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Progress on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Inadequate to Meet Threats, New Study Finds

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A new study suggests that President Obama, failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas during his second term.

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For Immediate Release: July 15, 2016

Media Contacts: Tony Fleming, communications director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 110; Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—President Barack Obama failed to make progress in key nuclear disarmament areas over the course of his second term, but did achieve important steps to improve nuclear materials security and strengthen nonproliferation norms, namely the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, according to a new study released by the Arms Control Association, which evaluates the recent records of all the world’s nuclear-armed states.

The report, "Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016," is the third in a series that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament, and nuclear security categories over the past three years. The study evaluated the records of China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea—each of which possess nuclear weapons—as well as Iran and Syria, which are states of proliferation concern.

“The United States is investing enormous resources to maintain and upgrade nuclear weapons delivery systems and warheads and is keeping its deployed nuclear weapons on ‘launch-under-attack’ readiness posture. The lack of U.S. leadership in these areas contributes to the moribund pace of disarmament,” said Elizabeth Philipp, the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellow at the Arms Control Association, and a co-author of the report.

“Obama should use his remaining months in office to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. strategies and mitigate the risks of inadvertent use. Obama could consider declaring that Washington will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in a conflict,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association and co-author of the report.

“U.S. leadership could spur China and Russia to take positive actions and improve the prospects for further disarmament. Russia’s decision to develop a new missile in violation of its treaty commitments and Moscow’s rebuff of attempts by the United States to negotiate further nuclear reductions is very troublesome, as is the expansion of China’s nuclear arsenal and Beijing’s steps toward increasing the alert levels of its forces,” Philipp added.

“Several states did take significant steps over the past three years to strengthen nuclear security, including action by the United States and Pakistan to ratify key nuclear security treaties,” said Davenport.

“The July 2015 nuclear deal struck between six global powers and Iran was also a significant nonproliferation breakthrough that has significantly reduced Tehran’s nuclear capacity and subjected its activities to more intrusive international monitoring and verification. While the international community must remain vigilant in ensuring that the deal is fully implemented, blocking Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons negates a serious nonproliferation concern and demonstrates the consequences of flouting the international norms and obligations,” Davenport said.

“For the third time, the United Kingdom received the highest grade of all the states assessed, while North Korea remained at the bottom of the list with the lowest overall grades. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and its ballistic missile development require the next U.S. administration to pursue more robust engagement with Pyongyang to freeze its nuclear activities,” Philipp said.

“Our review of the record indicates that further action must be taken by all 11 states if they are to live up to their international disarmament and nonproliferation responsibilities. By tracking the progress, or lack thereof, of these states over time, we hope this report will serve as a tool to encourage policymakers to increase efforts to reduce the risk posed by nuclear weapons,” Davenport said.

A country-by-country summary can be viewed here.
The full report card can be downloaded here

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

2016 Report Card on Nuclear Disarmament, Nonproliferation Efforts

Download the full report here.

Table of Contents

Nuclear Suppliers Divided on Indian Bid

At its meeting last month in Seoul, the Nuclear Suppliers Group did not reach consensus on India’s bid to join the 48-nation group, but agreed to continue discussions on the matter.

July/August 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Despite a high-level lobbying effort by the U.S. and Indian governments, the 48 participating governments of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) did not reach consensus at their plenary meeting in Seoul on a controversial bid from nuclear-armed India to join the nuclear technology control body as a full-fledged member.

In recent weeks, Washington and New Delhi had ramped up diplomatic efforts to convince the participating governments of the NSG, which operates by consensus, to agree to allow India, which is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), to join the group. (See ACT, June 2016.

In a public statement issued after its June 20-24 plenary meeting, the NSG said it “had discussions on the issue of ‘Technical, Legal and Political Aspects of the Participation of non-NPT States in the NSG’ and decided to continue its discussion.”

Outgoing NSG chair Rafael Mariano Grossi of Argentina was tapped to facilitate the ongoing discussions. “I have to go back to each government about their stand, what they discussed and what they will agree too,” Grossi told The Hindu in a June 28 interview.

In 2008, following heavy U.S. lobbying, the NSG agreed to exempt India from its full-scope safeguards requirement for nuclear trade with non-nuclear-weapon states.

Following that decision, India concluded a number of bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with nuclear supplier states, including Australia, Canada, France, Kazakhstan, and Russia. 

The issue of Indian membership in the NSG has been discussed informally within the group since 2011. Deliberations took on new urgency with the submission of a formal membership bid from India on May 15 and another from Pakistan several days later. 

On May 19, a call for an “Extraordinary Plenary Meeting” of the NSG was issued with “NSG Participation Process to review submissions for participation by non-NPT states” listed as an agenda item. That meeting was held in Vienna on June 9.

On June 3, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry sent a two-page letter to several states believed to be skeptical of the Indian membership bid, asking them to “agree not to block consensus on Indian admission” to the NSG, according to a report published by Bloomberg News.

“India has shown strong support for the objectives of the NSG and the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and is a ‘like-minded’ state deserving of NSG admission,” Kerry wrote in his June 3 letter. Other major nuclear suppliers, including France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, support the Indian bid for membership. 

In a letter dated June 7, however, China’s ambassador in Vienna, Shi Zhongjun, wrote to Grossi to object to a formal discussion of the new membership bids at the June 9 meeting or at the plenary meeting in Seoul.

“NPT membership constitutes one of the prerequisite factors for consideration of NSG participation,” the Chinese ambassador wrote. “[M]ore discussions are needed before the Group is in a position to review…participation by any specific non-NPT state at the meetings of the Group.”

“The NSG stands to benefit from the active participation of Indian technical specialists in helping the Group strengthen the international control of nuclear goods and technologies and help strengthen domestic controls on nuclear exports,’’ Canada’s acting high commissioner, Jess Dutton, told The Times of India on June 20. Canada is a major supplier of uranium for India and supports India’s membership bid.

According to a number of NSG representatives who spoke with Arms Control Today on a not-for-attribution basis, however, the June 9 and 20-24 meetings revealed widespread concern about a “politically based” approach to allow Indian membership rather than a new criteria-based policy for considering NSG members. 

“The door is open for the admission of the non-NPT members. It is never closed. It is open. But the members of the NSG should stay focused on whether the criteria should be changed and whether non-NPT members should be admitted into the NSG,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told reporters at a media briefing June 21 in Beijing.

In an effort to win support for its membership bid, senior Indian officials reportedly reached out to many NSG member states, including China. Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar arrived at the Seoul meeting June 21. Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on June 23 for the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization where he lobbied Chinese President Xi Jinping to support Indian membership in the NSG.

“China doesn’t support Pakistan or India to enter NSG until they follow rules established by members. NSG consensus is in favor of the Non Proliferation Treaty,” said Wang Qun, director-general of the arms control department in the Chinese Foreign Ministry on June 24. “The meeting on Thursday was an effort to find consensus on non-NPT state applications, but differences remain,” Wang said.

A number of NSG participating governments, including some who publicly said they support Indian participation in the NSG, joined China in calling for further consultations to arrive at a consensus approach to any new membership bids, according to diplomatic sources involved in the NSG meetings.

Many participating governments were weighing the potential technical and political costs of allowing one or more non-NPT states to participate in the group, according to the NSG diplomats who spoke with Arms Control Today

One concern cited by one participating state representative regarding Indian membership was that it would require the group to reconsider the definition of a “nuclear-weapon state” in administering NSG guidelines. The guidelines specify that the “fundamental principles for safeguards and export controls should apply to nuclear transfers for peaceful purposes to any non-nuclear-weapon State.” 

In 2008 the NSG agreed that the decision to except India from its comprehensive safeguards standard should not be interpreted to mean that the NSG or its members recognized that India is a nuclear-weapon state as defined by the NPT. 

In a statement issued June 24, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that “one country” raised “procedural hurdles” regarding India’s membership bid. 

“An overwhelming number of those who took the floor supported India’s membership and appraised India’s application positively. We thank each and every one of them. It is also our understanding that the broad sentiment was to take this matter forward,” Swarup said.

