Pakistan has raised a new set of concerns in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the UN body responsible for negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).
Islamabad’s objections are holding up the CD’s approval of a program of work on an FMCT and other issues.
The stalemate prompted a comment from CD Secretary-General Sergey Ordzhonikidze. Speaking Feb. 11 on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ordzhonikidze expressed “great disappointment” with the body’s lack of progress, according to an official meeting summary. He described progress in the CD as “not even zero, it was minus.”
The 65-nation CD had been deadlocked since the conclusion of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations in 1996. The CD, which operates through consensus, agreed on a work plan in May 2009. Pakistan did not block the plan, although Zamir Akram, Pakistani ambassador to the CD, said at the time it was “not perfect.” The plan included negotiations on an FMCT, as well as substantive discussions on progress toward nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in space, and the provision of negative security assurances to states not possessing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, June 2009.) The CD failed to adopt a framework to implement that work plan by the end of 2009, due in part to Pakistani concerns.
In January, Akram temporarily blocked the adoption of an agenda for the year as he suggested expanding the issues that it addresses. In a Jan. 19 statement to a CD plenary meeting, he said the “international arms control architecture is incomplete” without a “global regime on missiles.” He went on to say that “the issues of conventional arms control at regional levels and missiles are now pressing problems for the international community.”
The Indian delegation to the CD responded in a statement later that day, opposing the consideration of regional arms control issues at the CD. But the delegation said the CD could address some aspects of a global missile control regime.
In addition, the Pakistani government recently restated its opposition to an FMCT, citing regional security concerns. “Pakistan’s position [on an FMCT] will be determined by its national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia. Selective and discriminatory measures that perpetuate regional instability…cannot be accepted or endorsed,” Pakistan’s National Command Authority said in a press release issued after a Jan. 13 meeting. The authority is the body responsible for formulating all aspects of Pakistani nuclear policy.
One of the issues surrounding the proposed FMCT is whether it should cover existing stockpiles as well as future production.
Akram communicated the country’s position to the CD in a Feb. 18 statement. “The FMCT that has been proposed will only ban future production of fissile material” and will “increase the existing asymmetry in fissile materials stockpiles between Pakistan and [India].” Akram said that India would be able to increase its fissile material stockpiles as a result of the 2008 waiver it received from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). (See ACT, October 2008.)
India does not allow international inspections of all its nuclear facilities. Acceptance of full-scope safeguards, as they are known, is a key requirement under NSG export guidelines. The 2008 decision made an exception for India, allowing New Delhi to import nuclear material, equipment, and technology. Critics of the move have said that India’s access to the international uranium market will allow India to devote more of its limited domestic uranium supply to building up its nuclear arsenal.
“We must ensure that the asymmetry” arising from an Indian stockpile increase “does not erode the credibility of our deterrence,” Akram said.
The NSG, which includes more than 40 countries, proceeded with the waiver “because their greed got the better of their principles or they simply lacked the courage of their convictions,” he said.
Ordzhonikidze responded to the Pakistani ambassador later that day. “[I]t is very hard to imagine that a program of work…will hamper [in] any way the strategic security of any member state,” he said.
Hamid Ali Rao, India’s ambassador to the CD, said Feb. 18 that “[t]he CD is not the forum to address bilateral or regional issues.” He urged the Pakistanis to avoid bringing up “extraneous” issues in the CD.