For years, Pakistan has sought membership of the exclusive Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that is a basket of nuclear trading nations, thus far with little success. There were few nations that were prepared to back Pakistan in large part because fears — real or imagined — surrounding the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear sites. As security has improved in the last two years and the threat to the state from powerful terrorist groups reduced, it is time to knock at the door of the NSG again and this time with at least one powerful backer.
Russia, with which Pakistan has an evolving relationship, has said via a diplomat speaking at a seminar, ‘Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Strategy Stability’, that it was not opposed to our NSG candidature. Russia favoured a criteria-based approach for non-NPT states and that Russia was working with China in evolving a formula that will ‘be acceptable to all’. There is a mutuality about this as Pakistan has supported Russia in its stance on the prevention of an arms race in outer space.
The backdrop to this is the shifting regional picture as India moves to the forefront, China seeks to develop as a hegemon, Russia works on the post-Cold War scenario as it mends long-broken fences and the US wakes up to the risk of being outflanked by old opponents. Tensions still exist between China and India which can occasionally ‘go hot’ as they did in the ‘Chickens Neck’ incident in August of this year. Both India and Pakistan are developing or have deployed defensive and deterrent conventional systems costing vast sums that neither nation can easily afford yet neither can avoid the reality of if any sort of parity is to be maintained. In truth, the Pakistan membership of the NSG is no closer than it was a week ago, but Russia has put down a marker that makes its position clear to both India and America. The Americans are backing India in its developing relationship with Afghanistan which is urging a greater Indian diplomatic role regionally. The NSG and membership thereof is a stage on which a far bigger game is playing out.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 17th, 2017.