India Joins Ballistic Missile Initiatives

India joined a voluntary regime that promotes ballistic missile transparency and was admitted to an export control regime designed to prevent the spread of ballistic missiles. 

July/August 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

India joined a voluntary regime last month that promotes transparency around ballistic missile development and was admitted to an export control regime designed to stem the spread of technologies relevant to developing missiles and unmanned systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). 

New Delhi announced on June 2 that it subscribed to the Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation. On June 27, the Dutch chair of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Piet de Klerk, released a statement saying that the “formal procedures” for Indian membership in the regime were finalized. 

India’s membership in the MTCR was expected after a June 7 joint U.S.-Indian statement, released during Indian President Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, said that Modi and U.S. President Barack Obama looked forward to India’s “imminent entry” into the MTCR. 

The Hague code of conduct is a voluntary, multilateral initiative subscribed to by 138 countries. It calls on member states “to exercise maximum possible restraint in the development, testing and deployment of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including, where possible, to reduce national holdings of such missiles.” States also agree not to assist other countries in the development of ballistic missile programs and to “exercise vigilance” in assisting in space launch programs, given the applicability of the technology to missiles. 

Any state can join the code of conduct by subscribing to the group’s principles. Participating states agree to submit pre-launch notifications and declare policies related to ballistic missile development on an annual basis. Austria serves as the administrator for the group. 

India already notifies Pakistan at least 72 hours in advance of ballistic missile flight tests under an agreement reached by the two countries in 2005. (See ACT, November 2005.

The MTCR is an initiative designed to prevent the spread of missiles and unmanned systems capable of delivering nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The regime, which was formed in 1987, defines WMD-capable delivery systems as missiles or drones capable of carrying a 500-kilogram payload a distance of 300 kilometers. 

MTCR members agree to consider export policy guidelines designed to limit the spread of technologies applicable to the development of WMD-capable missiles and drones.

With India, the MTCR now comprises 35 member states, and new members are admitted on the basis of consensus. 

De Klerk’s statement said that India’s membership “will strengthen international efforts to prevent proliferation of delivery systems” capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction.

An official familiar with India’s bid to join the MTCR said on June 22 that one of New Delhi’s “primary motivations” for joining these regimes is to strengthen its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). The official said that India is trying to represent itself as a “responsible member of the international community committed to countering proliferation” of weapons of mass destruction and related technologies. 

Despite these steps, India was not admitted to the NSG at the group’s plenary meeting in June (see page 23).

The official said that the impact of India’s membership on slowing missile proliferation depends on how vigorously New Delhi adheres to MTCR export controls. 

India attempted to join the MTCR at the group’s last plenary meeting, in October 2015, but was blocked by Italy over an unrelated matter. (See ACT, November 2015.) At the time of application, India said its space program was suffering because it was not a member of the regime. 

Many technologies and materials applicable to ballistic missile development are also applicable to space launch vehicles, although the MTCR says the regime is not designed to inhibit space programs. 

India’s membership does not guarantee it access to sensitive technologies, and other MTCR partner countries can still deny exports because the regime’s guidelines “do not distinguish between exports to Partners and exports to non-Partners,” according to a summary on the MTCR website.

Experts Call on Nuclear Suppliers Group Not to Bend the Rules

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In a letter to the 48-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 18 leading nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed...

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For Immediate Release: June 20, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, (202) 463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—In a letter to the 48-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a group of 18 leading nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed "deep concern and opposition to pending proposals that could grant India and Pakistan membership in the NSG on the basis of an exceptional political preference—rather than on the basis of a common, strong, and meaningful set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks for NSG membership."

The Nuclear Suppliers Group is are expected to discuss the Indian and Pakistani bids for membership at its plenary meeting in Seoul during the week of June 20.

The experts warn: "It is our assessment that any further country-specific exemptions from NSG guidelines for trade and/or membership without compensating steps to strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament would increase nuclear dangers in South Asia, and weaken the NSG and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime."

"New membership bids,” the experts write, "should be considered on the basis of whether states meet an agreed set of strong and meaningful nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks.”

Signatories of the letter sent to the NSG participating governments include two former special representatives to the President of the United States on nonproliferation and the former U.S. negotiator for civil nuclear cooperation agreements.

"Neither India nor Pakistan meets the NSG’s membership criteria,” the letter continues, "nor does either country meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear that either state shares the NSG’s basic nonproliferation motivations, including the NSG’s efforts to stem the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes."

Under the guidelines of the NSG, membership requires that a state is a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, among other considerations. In 2008, the United States pushed through an India-specific exemption from the NSG’s requirement that a state have full-scope international safeguards in order to be eligible for civilian nuclear trade.

“Unfortunately,” said Daryl G. Kimball of the Arms Control Association, "the United States has in the past month rejected consideration of proposals from some NSG participating governments for a criteria-based approach to membership. The Obama administration should adjust its irresponsible approach."

For the full list of endorsers and the text of the letter, see below.


Don’t Bend NSG Rules Without Steps to Strengthen Nonproliferation

June 8, 2016

Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi
Chair of the Nuclear Suppliers Group

Dear Ambassador:

We are writing to express our deep concern and opposition to pending proposals that could grant India and Pakistan membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the basis of an exceptional political preference — rather than on the basis of a common, strong, and meaningful set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks for NSG membership.

It is our assessment that any further country-specific exemptions from NSG guidelines for trade and/or membership without compensating steps to strengthen nonproliferation and disarmament would increase nuclear dangers in South Asia, and weaken the NSG and the broader nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Neither India nor Pakistan meets the NSG’s membership criteria, nor does either country meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear that either state shares the NSG’s basic nonproliferation motivations, including the NSG’s efforts to stem the spread of sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technologies that could be used for nuclear weapons purposes.

Since the NSG granted an India-specific exemption for India from its longstanding full-scope safeguards standard for nuclear trade in September 2008, the Indian government has not met the nonproliferation commitments it pledged it would meet in return for the exemption: its civil-military nuclear separation plan is not credible; its IAEA Additional Protocol arrangement is far weaker than those of the nuclear-armed states; and the administrative arrangements negotiated by the United States and other nuclear suppliers for tracking India’s nuclear material are insufficient.

India and Pakistan have refused to accept critical disarmament responsibilities and practices expected of all other nuclear-armed states, including a legally-binding commitment not to conduct nuclear tests (such as signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), halting fissile material production for weapons, and reducing nuclear and missile arsenals. Instead they are increasing their nuclear arsenals.

Thus, there is no basis to accept the argument offered by U.S. officials that Indian membership in the NSG would give India more of a stake in the nonproliferation regime.

Pakistan, which has a history of transferring sensitive nuclear fuel cycle technology and is expanding its own nuclear weaapons capabilities, has an even weaker case for NSG membership than India.

In our view, the best way to bolster the global nonproliferation and disarmament effort is to set strong standards for new membership that reaffirm the basic objectives and purposes behind the NSG and strengthen its role as a multilateral institution.

Sincerely,

Susan F. Burk
Former Special Representative of the President of the United States for Nuclear Nonproliferation (2009-2012)

Joseph Cirincione,
President, Ploughshares Fund

John D. Holum,
former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Angela Kane,
Senior Fellow, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation,
former High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations

Daryl G. Kimball,
Executive Director, Arms Control Association

Michael Krepon,
Co-Founder, Stimson Center

Edward P. Levine
Chairman of the Board, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation*

Jeffrey Lewis,
Middlebury Institute of International Studies*

Fred McGoldrick,
Consultant, and former Director of Nonproliferation and Export Policy,
U.S. Department of State

Robert K. Musil,
Chairman of the Board, Council for a Livable World*

Dr. Willam C. Potter,
Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies,
Middlebury Institute of International Studies*

Randy Rydell,
former Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

Henry Sokolski,
Executive Director of The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center,
and former Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy, Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense

Sharon Squassoni,
Director of the Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies*

Frank N. von Hippel,
former Assistant Director for National Security, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Leonard Weiss,
Stanford University, and
former Staff Director, U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs and chief architect of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978

Ambassador Norman A. Wulf,
Special Representative of the U.S. President for Nuclear Nonproliferation (1999-2002)

*Institution listed for identification purposes only.

