments tell a different story. The US is now backing India’s bid for NSG and clearly proclaiming India as a pivot state for its Asia Pacific strategy. This strategy was further endorsed on 4th June 2016 by the US Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter. He mentioned in his speech at the 14th Asia Security Summit that there should be more robust bilateral and multilateral arrangements for the security of this region and specifically mentioned the Indo-Pacific strategy. Dr. Japsal highlighted that India is no more a nonaligned state especially now when it has signed the Logistic Exchange Agreement with the US. Practically India is of the view that NSG membership is very significant for its prestige and for this purpose India went openly for an alliance with the US. On the other hand the US has no doubt that India would continue its vertical proliferation as India never gave any commitment to stop vertical proliferation. It is also important to note that in the last eight years, India has failed to live up to any kind of commitment it gave which was directly or indirectly attached with the waiver. Additionally when talking about the criteria, question arises as to why they are not coming up with one. NSG is a cartel adopting denial policy against Pakistan.

While concluding, Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal revealed that though there is meeting scheduled on 11-12 November 2016, but the trends are not in favor of India. However India is giving the impression that it has won the support of majority of the states including Mexico and New Zealand. But the fact is that New Zealand doesn’t stand a chance against the US pressure. Similarly the countries in Latin American have different interest. However three major countries Ireland, China and Austria have not shown any change in their stance against the Indian membership. This raises an important question that if in the last four to five months India has failed to win support of these three states then why has it again requested for the NSG meeting so soon? The probable answer to this could be that India wants to send the message out that NSG issue is still alive and India is diligently working for its membership.  Another objective could be the domestic consumption within India on the basis of which it wants to get into the cartel.  Whatever strategy India is adopting for the NSG, it is clear that it wants to show its resilience and sustainability on the issue of membership. Dr. Jaspal suggested that Pakistan also needs to maintain its resilience and sustainability in its policy regarding the issue of NSG membership.

4The second speaker for the day was Mr. Muhammad Kamran Akhtar. He extended his thanks to the SVI and to Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema for inviting him to speak on the occasion. Mr. Akhtar focused on the dynamics within the NSG while briefly discussing the geo-strategic dimension. He stated that ever since Pakistan applied for the membership it has followed a two pronged strategy: both at the political and at the expert level. At the political level, Pakistan has been interacting with the Prime Ministers, Advisors, Foreign Secretaries and the Ambassadors of all the NSG countries whereas at the expert level, it has been giving detailed briefings regarding credentials for the NSG quest. In this two pronged strategy; Pakistan has been focusing on two main elements including the credentials of Pakistan for NSG membership and the short comings in the 2008 exemption for India. The latter was important because when Islamabad started its efforts in May, it was a given for many of NSG members that India fulfills the credentials and Indian membership deal is done. Hence Pakistan now has to dispel the impression that 2008 exemption can be a justification for India’s NSG membership because in Pakistan’s view 2008 exemption was full of holes and it does not meet the NSG objectives, which America was portraying that India is furthering. Therefore Pakistan has to focus on Indian credentials as well. He further added that Pakistan also has to dispel this impression that Pakistan’s membership application was in reaction to Indian membership application. Most of the countries were given the impression by the US and India that Pakistan has been brought in by China as a reaction to Indian membership application to spoil the Indian case. This is not true because Pakistan adopted its Export Control Act in 2004. Since then it has been updating its NSG list. Islamabad announced its NSG compliance list in 2005 followed by two subsequent reviews in 2007 and 2012 that ensures that the working on this issue started long before India had applied for NSG membership.

Mr. Akhtar further added that the timing is also an important factor as prior to May 2016 Pakistan was given to understand that NSG was not yet prepared to consider the membership application of Non-NPT states. There were still discussions going on regarding the political, technical and legal aspects of NSG membership of non-NPT countries. The impression was that none of the non-NPT members would be welcomed to apply. But then the US asked India to apply in May. Hence when India applied, Pakistan had already done its homework and was ready to apply which it did instantly. Also it wouldn’t have been possible for Pakistan to apply within 6 days of Indian application. Pakistani side gave a detailed dossier spanning over 300 pages within six days which shows that the preparations were already there. So Pakistan has to tackle this impression as well.

Then there was an impression that Pakistan was perhaps not very serious in pursuing NSG application. The misperception also got addressed when Prime Minister himself called his counterparts from many countries. Pakistan’s membership application is now being taken very seriously and Pakistan is being considered as a serious contender.

Referring to Dr. Jaspal’s talk, he said that it is most probably the strategic interest of US, which has prompted it to support Indian membership. He analyzed its three factors: strategic, economic interests, and norms. Talking about the norms he maintained that the US has to prove it to its people and the congress that by bringing India into the cartel, they are bringing in a state with sizeable nuclear capability who will abide by the international norms.

