The Indian and Korean nuclear horns: Daniel 7

UN reports confirm India-North Korea illicit nuclear links (part-11)

The case in point regarding the Indian-North Korean illicit nuclear connection glaringly exposes that India violated the commitments adhered in the NSG waiver given to India.The NSG passed a waiver of restrictions on nuclear commerce with India in September 2008 despite India’s failure to meet either of these nonproliferation norms. The NSG exempted India from its full- scope safeguards (FSS) condition, making it the first country to be allowed to have nuclear trade with NSG members along with its nuclear weapons program.

When India was given the NSG waiver via US intervention, not only Pakistan but some members of the NSG were also opposed to this unjust grant of a waiver to India by the NSG that allowed it to trade in the nuclear materials. However, there remained justified concerns that the group, instead of applying a criteria-based approach, encouraged selective states for nuclear trade to become its part through country-specific exemptions. Therefore, the reservations chartered by Pakistan and other states like Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Switzerland were based on these logical arguments.

Firstly, on India’s nuclear testing moratorium, most of the member states emphasized a legally-binding testing moratorium. Although India committed itself to continue its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, it was suggested to provide some legally-binding assurances such as signing the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty). A diplomat is quoted as saying, ‘when every single member country of the NSG has signed the CTBT, why should India get a free pass’. Another diplomat also said ‘Nobody seriously expected India to sign the CTBT as a precondition for the waiver-as the American diplomats’ lobby would have favoured India. What needs to be looked at is how to deal with the new situation which would be created were India to test again’.

Some countries suggested conditioning the waiver on India’s signing the CTBT and others recommended that there should be some mechanism to deal with the situation if India tested a nuclear weapon and was not willing to sign the treaty. Some members called for automatic termination of the waiver in case of an Indian nuclear test; while others wanted to leave this to the individual member countries. It is important to note here that only the US domestic laws provide for immediate termination of the nuclear trade in case of a nuclear test. But unjustlythere had been no reference given in the waiver to work towards full-scope safeguards.

India has been providing both financial and military assistance to North Korea in total disregard to and in violation of global non-proliferation regimes and at the expense of regional and global stability

Secondly, because of India’s uncertain compliance with the nonproliferation commitments, it was also suggested to incorporate a review provision in the proposed waiver draft. Some countries had suggested having some kind of monitoring mechanism to assess the extent to which India is abiding by its nonproliferation commitments. Thirdly, the question of enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technology was also a grave issue. Some member states argued to include a provision denying the transfer of ENR technology.Nonetheless, with the NSGnew guidelines introduced in 2011 regarding the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology, India’s privilege of a clean waiver was duly nullified. Now that the NSG has agreed on new guidelines which require NPT membership, India vehemently criticized the decision that this is against the ‘clean waiver’.The NSG made it clear that the waiver exempted India from the requirement of FSS safeguards but not NSG policies on ENR transfer.

Basically, the only real technological barrier to the construction of a covert nuclear weaponsprogramme is access to fissionable material itself. There seems a growing black market for this material as vindicated by the DRPK-India nuclear links, and eventually, demand will result in enough material reaching as-yet- unidentified buyers to produce a nuclear weapon in the basement. Obviously, the terrorist threatsof contamination– using radioactive substances gain enhanced credibility as the number of smuggling incidents continues to rise. The current revelation by the UN panel is indicative of the fact that an illicit nuclear connection remains established between Pyongyang and New Delhi. Eliminating the menace of nuclear terrorism while making a substantial and enduring contribution to world peace in this area, an action must be taken in order to prevent the short-term and the long term threats.

Although to a large extent India has been successful in securing membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime (June 2016), the Wassennar Arrangement (Dec 2017), and the Australia Group (Jan 2018), New Delhi’s credentials– to acquire its peaceful means of nuclear energy/ fissile material-are not yet a good fit for the UN set goals/ objective towards the complement of a world seeking multilateral commitments from world’s de jure and de/ facto, and the aspirant nuclear states. And yet, there is a strong bipartisan proposition/consensus that argues that the Indo-US nuclear deal has had a strategic importance to US imperialism’s strategy to counter China’s growing rise in the first half of the 21st century.

Needless to say, India has a long record of developing both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles under the guise of peaceful nuclear and space cooperation since the US-India nuclear deal. Supporting India’s reactors only reinforces the perceived prestige of nuclear technology for developing countries, but a double standard set by the United States sets a bad example for the acquisition of peaceful nuclear energy. Recently, the Foreign Policy magazine alleged that India started building a secret nuclear city in Challakere in Karnataka, which when completed would be “the subcontinent’s largest military-run complex of nuclear centrifuges, atomic-research laboratories, and weapons- and aircraft-testing facilities”.

As part of the India-US Nuclear Agreement-2005, the United States sought an India-specific NSG waiver in 2008-overridingly exempting India from its full-scope safeguards condition. India is now bidding on NSG membership. But the veritable fact isshown by the NSG previous waiver negotiations with India that New Delhi would resist non-proliferation conditions and it would undermine the credo of the nonproliferation nuclear regime.Unfortunately, the US political nuclear umbrella given to India has been undermining the NSG neutral evaluation criteria.According to Pierre Goldschmidt, the former IAEA’s official, ” there is a need to give the International Atomic Energy Agency “both the authority and capabilities to detect any undeclared nuclear related activity.”

Arguably, the Indian waiver– largely influenced by the economic and political motivations of large nuclear suppliers –establishes a double standard for providing India with the same trade benefits of NPT members but without the nonproliferation obligations-consequently paves the way for a nuclear apartheid regime- a bad omen for the nuclear non-proliferation regime.Needless to say, India has been providing both financial and military assistance to North Korea in total disregard to and in violation of global non-proliferation regimes and at the expense of regional and global stability. Against this backdrop, it is argued that India must lose its right to use the NSG waiver. Concluded

The writer is an independent ‘IR’ researcher and international law analyst based in Pakistan

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