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The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

Country Resources:

Obama’s India Nuclear Blind Spot

Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the transfer of nuclear technology...

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world’s most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the transfer of nuclear technology and concrete action by nuclear-armed states to reduce, not expand, their weapons capabilities.

As President Barack Obama said in his landmark April 2009 speech in Prague “[I]n our determination to prevent the spread of these weapons, rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something. The world must stand together to prevent the spread of these weapons.”

But just a year later, Obama announced that the United States would support Indian membership in the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)—the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975 in response to India’s first nuclear weapons test blast, which used plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor using U.S.-origin heavy water. 

According to the official NSG website, India’s 1974 test explosion “demonstrated that peaceful nuclear technology transferred for peaceful purposes could be misused.”

After low-level consultations on the issue within the NSG since 2011, U.S. and Indian officials have recently launched a quiet but high-level campaign for their proposal ahead of key NSG meetings this month in Vienna and Seoul. 

Indian membership in the NSG on the basis of an exceptional political preference rather than a common set of nonproliferation and disarmament benchmarks would produce serious, long-term damage to strategic stability in South Asia, the NSG, and the broader nonproliferation regime.

Such a move would compound the damage caused by the 2008 NSG decision to make an India-specific exemption to its full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards requirement for nuclear trade that was pushed through by the George W. Bush administration.

NSG membership currently requires that the state is a member in good standing with the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). India remains one of only three countries, with Israel and Pakistan, never to have signed the NPT. 

Based on its record, India does not meet the same standards of behavior as current NSG members, nor is it clear it shares the NSG’s core nonproliferation goals, including preventing the spread of sensitive uranium-enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies. 

India refuses to accept critical disarmament responsibilities and practices expected of responsible nuclear states, including a legally binding commitment not to conduct nuclear tests, such as signing the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), halting fissile material production for weapons, and reducing, not building up, its nuclear and missile arsenals.

India has actively sought to weaken the nonproliferation commitments it was required to take to receive an NSG exemption in 2008. For example, its civil-military nuclear separation plan is substandard, and its IAEA additional protocol arrangement is weaker than those of the NPT nuclear-weapon states. Although India maintains a nuclear test moratorium, leaders in New Delhi have not taken any steps toward signing the CTBT, and they have not agreed to build international nuclear test-explosion monitoring stations on Indian territory.

The NSG’s 2008 India-specific exemption has given India access to international nuclear fuel markets, which has freed domestic supplies for bomb production. Pakistan has reacted by accelerating its own fissile material production capacity and deploying highly destabilizing tactical nuclear weapons.

In April, Obama said he would “like to see progress with respect to Pakistan and India to make sure…they are not continually moving in the wrong direction.”

Another India-specific NSG exemption would undoubtedly move Pakistan in the wrong direction, hardening its resolve to keep pace with India’s ongoing nuclear weapons buildup. It would likely worsen China’s own NSG-noncompliant nuclear trade with Pakistan and make it more difficult to gain other states’ adherence to NSG trade control guidelines. Indian membership in the NSG would also reinforce the perception among NPT member states that the rules just do not apply to nuclear-armed states. 

China, which insists on further dialogue on the matter and notes that NPT membership should remain the standard for NSG membership, may block India’s admittance to the group. Nonproliferation stalwarts, including Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand, may stand firm too. But that could change if the Obama team employs the strong-arm tactics used by the Bush administration against some NSG members to push through the 2008 exemption from key NSG trade guidelines. 

Ironically, Indian membership in the NSG would empower New Delhi to block future efforts by participating governments to ensure that India respects the nonproliferation commitments that it made in order to win the NSG’s support for that 2008 decision. 

If states in the NSG are to be asked to support the objective of Indian membership, it should only be as part of a broader strategy to strengthen the global nuclear order. Anything less represents an irresponsible disregard for long-standing nonproliferation principles.

Nuclear Suppliers Consider Indian Bid

Ahead of this month’s meeting of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have launched...

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

Ahead of this month’s meeting of the 48-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in Seoul, U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have launched a high-level push to secure consensus for India’s membership in the body over the objections of several member states, including China.

Obama first expressed support for Indian membership in the NSG in a November 2010 joint statement with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Since then, the NSG has discussed whether and how to revise its membership criteria with the view toward determining whether India meets the revised criteria.

Within the past year, Modi and other Indian officials have met with the leaders of NSG member states, including Ireland and New Zealand, that originally opposed an India-specific exemption to NSG nuclear trade rules in order to make the case for India’s membership bid. 

India would be the first member of the NSG that is not a party to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). A key criterion for membership in the group is that the country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. The NSG was established in 1975 in response to India’s 1974 nuclear weapon test, which was fueled with plutonium produced by a Canadian-supplied reactor in violation of peaceful nuclear use assurances.

In September 2008, following a high-level diplomatic push by the George W. Bush administration, the NSG agreed to make an India-specific exemption to its requirement that recipient states must subject all their nuclear facilities to international inspections in order to prevent the diversion of peaceful nuclear material or technology for weapons purposes. The NSG waiver for India was granted in return for several Indian nonproliferation “commitments and actions,” including maintaining its nuclear test moratorium, supporting negotiations to halt fissile material production for weapons, and developing a plan to separate its civilian and nuclear sectors. (See ACT, October 2008.

Obama administration officials have argued that Indian membership in the NSG would give India more of a stake in the nonproliferation regime. But critics, including Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who spoke out against the proposal during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on May 24, counter that India still does not meet the NSG’s membership criteria and that the administration is not pressing for further nonproliferation commitments from New Delhi in return for the benefits of NSG membership. 

On May 13, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokes-person Lu Kang made public Beijing’s view that “NPT membership” is a necessary qualification for membership. 

“Not only India, but also many other non-NPT members have voiced their aspirations to join the NSG. Many NSG members, China included, think that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided based on consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the rules of procedure of the NSG,” Kang said. 

In response to the Indian bid for NSG membership, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Aizaz Chaudhry, told a senior U.S. official on May 17 that his country has the “credentials” to join the NSG. On May 20, Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna sent a letter to the chair of the NSG to formally apply for NSG membership.

If the NSG cannot reach consensus at its June meeting, sources suggest the matter may be taken up at a follow-on meeting in September.

On Nuclear Security, U.S. Must Put Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

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The Nuclear Security Summit process and associated U.S. nuclear threat reduction programs have played a vital role in reducing the risk of a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists.

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Volume 8, Issue 1, April 15, 2016

The Nuclear Security Summit process and associated U.S. nuclear threat reduction programs have played a vital role in reducing the risk of a nuclear or radiological attack by terrorists. But the threat is constantly changing and may have grown in recent years in light of the rise of the Islamic State group and indications it may have nuclear and/or radiological ambitions.

Despite noteworthy achievements, however, significant work remains to be done to prevent terrorists from detonating a nuclear explosive device or dirty bomb. For example, even after four Nuclear Security Summits there are no comprehensive, legally-binding international standards or rules for the security of all nuclear materials. The existing global nuclear security architecture needs to continue to evolve to become more comprehensive, open, rigorous, sustainable, and involve the further reduction of material stockpiles.

It is thus puzzling that just weeks before the final summit in Washington earlier this month, the Obama administration submitted to Congress a budget that proposed significant spending reductions for key National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) programs that lessen nuclear security and nonproliferation risks, accelerating a trend in recent years of short-sighted cuts to these programs. If implemented, these decreases will slow progress on key nuclear security initiatives, jeopardize the sustainability of those initiatives, and undermine U.S. leadership in this area.

As the Senate and House of Representatives begin their work on the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization and energy and water appropriations bills—which establish spending levels and set policy for Defense Department and NNSA activities—lawmakers should reverse these ill-advised budget cuts. Additionally, Congress should encourage the NNSA to augment its nuclear and radiological security work to help ensure the end of the summit process does not weaken progress toward continuously improving global nuclear and radiological material security.