Moving on to the commercial aspect he stated that India’s interests are commercial because it has been able to secure a number of deals with Canada, Australia and now with Japan. It has also inked deals with other members like Kazakhstan and Namibia. By considering the list of countries which are vocally supporting Indian membership, one finds that they are all those countries who would either be exporting reactors or nuclear fuel to India. The list includes countries like Australia, Canada, Japan and Kazakhstan where all these countries have their own commercial interests with India.

Talking about the geo-strategic angle he mentioned that India is being mainstreamed by the US and supporting its membership bid which is also raising some security concerns. This may be one of the factors that raised alarms among the official circles of South Africa and Brazil who are members of BRICS also. Seeing India being considered for the membership of the UNSC can further increase reservations on part of these countries. This is also why Indian membership in NSG doesn’t seem forthcoming which is ultimately good for Pakistan

He added that there are a few challenges which Pakistan faces regarding NSG membership criteria. On one extreme of the spectrum is friend like China. However China’s position on NPT makes it clear that Pakistan will have to get around China’s position as well. At the other end of the spectrum is a country like the US which has maintained that there is no need for new criteria. It claims that India is already complying with a number of commitments and these commitments are sufficient to guarantee India a membership. At the same time the US is not very adamant regarding getting India’s signature on NPT but is proposing some equivalent criteria suggesting India to sign the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement. However there could be legal ambiguities in such a demand. By definition, a Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement means an agreement which covers all the nuclear facilities of the state. But in this case, they are qualifying it as the civilian nuclear facilities of a state. However, there are problems in this definition as well. Pakistan is willing to put all its civilian nuclear facilities under the safeguards unlike India which designated 8 reactors as civilian but kept them out of safeguards. This is an anomaly to the safeguards that the designated civilian reactors are not under safeguards.

Mr. Akhtar further added that the US takes India as a non-NPT and a non-nuclear weapon state. But according to the definition of the NPT, a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT is one which will not have any military nuclear facility. Moreover, by default all the facilities have to be peaceful facilities put under the Comprehensive Safeguard Agreement. Despite that if the US is designating India as non-nuclear weapon state without NPT ratification; it means that India is being allowed to have military facilities. This is what Pakistan’s representative pointed out in Vienna during the briefing to many NSG countries. Mr. Akhtar maintained that the international community is trying to facilitate Indian entry but legally that is not possible. The reason is that there are shortcomings and Indian civilian nuclear facilities are not even under the safeguards. India has given the right to declare whatever facility as civilian and whatever facility as military irrespective of the fact that any facility that might be serving military purpose can still be kept outside the safeguards. Many of the Western countries suffer from a selective amnesia because in 2009 when Pakistan agreed to a program of work in the CD at the start of negotiations on FMCT, Indian permanent representative in Geneva took the floor and gave a statement that India will not accept the FMCT as it undermines its strategic interest. India didn’t fulfill its commitments of supporting the negotiations on FMCT and still was given an exemption in 2008. There was a huge stockpile which by a conservative estimate is around 2 tons of reactor-grade plutonium in India. It was designated as civilian use plutonium on the basis of which India justifies its fast breeder reactor program. Here the question arises that if it was designated as civilian then why it was not put under the safeguards? if it was not put under safeguard, it should have affected the calculations of Indian military fissile material. Had that been done Pakistan would have been willing to enter into negotiations on FMCT. There is no response to these objections which Pakistan raised with NSG countries.

So, Pakistan’s position on FMCT is justified. It is the right time to insist on a stringent criterion for non-NPT states. At that time NSG countries missed an opportunity where they could have asked both Pakistan and India to simultaneously adhere to strong non-proliferation commitment. This could have injected nuclear restraints in South Asia. But now India has access to all kinds of nuclear technology and has the capability to live without the membership of NSG. For India it is a matter of prestige. For now, it will not be easy for India to meet any new criteria as it can live without it. But at the same time there should be some stringent NPT related criteria. This position favors Pakistan because on one extreme there are countries like the US that are lobbing for Indian membership and on other extreme there are countries like China that propose stringent criteria. The ultimate solution might lie somewhere in between and that would suit Pakistan. If there is an objective criterion short of signing the NPT then Pakistan will fare much better than India in terms of coverage of civilian nuclear facilities and safeguard agreement because such agreements are in perpetuity without any exception. In terms of Pakistan’s openness to consider a commitment on non-testing of nuclear weapons, this is where Pakistan has some room to play and it is playing well. There is a dire need to do some positive signaling so that anybody who is considering the criteria in-between, they are encouraged by Pakistan’s willingness to adhere to such criteria. Because once they are encouraged they will see some points in persuading this exercise.

