Saturday, September 22, 2007

Implications of becoming a signatory to NPT

Signing the NPT would force India to forswear its nuclear option. Acceding to NPT means accepting the three basic principles represented by it -- non-proliferation, disarmament, and the right only to peacefully use nuclear technology. Can a country, placed as India is, sign the NPT? More so when the very foundations of the treaty are being shaken thoroughly?

In trying to comprehend the implications, it is very important for us to look at these three following questions:

  1. What made India not sign the NPT in the first place?
  2. Has anything changed between then and now?
  3. Or whether these changes have highlighted the necessity of our accession to the treaty?

India’s objection is that the NPT creates a club of "nuclear haves" and a larger group of "nuclear have-nots" by restricting the legal possession of nuclear weapons to those states that tested them before 1967. But the treaty never explains on what ethical grounds such a distinction is valid. Secondly, while China is recognized as a nuclear ‘have’, India cannot remain a nuclear ‘have not’.

These two objections are still valid even after 40 years of the existence of the treaty. Having been an ‘unofficial’ nuclear power since 1974, India had to bear the brunt of sanctions imposed on it by the US government and had to live with the non-cooperation of the developed world for a better part of the last 40 years on science and technology front. This, in spite of our stated policy of ‘no first use’ of a nuclear weapon against any country and an impeccable non-proliferation record.

If at all there is anything that has changed in between, it is that some of the official ‘haves’ and others have indulged in proliferation. US connivance cannot be brushed aside in Israel’s nuclear program. Nor can Russia’s with Iran and China’s with Pakistan. Israel (a non-signatory country) has actively assisted South Africa in the 1970’s. The latter is believed to have tested a nuclear weapon in 1979. But it has subsequently destroyed its entire nuclear arsenal and joined the NPT in 1991.

Now Iran has publicly breached the treaty saying that it is only conducting its nuclear program with a view to produce nuclear energy. The suggestion becomes laughable in the light of the fact that Iran has one of the largest reserves of oil (third largest) and natural gas (fourth largest) in the world. Moreover, enriched uranium can only be used in light water reactors. Iran doesn’t possess light water reactor technology. North Korea has publicly withdrawn from the treaty in 2003 and gone ahead and tested nuclear weapons in 2006. The US and four others are trying their best to resolve the impasse with North Korea still.

None of these events necessitate or usher India into signing the NPT. So why should it sign? Having endured the sanctions regime, India had done commendably well in developing its own nuclear and space program strengths. Acceding to NPT is not a solution. Signing the nuclear deal with the US is. It will hasten the process of our development. It will make the world albeit grudgingly admit India into the club of nuclear ‘haves’. It still retains with it the benefits of a non-signatory country and is not obliged by the treaty conditions. Though being a non-signatory country, we have demonstrated a much better non-proliferation record than the ‘haves’ and other signatories.

Will signing the NPT now bring any extra benefit to India? I doubt it. We are fairly developed. Our progress on the nuclear and space fronts has made the world realize that India perhaps can be slowed down, but not stopped from developing its strengths. The deal with US will hasten the process and integrate us into the top tier countries. Singing NPT may bring these benefits with the added conditionality of forswearing the nuclear option. So, why should it oblige?


Rama said...

Thanks for the blog! recent happenings around the world were well summarised.

Vkr said...

Nice informative post.