Disappointing Budget Request

If the risk of nuclear or radiological terrorism isn’t on your mind, it should be. The recent Islamic State group-perpetrated terrorist attacks in Brussels offered another bloody reminder of the danger of terrorism. To make matters worse, reports indicate that two of the suicide bombers who perpetrated the attack had also carried out surveillance of a Belgian official with access to a facility with weapons-grade uranium and radioactive material.

A new report published on March 21 by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs concludes that the risk of nuclear terrorism may be higher than it was at the time of the third Nuclear Security Summit in 2014 due to the slowing of nuclear security progress and the rise of the Islamic State group.

Against this concerning backdrop, the NNSA, a semiautonomous agency of the Energy Department responsible for the bulk of U.S. nuclear security work, in February requested $1.47 billion for core nuclear security, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism programs in fiscal year 2017—a reduction of $62.4 million, or 3.8 percent, relative to the current fiscal year 2016 level. (Note: these figures exclude the administration’s request of $270 million to terminate the Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program for excess U.S. weapons plutonium disposition.)

The drop is even steeper when measured against what the NNSA projected it would request for these programs in its fiscal year 2016 submission, which was issued in February 2015. The agency had said it planned to ask for $1.65 billion in fiscal year 2017, or roughly $185 million more than the actual proposal.

The largest proposed reduction in the request is to the Global Material Security program, which improves the security of nuclear materials around the world, secures orphaned or disused radiological sources—which could be used to make a dirty bomb—and strengthens nuclear smuggling detection and deterrence. Within this program, the NNSA is seeking $7.6 million less than last year’s appropriation for radiological material security programs and roughly $270 million less for these activities over the next four years than it planned to request over the same period, last year.

Most experts agree that the probability of a terrorist exploding a dirty bomb is much higher than that of a nuclear device. This is due in large part to the ubiquitous presence of these materials, which are used for peaceful applications like cancer treatment, in thousands of locations and in almost every country around the world, many of which are poorly protected and vulnerable to theft. A new report published last month by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) noted that only 14% of International Atomic Energy Agency member states have agreed to secure their highest risk radiological sources by a specific date.

Along with reducing the budget for radiological security, the NNSA is planning to transition from a primarily protect-based approach for radiological materials to one that emphasizes permanent threat reduction through the removal of sources and the promotion of alternative technologies, when feasible. While it makes sense to seek to replace these sources as opposed to securing them in perpetuity, this revised approach raises numerous questions, including whether some sources will remain vulnerable for longer than under the previous strategy. At the current planned pace, it would take another 17 years to meet the NNSA’s much-reduced target of helping to secure just under 4,400 buildings around the world with dangerous radioactive material—down from a target of roughly twice that just last year.

Elsewhere in the NNSA nonproliferation budget, funding for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development activities would fall to $394 million from its $419 million fiscal year 2016 appropriation. This program matures technologies used in tracking foreign nuclear weapons programs, illicit diversion of nuclear materials, and nuclear detonations. The NNSA projected a request of $430 million in fiscal year 2017 research and development funding in its fiscal year 2016 request.

The NNSA has defended some of the reductions to the nonproliferation account on the grounds that several major projects have been completed, thereby lessening resource needs, and that the impact of spending cuts can be mitigated by using unspent money left over from prior years, largely due to the suspension in late 2014 of nearly all nuclear security cooperation with Russia. But the cuts proposed for fiscal year 2017, relative to what was projected last year, are significant, especially to the radiological security and research and development programs where the NNSA does not say they will use unspent balances.

An Energy Department task force report on NNSA nonproliferation programs released last year expressed concern about the recent trend of falling budgets for those programs (see chart). “The need to counter current and likely future challenges to nonproliferation justifies increased, rather than reduced, investment in this area,” the report said.

Similarly, Andrew Bieniawski, a former deputy assistant secretary of Energy who ran the NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative during both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and who is now a vice president at NTI, said last month that the agency’s recent budget requests “do not match the growing threat and they certainly don’t match the fact that you are having a presidential nuclear security summit.”

Many members of Congress agree with these concerns. In August 2014, 26 senators sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget seeking increased funding for NNSA nuclear nonproliferation programs for fiscal year 2016. Though the 2016 request was higher than the previous year’s enacted level, it did not meet the Senators’ desire “to further accelerate the pace at which nuclear and radiological materials are secured and permanently disposed.”

Reinvigorating Congressional Leadership

The global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism is at a key inflection point. While the United States can’t tackle the challenge on its own, U.S. leadership and resources are essential. The Obama administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request was a missed opportunity to advance many good ideas in this space that haven't received adequate attention and investment.

Congress has a critical role to play in this endeavor, and there are a number of steps it can take this year to sustain and strengthen U.S. and global nuclear and radiological security efforts.

First, Congress should increase fiscal year 2017 funding for NNSA radiological security and nonproliferation research and development efforts, the two programs hardest hit by the agency’s proposed budget cuts. Additional funding would allow an acceleration of efforts to secure dangerous radiological materials and ensure the United States is prepared to confront emerging security and nonproliferation challenges.

Congress should also call for a global strategy, stronger regulations, and increased funding to secure and eliminate the most vulnerable highest-risk radiological sources around the world during the first term of the next administration. This multidimensional effort should entail a number of elements, including: securing the most vulnerable sources (where needed); requiring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to implement stronger regulatory requirements; supporting universal adherence to the IAEA Code of Conduct on radiological sources; mandating additional cost-sharing by industry; and, where appropriate, accelerating the development and use of alternative technologies. An accelerated international radiological security effort would be consistent with a proposal from Sen. Carper (D-Del.) requiring the administration to craft a plan for securing all high-risk low-level radiological material in the United States.

In addition, Congress should require NNSA to report on its research and development activities and identify opportunities to expand them in areas such as:

  • developing alternatives to high performance research reactors that run on highly enriched uranium (HEU);
  • converting HEU-powered naval reactors to use low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel (the White House announced on March 31 that the Energy Department is forming a research and development plan for an advanced fuel system that could enable use of LEU in naval reactors); and
  • examining ways adversaries could potentially use 3D printing and other new technologies to make nuclear-weapons usable components.

Other ideas that have been put forth to augment NNSA’s (and the rest of the interagency) nuclear security and nonproliferation work worthy of Congressional backing include:

  • completing a prioritization of nuclear materials at foreign locations for return or disposition, to identify the most vulnerable material stocks to focus efforts on, and establishing a time frame for doing so;
  • developing new detection and monitoring technologies and approaches to verify future nuclear arms reductions;
  • outlining a plan for how to expand U.S. nuclear security cooperation with China, India, and Pakistan and addressing obstacles to such an expansion and how they could be overcome;
  • developing approaches to rebuild nuclear security cooperation with Russia that would put both countries in equal roles;
  • building a global nuclear materials security system of effective nuclear security norms, standards, and best practices worldwide;
  • enhancing protections against nuclear sabotage; and
  • strengthening—and sharing—intelligence on nuclear and radiological terrorism threats.

In addition, Congress should seek ways to dissuade other states from pursuing programs to reprocess fuel from nuclear power plants, which lead to the separation of plutonium.

While the Nuclear Security Summit process has seen significant progress in the minimization of highly enriched uranium (HEU) for civilian purposes, global civilian plutonium stockpiles continue to grow. East Asia in particular is on the verge of a major build up of separated plutonium, which could be used in nuclear weapons and poses significant security risks. Japan and China both have plans to reprocess on a large-scale, and doing so would almost certainly prompt South Korea to follow suit.

To its credit, the Obama administration has recently been more vocal in expressing its concerns about these plans. Congress should encourage the administration, and NNSA in particular, to engage in additional cooperative work with countries in East Asia on spent fuel storage options and the elimination of excess plutonium stockpiles without reprocessing.