Earlier this year, Pakistan’s foreign affairs advisor indicated that Pakistan is willing to enter into a bilateral non-testing agreement with India. Back in 1998 as well, Pakistan proposed simultaneous adherence to CTBT by both Pakistan and India. Later India refused by making it clear that it is not going to join CTBT. Now Pakistan has found a middle ground i.e. a bilateral agreement which is still better than unilateral moratoriums because unilateral moratoriums are voluntary. This bilateral agreement will be legally binding for both countries. If materialized, it would be a step towards the facilitation of CTBT. Islamabad has done that signaling and is already indicating that it will be willing to accept safeguards on all its future civilian nuclear facilities. It also is willing to look at the possibility of additional protocols provided this is put forward as standard NSG membership. Pakistan will be doing that on the terms on which India entered to an additional protocol not more than that. Finally, Pakistani authorities are also working in terms of peaceful nuclear cooperation. 5He suggested that they have to build a positive narrative about Pakistan’s nuclear program. This is why Pakistani side is also working with international community in terms of peaceful cooperation of nuclear energy. Pakistan can be seen as contributor to the achievement of sustainable development goals for example; joint US-Mali project for mother and child health. It was a US project in Mali and Pakistan joined as the partner of US to provide kits containing sheets, blankets, and scissors that are gamma sterilized in reactors. The price of one kit was almost US $ 3 and Pakistan was to provide almost 40,000 kits. But due to war in Mali the project could not be materialized. Pakistan is also exploring possibilities in Sudan for the establishment of cancer radio-therapy center. Such efforts are imperative in building a positive narrative about Pakistan’s nuclear program that it is not just a weapon for war rather it is also related with sustainable development goals such as maternal and child health along with other issues like isotope hydrology and access to clean drinking water etc. Pakistan is trying to enter in such kind of system at international level through IAEA and even bilaterally. He concluded by saying that Pakistan should stop looking at things in a strictly binary fashion i.e. zero or one, either yes or none at all. If Pakistan couldn’t win the membership it should still not give up on its ambitions as it needs recognition in the long run. Pakistan can slowly and gradually and eventually get there by constant efforts but it should not rush and must keep the poise of a responsible nuclear weapon state.

After the talks by the two worthy speakers, floor was opened for question and answer session which led to a very interactive discussion among the speakers and the audience.

Mr. Shaukat Hassan, Former Director Disarmament and Safeguards (PAEC) made two very pertinent comments regarding the signing of NSG by Pakistan. He stated that without the NSG membership Pakistan would not be able to acquire nuclear related equipment and technology for the safety of its nuclear power plant. In order to get the membership, Pakistan should establish strategic reforms and should not cross the red lines and not rush for entry into the cartel. For this purpose it is imperative to look at the other side of the picture as well. Being a small nuclear weapon state Pakistan possesses only four nuclear reactors and it is estimated that by 2020 the possible number would be six whereas India has the capability to build its own nuclear reactor. He added that Pakistan should manage its finances and wait for the right time to win membership. He suggested that till then the target of its efforts should be to not let India get into the NSG.

6Dr. JassimTaqui, Director General Al-Bab Institute for Strategic Studies pointed out the allegations on Pakistan government with regards to providing assistance to nuclear program of Sudan. Later he asked how Pakistan can deal with such accusations in order to maintain its prestige. Mr.Akhtar answered by giving two arguments. First, he stated that it is just a stretch of imagination that Sudan is working on nuclear weapon program. History of nuclear weapon reveals that one has to have some adversary in order to get nuclear weapon. In that context one can’t say that Sudan is acquiring a nuclear weapon. Referring to the US-Mali project he stated that it is an IAEA project and it will be implemented under IAEA safeguards, it is not yet materialized but Pakistan is exploring the possibility. And in this very regard Pakistan being a partner state was approached by IAEA itself and not by Sudan. He added that right now the biggest killer in Africa is cancer and African countries do not have the expertise to fight these non-communal diseases. So in this regard P5 and international community is trying to establish a group to promote fight against cancer. On this matter, Pakistan’s commitments are fully under IAEA safeguards. He highlighted that being a responsible nuclear weapon state Pakistan would not enter into any program which would affect its reputation or prestige. Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, added to the debate by saying that it is impossible to ignore the fact that Sudan is the member of nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Sudan was beneficiary of petrodollar. So if Sudan desires then it has the potential and legal right to get the reprocessing plant and enrichment plant for peaceful nuclear program. Being the NPT member Sudan has never violated the treaty just and always maintained its projects under article 345 of IAEA. Pointing out the US-Mali project he stated that the program is fully supported by IAEA and doesn’t leave any space for Sudan to go for secret deal with costly scientist and costly smuggled equipments. It can easily get benefit from more cheaper and legal projects. Hence the argument that Sudan is acquiring the nuclear capability is just a misperception. Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema further added to the discussion by agreeing with statement that NPT signatory states can violate NPT if they are faced by threat. He maintained that a major argument here is about Sudan acquiring the nuclear capability. It is in fact a far-fetched idea. Even the technological, financial and strategic capacity that it has at the moment shows it might only be able to develop nuclear capability after 50 or 100 years.

7Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali, Senior Research Fellow CISS, while elaborating on the significance of NSG for Pakistan described that it would be appropriate to describe Pakistan’s approach towards NSG membership as essentially long-term. While looking at the individual events like the upcoming meeting, interests of Pakistan are understandable but outcomes are considered not very favorable either for Pakistan and India.  He suggested that both states are needed to consider all geo-political, economic and strategic factors to address the complexities the two are facing. He further said that although Pakistan’s credentials are very well managed but there is a need to identify incentives that Pakistan is going to offer to NSG states in return. He also added that due to diverse economic as well as strategic objectives Pakistan needs NSG membership more than India does.

Dr. Zafar Cheema expressed that the support base of Austria, Ireland and New Zeeland keeps India out of the NSG. He asked what if the scenario changes and these countries reach a compromise with India’s position and find some middle ground under the pressure by Washington DC, in that case, Pakistan would only have support of China or may be one more state. So then how can Pakistan improve its position for NSG membership with very thin support? While responding Mr. Kamran Akhtar stated that the NSG membership is politicized due to eagerness of India and the American push for it. Otherwise NSG membership was thrust upon countries in the past. While discussing dynamics and historical scenario of NSG, he described that Pakistan is required to establish itself as a serious supplier of peaceful nuclear related technology and equipment. For this purpose it has to be more liberal to maintain its export under IAEA safeguards. It also needs to project itself as supplier of items, technology and expertise in a way that nuclear supplier states desire to take Pakistan into the group. He suggested that Pakistan should keep its spirit and confidence and should not beg for the membership.

8Mr. Zafar Ali, Director General Security Division MOFA, asked that it may be a deception strategy of India to engage in NSG politics but what exactly India is trying to achieve by doing so and by trying to get the membership? In response Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema stated that it is a wrong impression that India’s politics to get membership of NSG is for economic, political and for the purpose of gaining prestige. One of the most significant objectives of India is to block Pakistan’s entry into the cartel for purely strategic objectives. Following the debate Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal pointed out that the two pronged strategy is not enough to deal with international community to get into the cartel. He suggested that Pakistan needs to focus on public and media Diaspora so that Western nations could realize that people and public opinion also have a say in it. So instead of two pronged strategy, Pakistan needs to establish a strategy with multiple prongs. Mr. Akhtar stated that Pakistan needs to publish research in newspapers and journals to develop the opinionship of statesmen. In this regard its need to liberate the focus on other prongs to remove the impression that objectives of getting membership is pursued by military to serve interests of military establishment only.

9Ms. Saima Aman Senior Research Associate CISS, asked how the new administration in the US would affect India’s NSG membership and what is the agenda for the upcoming meeting that is to be held on 11-12 November 2016. She also asked about the salience of consensus on consultations which Mr. Rafael Grossi, candidate for Director General IAEA, is trying to come up with. Mr. Kamran Akhtar responded by saying that if Hillary Clinton comes into power, there would be continuation of current administration policies regarding India’s NSG membership. Even if administration changes, Pakistan would remain under pressure and there would be no respite for Pakistan. If Donald Trump becomes the President, the US would keep pushing its strategic interests with India.  Responding to the second question Mr. Akhtar said that Mr. Rafael Grossi is looking for the US support and that’s why he is all out to appease the Americans for which he is trying to propose criteria which would suit India. He further added that countries like New Zeeland, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland want more stringent criteria and are reluctant to accept Grossi’s paper. On the other side there are countries like China which believe that Rafael Grossi doesn’t have a mandate so it is reluctant to accept procedures presented by Rafael Grossi.

In the end President/Executive Director SVI Dr. Zafar IqbalCheema gave his concluding remarks. He maintained that the US’ support for Indian bid was driven by its strategic and political interests in South Asia. He further added that despite lack of any progress towards support of member states, India has pressed NSG members for a second meeting just to keep the issue alive. He stated that India’s alone entry into NSG would push back Pakistan’s efforts for developing its infrastructure and industry by decades. Finally he offered his deepest thanks to the participants and the worthy speakers for their active participation in the Seminar.



Media Coverage:

Media covered the proceedings of the In-house seminar

The News

Daily Pakistan

Al-Bab Institute for Strategic Studies

Associated Press of Pakistan

National Courier


ArabicChinese (Simplified)EnglishFrenchRussianSpanishUrdu