Pakistan's ambassador to the UN Zamir Akram. – Photo by AFP

UNITED NATIONS: A senior Pakistani diplomat told the UN Monday that a lack of consensus in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) on negotiating a treaty to ban the production of fissile material used as fuel for nuclear weapons could not be attributed to the position of one state -- Pakistan -- as claimed by some western delegates.

“The CD is not a body to negotiate only one item on its agenda: FMCT (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty)”, Pakistani delegate Ambassador Zamir Akram said in a speech to the General Assembly's First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security matters.

“If there is no consensus on negotiating FMCT, there is also no consensus on negotiating Nuclear Disarmament, Negative Security Assurances or PAROS (prevention of an outer space arms race),” said Ambassador Akram, who is Pakistan's permanent representative to the UN's European offices in Geneva, as he set the record straight.

Over the past few years, Pakistan has been blocking the launching of negotiations on the proposed US-backed treaty in the Geneva-based CD on the ground that it is prejudicial to its national security interests.

The Conference has 65 members. Speaking in the general debate, Ambassador Akram referred to what he called “contrived lament” over the failure of the disarmament machinery, and said in Pakistan's view, the diagnosis was partial and focused almost exclusively on symptoms rather than causes.

Even worse, he noted that the solutions put forward were selective, discriminatory and inconsistent.

For an objective evaluation of the causes underlying the impasse at the Conference on Disarmament, he said it was important to acknowledge the following: the Conference's work was a reflection of prevailing political realities; no treaty could be negotiated in the Conference that was contrary to the security interests of its member states; the lack of progress could not be attributed to the rules of procedure; and the Conference had four core issues on its agenda -- nuclear disarmament, negative security assurances or prevention of an outer space arms race.

In this contest, Ambassador Akram called for addressing the security concerns of all members of the Conference. He said the problems in the Conference were not of an organizational nature, but related to the external political environment, and the challenges facing the international disarmament agenda and the machinery were not exclusive to the Conference.

The United Nations International Drug Control Programme and the First Committee confronted similar difficulties, he said, wondering why the Conference alone was blamed for their inaction.

Referring to the deteriorating global security environment, Ambassador Akram said new weapons systems were being developed and deployed, including anti-ballistic missile systems in several parts of the world, as well as the indiscriminate use of drones.

Other worrying trends included the growing weaponisation of outer space and the hostile use of cyber-technologies.

The production of conventional weapons with destructive capacity equal to nuclear weapons would be dangerously destabilizing and would increase the temptation to respond with use of nuclear weapons.

An agreed approach, he said, must be evolved for the promotion of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy under appropriate international safeguards.

Until nuclear disarmament was achieved, non-nuclear-weapon States should be given assurances that they would not be threatened with nuclear weapons and those assurances should be translated into a legally-binding treaty.

An agreement was also needed to address concerns arising from anti-ballistic missile systems, which were inherently destabilizing, the Pakistani delegate said.

There was also a need to strengthen the international legal regime in order to prevent the militarization of outer space.

As a pragmatic step towards disarmament, the nuclear-weapon States should halt future production and eliminate all stocks of fissile materials through a fissile material treaty.

The move should be based on the premise of the recognition of the right to equal security for all States, which was a critical prerequisite for progress in areas of arms control and disarmament, Ambassador Akram said.

Measures should also address the motives that drove States to acquire weapons to defend themselves, including perceived threats from superior forces and discrimination in the application of international norms.

Finally, he urged nuclear-weapon States to demonstrate a renewed commitment to achieve nuclear disarmament within a reasonable timeframe, with the eventual objective, the total elimination of nuclear weapons.

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