Over the years, U.S. support for nuclear security programs at home and abroad has resulted in an enormously effective return on investment that greatly strengthens U.S. security, and will be even more important in the years ahead in absence of head of state level summit meetings.

Indeed, there is a long legacy of members of Congress from both parties working together to reduce nuclear risks. For example, in 1991, Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) put forward the “Soviet Nuclear Threat Reduction Act of 1991,” which authorized $400 million to create U.S.-led programs assist the countries of the former Soviet Union secure and eliminate nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and other weapons. This effort became known as the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, which has successfully liquidated thousands of Cold War-era Soviet weapons.

Twenty-five years later, the evolution of security and proliferation challenges requires similarly bold and innovative Congressional leadership.

—KINGSTON REIF, director for disarmament and threat reduction policy

###

The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 

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India’s Submarine Completes Tests

India’s ballistic missile submarine successfully completed sea trials in February, putting India on the verge of having a nuclear triad. 

April 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

India’s ballistic missile submarine completed its sea trials in late February and is ready to be commissioned, an Indian official said last month.

In an interview with Arms Control Today, the official confirmed reports that the submarine, the INS Arihant, had successfully completed deep-sea and weapons drills, which were the last remaining tests.

The official did not elaborate on what was included in the Arihant tests, but generally these tests could include testing the submarine’s equipment and systems at maximum depths and its ability to surface quickly. In the March 19 interview, he said that the commissioning could take place within the next month.

The official said that India’s navy will operate the submarine but it will be under the control of the Nuclear Command Authority.

India’s nuclear weapons are under civilian control, with the prime minister acting as chair of the authority, which is responsible for all operational and command decisions regarding India’s nuclear warheads.

India is estimated to have between 110 and 120 nuclear warheads, with enough fissile material for up to an additional 60 weapons. India is believed to keep its nuclear warheads stored separately from its delivery systems. That will not be possible for deployed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

India, whose submarine program dates back to 1984, started work on the Arihant in 2009. The submarine’s nuclear reactor went critical in August 2013, and the submarine began its sea trials in December 2014. (See ACT, November 2015.)

The Arihant-class submarine is designed to carry 12 K-15 SLBMs or four K-4 ballistic missiles.

The K-15 is a two-stage ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead an estimated 700 kilometers. India announced the “successful development” of the K-15 in July 2012. (See ACT, September 2012.)

The K-4 is an intermediate-range ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear payload 3,000 to 3,500 kilometers. That range puts Pakistan and most of China within range if India launches the K-4 from the northern Indian Ocean.

The K-4 is believed to require additional testing before it is ready for deployment.

The New Indian Express reported that India conducted a test of the K-4 on March 7. According to the story, the missile was launched from an undersea platform in the Bay of Bengal.

Commissioning of the Arihant will complete India’s nuclear triad, meaning that the country will be able to deliver nuclear warheads from bombers, land-based ballistic missiles, and submarines.

India is working on extending the range and increasing the accuracy of its land-based ballistic missiles.

On March 5, India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said it would test its Agni-5 ballistic missile from a canister around March 15. As Arms Control Today went to press, the launch had not taken place.

The Agni-5 is a three-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear payload over a distance of more than 5,500 kilometers, the threshold for an intercontinental ballistic missile. It is the longest-range missile under development in India.

Launching from a canister makes the missile more mobile. India successfully tested the Agni-5 from a canister in January 2015. (See ACT, March 2015.) At the time of that test, officials said that the missile was close to deployment. Officials subsequently hinted that future tests might include multiple warheads that could be independently targeted. The Agni-5 was first tested in April 2012.

Burying the Hatchet: The Case for a ‘Normal’ Nuclear South Asia

Membership in global export control regimes will encourage India and Pakistan to negotiate bilateral steps toward nuclear stability, safety, and security...

March 2016

By Feroz Hassan Khan 

06_Khan.jpgThe global nonproliferation regime faces a major challenge in South Asia. India and Pakistan, two nuclear-armed states locked in an intense and enduring rivalry, are investing heavily in their respective nuclear arsenals and deploying new delivery systems at an alarming rate.

At the same time, both countries are seeking entry into the club of responsible stewards of nuclear capability. Yet, the international community has been unwilling to find a pathway to confer de jure nuclear-weapon-state status on Islamabad and New Delhi, leaving the door to nuclear normalization shut.

The arms race gripping India and Pakistan is part and parcel of what some scholars describe as the second nuclear age.1 This new age is significantly different from the Cold War era referred to as the first nuclear age. It is characterized by geographically linked nuclear-armed states that are involved in varying levels of ideological rivalries and unresolved disputes, which have been exploited by violent religious extremists.2 In its current shape, the global nonproliferation regime is ill equipped to tackle the complexities of this second age wherein three regions—the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia—are subject to potential instability and home to nuclear-armed states that are in defiance of the nonproliferation regime. This article focuses on South Asia, where the potential for a sudden Indian-Pakistani military crisis is profound, conventional and nuclear force postures are evolving rapidly, and a sense of discrimination persists regarding the nuclear world order. In part, these factors are exacerbating the Indian-Pakistani rivalry and driving further noncooperation with the global nonproliferation regime.

For 40 years, Islamabad and New Delhi have refused to join the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and continued to build their arsenals while the international community has exhausted its diplomatic efforts and tools, including sanctions, to reverse, contain, or dampen the Indian-Pakistani arms race. This continued friction has had negative consequences for international security. It is high time for the international community to bury the hatchet by finding a pathway to bring South Asia into the global nuclear order. Doing so would temper the Indian-Pakistani arms race by creating powerful incentives for Islamabad and New Delhi to conform to the behavioral norms and legal obligations expected of nuclear powers.

This article begins by examining the global nonproliferation regime from a South Asian perspective and explains why bringing India and Pakistan into the nuclear mainstream is important. The article then evaluates three different pathways for Indian and Pakistani entry into the global nonproliferation regime: (1) developing political and technical criteria for membership into the regime; (2) engaging in bilateral negotiations with each of the two states on separate, independent tracks; and (3) partaking in multilateral negotiations and forums to reach an arrangement on strategic restraint. The end goal for these pathways, which are not mutually exclusive, is to allow the two countries to enter into export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). Membership in global export control regimes will encourage Islamabad and New Delhi to negotiate bilateral steps toward nuclear stability, safety, and security as promised in the 1999 Lahore Declaration and avail themselves of opportunities for arms control agreements in a region in dire need of nuclear stability.3

A Regional Perspective

The NPT, which entered into force in 1970, offered a grand bargain to countries willing to eschew nuclear weapons acquisition by promising them access to verifiably peaceful nuclear technology and a “good faith” pledge from the nuclear-weapon states (China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to reduce if not eliminate their nuclear weapons stockpiles.4 India, Pakistan, and Israel—now de facto nuclear-armed states—did not accept the treaty and are generally described as outliers from an NPT standpoint. India, for its part, decried the treaty as a form of nuclear apartheid wherein the currency of power was the preserve of the five privileged countries that wielded their veto power in the UN Security Council to jealously guard their nuclear monopoly. Proponents of this view painted the nuclear issue in populist terms—a dispute between nuclear haves and have-nots. Moreover, India aspired to be treated as a global power, as it still does. It desires to be in the elite club of haves on par with China and loathes being lumped with Pakistan as a nuclear outlier.

Meanwhile, India and Pakistan saw export control regimes—the NSG, the MTCR, the Australia Group on chemical and biological weapons, and the Wassenaar Arrangement on conventional weapons and dual-use goods and technologies—as Western cartels aimed at denying technology to the Communist bloc and developing world alike, which deepened their perception of the NPT as a form of nuclear apartheid.

07_Khan.jpgIslamabad took particular umbrage at the NSG. Formed in the mid-1970s in response to India’s 1974 test of a nuclear device, the NSG had an immediate impact on Pakistan’s nascent nuclear program, which became a test case for the control regime’s effectiveness and heightened Islamabad’s sense of nuclear discrimination. In addition, the establishment of the NSG prompted a cat-and-mouse game between Pakistani procurement efforts and NSG efforts to block them, a dynamic that contributed to the genesis of the Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferation network.

