ValueWalk | Brinda Banerjee | October 10, 2015
A United States government official has recently commented on India’s growing nuclear capabilities, revisiting the debate on nuclear advancement in the modern world and its impact on international security and geopolitical ties.
India, Iran, North Korea and Pakistan Pursue Nuclear Growth
A high-ranking official from within the Obama administration has recently likened India and Pakistan to North Korea and Iran in a conversation regarding the countries’ nuclear capabilities. The comment was made in a discussion about countries that are actively pursuing nuclear development and growth even as the international community remains apprehensive about weapons proliferation and the potential fallout of the same.
Addressing a seminar at Oslo, Norway, U.S. official Frank Rose recently said, “India and Pakistan are adding to their arsenals; North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs remain a concern to all; and Iran, despite the landmark nuclear deal, continues its ballistic missile programs”. Mr. Rose currently serves as the Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance of the United States Department of State.
At present, India possesses between 80 and 100 nuclear warheads while Pakistan’s stockpile is estimated at between 100 and 120 nuclear warheads. Assessments based on Pakistan’s nuclear development goals reveal that the country is poised to own the third-largest supply of nuclear weapons within the next ten years.
At present, Russia and the United States have the biggest nuclear weapons supplies in the world, with both Moscow and Washington totaling in at approximately 1,600 each. China, France and the United Kingdom follow suit with 250, 300 and 225 nuclear warheads respectively.
Security experts interpret Pakistan’s ever-expanding nuclear arsenal as a cause for concern given the country’s history of proliferation. Talk of Pakistan and the nuclear issue is incomplete without mention of Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan who was found guilty of selling nuclear weapons technology and information on the black-market to bidders in Iran, Libya and North Korea. The country’s record with nuclear technology, its experiences with internal security challenges and extremism and the historic rivalry with India have all caused the international community to worry about regional security and international fallout should nuclear growth in the region be allowed to continue unchecked.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty And Proliferation Concerns
While the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) is the overarching international regulation by way of which the global community aims to prevent nuclear proliferation, the agreement has not been fully effected. This is, due in part to the reluctance of some states to fully agree to the covenant.
The United States and Iran are amongst the countries that have signed the CTBT but are yet to ratify it. Other states that have signed the treaty but not ratified it include China, Egypt and Israel. India, North Korea and Pakistan are the three countries that have not signed the agreement. Signing began in the year 1996; since then, only three countries have been conclusively known to have carried out nuclear testing: India, North Korea and Pakistan. India and Pakistan both conducted two rounds of nuclear tests in 1998 while North Korea organized its tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
Banning Not Enough, U.S. Official
In his discussion on the matter in Oslo, Mr. Frank Rose has expressed the concern that simply banning nuclear advancement and weapons proliferation will not be enough to tackle the threat of an extremely nuclear-capable world. The U.S. government official has pointed out that the aforementioned countries’ nuclear development agendas coupled with China and Russia’s interest in augmenting their nuclear strengths contributes significantly to geopolitical insecurity and risks against global harmony.
Mr. Rose has stated that simply introducing treaties such as the CTBT and banning the development, testing and sale of nuclear weapons is not enough to stop the spread of nuclear weapons systems. There continues to be an interest in, demand for and supply of nuclear weapons systems and so other strategies must be identified if the global community is to “effectively deter multiple adversaries with varying capabilities.”
Assessing The U.S.-India Nuclear Arrangement
The nuclear agreement between India and the United States, known as the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement, is often described as a landmark accord. The agreement states that India can purchase nuclear fuel and nuclear technology from the United States and vice-versa. The agreement has gone through various stages and has been phased out for years owing to several legal considerations and amendments needed in laws in both countries and though it was formalized in 2008 it has still not been fully affected.
The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal was hailed as a modern take on ‘civil nuclear cooperation’ and presented a groundbreaking moment in Indo-U.S. relations since it targeted several concerns of both states while also promoting international standards of peace and security. The nuclear agreement was envisioned to create stronger Indo-U.S. ties while helping the U.S. curb China’s growing influence in Asia and recognizing India in its own right outside of its historical associations with Pakistan. At the same time, the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal would help both countries economically while inducing mutual growth in domestic nuclear energy productions and enabling cross-access. The nuclear agreement between India and the United States is also recognized as an important milestone in the debate on non-proliferation since it was a sign of the U.S.’ trust in India’s track record of non-proliferation, despite New Delhi’s decision to not sign the CTPT.
While the implementation of the Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement has been delayed by technical considerations regarding legalities and regulations, both countries remain committed to the deal. At present, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and U.S. business enterprises along with other relevant actors are engaged in discussions on how to best realize the agreement. Speaking on the matter Nisha Desai Biswal, the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, has said, “What remains is the commercial negotiations on what is the business proposition that companies can move forward on. And that is going to move forward on its own pace.”
The Indo-U.S. deal is primarily a civil/ business arrangement and while it fosters compliance with international conventions on security and nuclear non-proliferation, its full potential is yet to be realized.
U.S. Considers Nuclear Accord With Pakistan, India Objects
The United States is reportedly exploring options for a nuclear arrangement with Pakistan. The deal, if it were to be realized, would witness a definite capping of Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile in return for a greater supply of nuclear material. The deal will allow the U.S. access to Pakistan’s nuclear production facilities and raw materials. For Pakistan, the tradeoff will include the U.S.’ assistance in purchasing nuclear materials and necessary capabilities from the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which at present does not transact with countries that have not signed the Non Proliferation Treaty.
While Pakistan has demanded a “non-discriminatory approach on nuclear issues” in its pursuit of a nuclear agreement like the one India enjoys with the United States, Islamabad has not been as successful in realizing its ambitions.
However, The Washington Post has reported that Pakistan’s wishes may soon be realized and while the White House is yet to lend credence to these allusions, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s upcoming trip to the United States may indeed spell a new era for Pak-U.S. strategic ties.
Geopolitical analysts have