India and Pakistan resisted the nonproliferation regime for economic reasons and out of principle, but national security imperatives also played a deterministic role. India’s security rationale for developing a nuclear weapons program stemmed from perceived threats from China, and these perceptions continue to drive India’s arms buildup to this day. Yet, India’s moves to modernize its nuclear forces with new delivery systems and ballistic missile defenses to balance against China raise red flags in Pakistan. In this context, the logic behind Islamabad’s decision to develop nuclear weapons is clear. Its program is primarily intended to offset its disparity with India in conventional forces and to prevent nuclear coercion. Islamabad’s current deterrence posture comprises compact-design warheads, short-range battlefield weapons, and medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Additionally, both countries have announced plans to introduce sea-based nuclear weapons sometime soon.5

In sum, India seeks to match China at the global level, and Pakistan seeks to match India at the regional level. This has transformed security dynamics in Asia into a security “trilemma,” in which arrangements to apply strategic restraint are becoming problematic.6 In any event, the intertwined arms race in South Asia warrants a more inclusive nonproliferation regime that encourages India and Pakistan to conform to prevailing nuclear norms rather than challenge them, as both states did in the last century.

Confronting a bilateral relationship characterized by a heavily militarized border, major territorial disputes, cross-border terrorist activity, and rapid advancements in nuclear arsenals and delivery systems, the international community should make every effort to discourage arms racing. Nuclear normalization is one path that could temper the security competition between India and Pakistan. Dogmatically rigid adherence to the antiquated nonproliferation regime of five—and only five—nuclear-weapon states simply confines India and Pakistan to a perpetual “outlaw” status that opens the door to unchecked arsenal buildups. The time has come for the regime to break with the status quo in favor of a new approach characterized by flexibility and accommodation for responsible nuclear outlier states. 

Criteria-Based Model

08_Khan.jpgSeveral experts have argued for a criteria-based model for legitimizing nuclear outlier states and bringing them into the nonproliferation regime.7 The premise of a criteria-based approach is that it is inherently nondiscriminatory and thereby allows all non-NPT states a way to undertake the obligations that other members of the treaty have assumed. Such an approach would proscribe making special exceptions for commercial interests and engaging in the politics of alliances and balancing—criticisms that Pakistan frequently levies against the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal.

Another argument for a criteria-based model derives from the combined threat of global terrorism and fear of nuclear accidents such as the March 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. These concerns have diminished the promise of a nuclear energy renaissance and placed greater emphasis on nuclear safety and security. Bringing nuclear outlier states into the nonproliferation regime would allow them to undertake more-robust safety and security measures, pursue closer relationships with nuclear regulatory authorities, and receive better technical assistance from the West.

Attainment of these objectives requires normalization of nuclear relations with India and Pakistan as a first step. Arguably, the nuclear deal with India confers legitimacy on India’s nuclear program, but it is based on exception. India is not legally obligated to undertake the steps NPT nuclear-weapon states are required to take, such as disarmament, but the nuclear deal is nevertheless an incentive for India to conform to nuclear norms. Pakistan, in contrast, has neither nuclear legitimacy nor any nuclear deal that could entice it to follow these norms. Nuclear normalization would simply mean that each country would be treated as “normal nuclear country” if it met certain criteria.8 The two countries could be mainstreamed into the nuclear world order by making them members of the NSG and other export control regimes.9

At the time the U.S. nuclear deal with India was contemplated, there existed no established criteria for nuclear normalization. In making its argument for the lifting of international sanctions, India cited its democratic governance; its good proliferation track record, at least compared to Pakistan, whose reputation was tarnished by the A.Q. Khan scandal; and the promise of nuclear purchases from the international market. For New Delhi, a nuclear deal also was seen as a tool for bolstering India’s case for eventual membership in the NSG.

Pakistan watched the negotiation of the U.S.-Indian deal from the sidelines; it was unable to influence the outcome that led to India’s NSG exemption. Under U.S. pressure, Islamabad lifted its objections at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors meetings to India’s nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States as the agreement went through the board’s approval process in 2008.10 Furthermore, as the years went by and especially after the advent of the Obama administration in 2009, Islamabad realized that, despite private assurances from the Bush administration to the contrary, the prospects for a U.S.-Pakistani nuclear deal were dim. Islamabad then broke its silence, began protesting the discriminatory nature of the U.S.-Indian deal, and vocally expressed its view that the exceptional nuclear deal with India would have a deleterious impact on Pakistani national security. Moreover, Islamabad blocked the commencement of negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), arguing that the treaty would freeze Pakistan’s nuclear stockpiles at a disadvantage relative to India. The next major development came in 2011, when Pakistan tested the Nasr, a nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 60 kilometers. U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relations dipped to an all-time low.11

Today, Islamabad seeks a criteria-based approach in hopes of legitimizing its nuclear program. Because the prospects for a formal U.S.-Pakistani civilian nuclear deal remain uncertain, Islamabad seeks membership in the NSG primarily to gain legitimacy as a responsible nuclear power and wipe out the legacy of the A.Q. Khan network. Also, Islamabad would prefer to engage in nuclear commerce under the NSG framework rather than outside it. Experts have argued, however, that Islamabad lacks the money to engage in nuclear commerce and that vendors from other countries would be reluctant to invest in Pakistan given its internal security problems. Despite Pakistan’s claim of operating a robust nuclear security system, Western states remain skeptical, surmising that mounting extremism and a deteriorating domestic security environment increase the risk of sabotage.12 Yet, this has not deterred Beijing. China has provided Pakistan with civilian nuclear assistance although Pakistan, like India, is not a party to the NPT and therefore, under NSG export guidelines, would not normally be eligible to receive such assistance. China has argued that such assistance is permitted because the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal set a precedent and because Chinese-Pakistani nuclear cooperation predated China’s membership in the NSG and therefore is “grandfathered.”13

 In light of these considerations, various scholars have suggested several admission criteria to the NSG and other export control groups. The criteria fall into two categories: eligibility criteria and political acceptability for the members of the NSG and other control groups. The eligibility criteria include meeting the various bureaucratic requirements for membership into export control groups as mentioned above. For non-NPT states such as India and Pakistan, entry into the NSG, for example, would require undertaking several steps in addition to those already known for eligibility into export control regimes.14 Pierre Goldschmidt, a former head of the Department of Safeguards at the IAEA, has suggested 14 steps for non-NPT members to become full members of the NSG. In brief, these criteria would require non-NPT members to pledge those undertakings that the five NPT nuclear-weapon states have taken: placing all nonmilitary nuclear facilities under full-scope safeguards, agreeing to ratify an additional protocol to their safeguards agreements, and adhering to all the NSG decisions.15

India and Pakistan could meet most of the eligibility requirements, but may find it difficult to agree to all of the expected concessions due to the salience of nuclear weapons in their respective national security policies and the domestic political unpalatability of compromising too much of what each state might think is its “minimum credible deterrence” requirements. For example, the two states may still resist signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) or ceasing production of fissile material for weapons. Furthermore, meeting the eligibility requirements alone is insufficient to attain membership in the club. Accession will require political negotiations with major powers and states that are members of the export control regimes, as each member state may have individual concerns that may preclude consensus even if India and Pakistan fulfill all the eligibility requirements. To gain international support for their formal entry into the NSG, the two countries would certainly be required to make concessions and accept restraints on their nuclear weapons programs.

 India will likely encounter fewer political hurdles because it has already passed the test once. Furthermore, India has defense and economic ties with major NSG member countries. Pakistan, in contrast, has a steep hill to climb in order to garner international support. Additionally, given Pakistan’s proliferation record and its internal instability, the West would likely seek greater concessions and restraints than it required of India, which Islamabad may find difficult to accept. Although Pakistan demands equitable treatment, most states see India in a different league as a major power and Pakistan as a regional albeit strategically important country.

On balance, India has the edge over Pakistan with respect to criteria-based NSG membership. This would be nightmarish for Pakistan because Islamabad calculates and New Delhi realizes that once India becomes a member of the NSG, the door for Pakistani entry might well be permanently shut because India could block consensus on admitting Pakistan. Sidelining Pakistan from the NSG in such a way would serve only to undermine regional stability.16 It would deepen Islamabad’s sense of indignity and strengthen the position of domestic stakeholders seeking to diversify and expand Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Accordingly, as much as a criteria-based approach makes sense from the standpoint of fairness and equality, developing political consensus for normalizing nuclear relations with India and Pakistan would require bilateral or multilateral negotiations. 

Separate, Bilateral Tracks

Another model for normalization is for the United States to engage in bilateral negotiations with Islamabad and New Delhi on separate tracks. The goal would be to extract commitments on arms control and strategic restraint from both capitals. In return, the United States would pledge full support for Indian and Pakistani membership in the NSG and other export control regimes. Although this would be a painful and uncertain process, the United States has demonstrated, in the case of India, that a bilateral nuclear deal can be struck with an outlier state through sustained diplomacy, patience, and political will.

Admittedly, the U.S. experience of negotiating with Islamabad and New Delhi on separate tracks to achieve the same outcome has not proven successful in the past. Following the 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, President Bill Clinton assigned Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott to lead separate negotiations with the two countries, which then were under sanctions. The goal was to get the sanctions removed and bring relations back to normalcy. Predictably, the negotiations stalled, as neither of the two South Asian countries knew what the other had conceded or negotiated.

09_Khan.jpgDespite the false start during the Clinton years, prospects for successful bilateral negotiations today are improved, as the geopolitical environment has evolved over the past 15-plus years. Washington’s relations with New Delhi have warmed steadily, and both capitals speak of a budding U.S.-Indian “strategic partnership.”

Although the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has been turbulent in recent years, especially since 2011, it currently is on a positive trajectory, albeit with a degree of underlying suspicion and distrust.17 Since 2012, the United States has been engaged in several levels of strategic dialogue with Islamabad, including discussions on charting a path to nuclear normalization. In the fall of 2015, various U.S. media outlets reported that the Obama administration was contemplating a nuclear deal with Pakistan.18 The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers also were scheduled for official visits to the United States in this time frame. Islamabad and New Delhi reacted strongly to these press reports. The ensuing uproar over a supposed U.S.-Pakistani deal forced the Obama administration to clarify that no such agreement was on the table for Islamabad.

It also is likely that negative reactions from both capitals were influenced by the publication of two think tank reports in 2014-2015 proposing road maps to Pakistani normalization.19 New Delhi’s reaction was predictable. A nuclear deal for Pakistan would pull Islamabad out of the hole in which it found itself after the A.Q. Khan episode. Such a renewal of relations would run counter to India’s policy of diplomatically isolating Pakistan.

Islamabad’s reaction to the reports was surprisingly frosty. For years, Pakistan has sought equal treatment and a nuclear deal analogous to India’s. Yet, when these reports emerged, public reaction in Islamabad was not focused on the “normalization” content but on the perception that the government was being forced to concede too much on its nuclear program. Pakistan’s skeptical reaction, however, should not come as a total surprise. U.S.-Pakistani nuclear relations soured in the mid-1970s over Pakistan’s quest for nuclear weapons and have never recovered. Although bilateral ties have ebbed and flowed since then, nuclear issues have remained a persistent irritant in the relationship.20

There were several variations of this negative reaction in Pakistan. One school of thought was based on the belief that the United States is bent on Pakistani disarmament, by force if necessary, and is applying pressure to that end. This theory has existed in Pakistan for some time, but gained traction following the 2011 U.S. commando raid in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. Pakistani media often portray this theory as if it were official U.S. policy.

The second, less widely held shade of opinion was that the United States had adopted an approach reminiscent of the “cap and roll back” policy of the early 1990s. At that time, Islamabad was under nuclear sanctions under U.S. nonproliferation laws. For some years, the United States sought to cap Pakistan’s production of highly enriched uranium and then roll back the country’s capacity to produce more. In other words, sanctions were being employed as leverage to persuade Pakistan to compromise on its nuclear program. Islamabad, however, was unwilling to comply after having paid the price of nuclear defiance, which included economic sanctions, denial of a modern military capability, and diplomatic opprobrium. The U.S. policy turned out to be counterproductive. Rather than reversing its nuclear program, Pakistan stepped up production of fissile material and diversified its delivery vehicles by acquiring missiles and missile technology. Although the U.S. policy ultimately failed to dissuade Islamabad, the psychological impact of that period continues to linger in some quarters in Pakistan.

The third shade of reaction was that the United States was pressuring Islamabad to weaken its deterrence posture against India. This school of thought champions Pakistani defiance against any concessions on nuclear matters and is deeply rooted in Pakistani society.

One example of this attitude came during Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2015. To dispel rumors of any nuclear concessions, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry issued a press statement justifying the rationale of Pakistani tactical nuclear weapons. This was an effort to preempt any rumor of or speculation about Pakistani concessions on its nuclear arsenal or force posture during Sharif’s visit.21

In all three cases, the voices of conspiracy were so loud that they drowned out and distracted from the central message of mainstreaming Pakistan’s nuclear program. In any event, Islamabad was seemingly ill prepared for negotiation toward normalization. It probably felt pressured from official discussions, publications, and media reports all coming together around the same time. On the basis of these, Islamabad apparently concluded that the terms of any nuclear deal with Washington would require Pakistan to compromise what it considers its vital security interests and would not be palatable domestically. Regional security experts in the United States are well aware that preserving a minimum credible nuclear deterrent posture is of utmost priority to Pakistan’s national security policymakers. Perhaps the fundamental stumbling block for any U.S.-Pakistani nuclear negotiation is that the two countries have different interpretations of what “minimum” and “credible” mean. For example, Islamabad contends that its newly minted tactical nuclear weapons are a necessary and reasonable deterrent against India’s limited-war doctrine known as Cold Start. Meanwhile, U.S. commentators have expressed concerns over the command-and-control, deterrence stability, and escalation control challenges posed by these weapons.22

Multilateral Negotiations

The third approach toward normalization is to engage in multilateral negotiations with India and Pakistan. Multiparty negotiations have seen recent success in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, but in the Indian-Pakistani case, the focus of the talks would be normalization rather than disarmament.

There are several advantages to a multilateral approach. First, it would involve all stakeholders and influential members of the international community, as was the case with the Iran deal. Second, it would not involve opaque, separate-track dialogues such as those during the Talbott negotiations that followed the 1998 tests. Third, its inclusive nature would make it more difficult for critics to allege favoritism—for example, that China is supporting Pakistan and the United States supporting India. Finally, this approach can be pursued in tandem with the criteria-based and bilateral approaches.

New Delhi, however, historically has opposed the multilateralization of what it considers to be strictly bilateral issues between India and Pakistan, such as the Kashmir dispute. For the reasons explained above, India would prefer the bilateral approach in this case. Yet, China and Russia recently set a precedent in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) regarding Indian and Pakistani membership. The two South Asian countries were observers to the SCO, but both were seeking full membership in the organization.23 China opposed Indian entry unless Pakistan was included; Russia opposed Pakistan. After years of discussions and bilateral talks, China and Russia recently agreed to the simultaneous entry of India and Pakistan into the SCO. That model could be one way to break the gridlock surrounding Indian and Pakistani membership in the NSG.

A suggested road map for a multilateral approach for simultaneous entry by India and Pakistan into the NSG could contain the following steps: 

1.   India and Pakistan are treated as normal nuclear states that possess nuclear weapons for national security reasons. Both states should formally reiterate that their nuclear capabilities are exclusively for defensive deterrence purposes.

2.   The international community recognizes that nuclear legitimacy for Islamabad and New Delhi is an important step in curtailing the Indian-Pakistani arms race. Normalization would encourage nuclear stability, security, and safety and would induce the cooperation between the two countries that was described in the 1999 Lahore memorandum of understanding.

3.   The two states agree to separate their civilian and military nuclear programs and fuel cycles cleanly and completely and to place the facilities declared as civilian under internationally agreed safeguards.

4.   The two states agree to keep nuclear weapons on their lowest alert status, with nuclear warheads separated from their delivery vehicles.

5.   The two states agree to adopt the highest global standards of nuclear security and safety and seek maximum assistance in this area from international organizations and countries with advanced nuclear programs.

6.   The two states agree to commence a sustained bilateral dialogue for peace and security with a view toward negotiating and implementing a mutually acceptable arrangement for strategic restraint.

7.   The two states agree to facilitate rather than obstruct the commencement of a global FMCT, maintain their nuclear testing moratorium, and pledge to join the CTBT.

Conclusion

India and Pakistan have come a long way in the nearly two decades that have followed the 1998 nuclear tests. It is time for the global nonproliferation regime to open the door to a normal nuclear South Asia and for India and Pakistan to address the international community’s legitimate concerns over their respective arms buildups.

As it is, India continues to build capabilities for power projection to match China, while Pakistan is building its capacity to balance against India. The interconnected nature of this strategic competition has the potential to create instability given the volatile nature of regional politics and probability of sudden crises that could rapidly escalate to nuclear deployment and possible use. There is a need for a global initiative that could break this gridlock and move away from international trends by incentivizing the two countries to enter into negotiations for an acceptable place in the world nuclear order.

For the reasons discussed in this article, the most promising approach is a process of multilateral negotiations that establishes criteria that India and Pakistan must meet and involves political negotiations. The goal would be to bring India and Pakistan into the global export control regimes, most notably the NSG, and eventually give the two countries “associate” membership in the NPT as de facto nuclear-weapon-possessing states. This status would not make India and Pakistan full members as NPT nuclear-weapon states, but would recognize the steps taken by an outlier country to undertake all obligations and adopt practices and polices as if it were a de jure NPT nuclear-weapon state.

A notional timeline for this process would be as follows: India and Pakistan are allowed into the NSG and other export control regimes within the next four years and thus provided with an opportunity to demonstrate responsible stewardship of nuclear capability. The 50th anniversary of the NPT’s entry into force, in 2020, would be a propitious moment for the nuclear nonproliferation regime to have solved the issue of the outlier states. Although this article focused on India and Pakistan because of the intensity of their strategic competition, the principle and pathway suggested here could apply to Israeli membership as well. Bringing these outlier states into the fold of the global nonproliferation regime would significantly strengthen the regime while providing the states with incentives to undertake responsible stewardship of nuclear weapons for the benefit of international security.

ENDNOTES

1.   Paul Bracken describes the emergence of new nuclear powers in the post-Cold War period as the “second nuclear age.” Paul Bracken, The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics (New York: Times Books, 2012). See also Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner, eds., Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013).

2.   Gregory D. Koblentz, “Strategic Stability in the Second Nuclear Age,” Council on Foreign Relations, Council Special Report, No. 71 (November 2014).

3.   A memorandum of understanding was part of the Lahore Declaration of 1999, which was signed by Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee of India and Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan on February 21, 1999. This was the first bilateral agreement between India and Pakistan after the nuclear tests. The memorandum commits the two sides to discussing security doctrines, arms control, and confidence-building measures to ensure stability. See Toby Dalton, “Beyond Incrementalism: Rethinking Approaches to CBMs and Stability in South Asia,” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson (Washington, DC: Stimson Center, 2013), pp. 187-208.

4.   Michael Mandelbaum, “Lessons of the Next Nuclear War,” Foreign Affairs, No. 74 (March/April 1995).

5.   For a comprehensive study of the nuclear strategies and force postures of India and Pakistan, see Vipin Narang, Nuclear Strategy in the Modern Era: Regional Powers and International Conflict (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014).

6.   The term “security trilemma” is attributed to Linton Brooks and Mira Rapp-Hooper. Linton Brooks and Mira Rapp-Hooper, “Extended Deterrence, Assurance, and Reassurance in the Pacific During the Second Nuclear Age,” in Strategic Asia 2013-2014: Asia in the Second Nuclear Age, ed. Ashley Tellis, Abraham Denmark, and Travis Tanner (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2013).

7.   See Pierre Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership: A Criteria-Based Approach for Non-NPT States,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP), May 24, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/2011/05/24/nsg-membership-criteria-based-approach-for-non-npt-states; Toby Dalton, Mark Hibbs, and George Perkovich, “A Criteria-Based Approach to Nuclear Cooperation With Pakistan,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Policy Outlook, June 22, 2011, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/nsg_criteria.pdf. 

8.   Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (London: International Institute of Strategic Studies, 2014), pp. 159-164.

9.   Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, “A Normal Nuclear Pakistan,” Stimson Center and CEIP, 2015, http://carnegieendowment.org/files/NormalNuclearPakistan.pdf.

10.   Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Ex-Envoy Sheds Light on Mystery About Failure to Block IAEA India-Specific Deal,” Dawn, December 19, 2015.

11.   Feroz Hassan Khan and Ryan W. French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations: A Strategic Survey,” PASCC Report, No. 2014-005 (April 2014.)

12.   The latest Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Security Index has introduced two additional factors—sabotage and cybersecurity—in developing the index criteria. See “The 2016 NTI Nuclear Security Index: Theft and Sabotage,” n.d., http://ntiindex.org/behind-the-index/about-the-nti-index/.

13.   Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers.

14.   For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Mark Hibbs, “Toward a Nuclear Suppliers Group Policy for States Not Party to the NPT,” CEIP, February 12, 2016, http://carnegieendowment.org/2016/02/12/toward-nuclear-suppliers-group-policy-for-states-not-party-to-npt/itxg.

15.   Goldschmidt, “NSG Membership.”

16.   “Nuclear Discrimination Impacting Regional Security, Says Pakistan,” The News (Pakistan), February 13, 2016.

17.   The incidents in 2011 involved CIA contractor Raymond Davis’ killing of two Pakistani citizens in January, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad in May, and an accidental U.S. attack on a Pakistani military post on the Afghan border in November. For a detailed account, see Khan and French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations.”

18.   David Ignatius, “The U.S. Cannot Afford to Forget Afghanistan and Pakistan,” The Washington Post, October 6, 2015; David Sanger, “U.S. Exploring Deal to Limit Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal,” The New York Times, October 15, 2015.

19.   Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers; Dalton and Krepon, “Normal Nuclear Pakistan.”

20.   Khan and French, “U.S.-Pakistan Nuclear Relations.”

21.   “Pakistan Developed Tactical Nukes to ‘Deter’ India: Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry,” Press Trust of India, October 20, 2015, http://indianexpress.com/article/world/neighbours/pakistan-developed-tactical-nukes-to-deter-india-aizaz-chaudhry/. See also “Pakistan With ‘Tactical Nukes’ Ready to Counter Indian Aggression: Aizaz,” The International News (Pakistan), October 20, 2015.

22.   For a Pakistani perspective, see Mark Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Pakistan’s Nuclear Dangers (citing Adil Sultan, “Pakistan’s Emerging Nuclear Posture: Impact of Drivers and Technology on Nuclear Doctrine,” Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad, April 17, 2012). For U.S. perspectives, see David O. Smith, “The U.S. Experience With Tactical Nuclear Weapons: Lessons for South Asia” in Deterrence Stability and Escalation Control in South Asia, ed. Michael Krepon and Julia Thompson (Washington, DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2013), pp. 65-92; David J. Carl, “Pakistan’s Evolving Nuclear Weapons Posture,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 21, Nos. 3-4 (September-December 2014): 317-336.

23.   The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is a regional organization led by China and Russia and involving six Central Asian states. Its objective is to enhance economic cooperation and combat terrorism, separatism, and extremism. For details, see Asia Regional Integration Center, “Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO),” n.d., https://aric.adb.org/initiative/shanghai-cooperation-organization.


Feroz Hassan Khan is a lecturer in the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. He is a former director of arms control and disarmament in Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division and is the author of Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb (2012). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and may not represent the position of any government.

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