ISLAMABAD: Concerned over India’s stockpiles of fissile material and parts of its civilian nuclear programme that are not under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguards, Pakistan is unlikely to end its opposition to commencement of negotiations on Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) at the Conference on Disarmament (CD).

The conference is expected to begin deliberations on the proposed programme of work for its 2017 session in few weeks, which as always includes FMCT — one of the items on conference’s agenda. Stalemate could, however, continue because of persisting lack of consensus among the members on the issue.

“Pakistan should not be asked to agree to something that is not in its strategic interest. We are committed to protecting our strategic interest and we will not agree to any treaty that undermines our interest,” said Director General Disarmament at the Foreign Office Kamran Akhtar, while speaking at a round-table hosted by the Strategic Vision Institute on ‘The FMCT Debate in Conference on Disarmament and Pakistan’s Perspective’.

The United Nations General Assembly first called for negotiations on FMCT in 1993. But the progress on the matter was held up initially because of differences among the CD members over inclusion of existing stocks, effective verification, and definition of materials.

Members reached an agreement in 1995 to negotiate the treaty under the ‘Shannon Mandate’, but the US later withdrew its support for it. In 2009, the US reversed its position on verifications and programme of work was adopted. The conference has, however, not been able to adopt a programme of work since then and negotiations could not commence.

Pakistan has been refusing to join negotiations on the treaty as long as it did not address the existing stockpiles.

Security interests

The Pakistani position has been that negotiating a treaty that only bans future production of fissile material without taking into account the existing stockpiles would freeze the existing asymmetries.

This would put Pakistan at a permanent disadvantage and undermine its security interests. The discriminatory waivers given to India and the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements New Delhi has signed with a number of countries added to Pakistan’s security worries.

Eight of Indian reactors, its Fast Breeder Programme, and approximately five tonnes of reactor grade plutonium are not under IAEA safeguards, officials say.

It is feared that the reactors that are not under safeguards may be clandestinely used for plutonium production and the existing stockpiles may be diverted to military programme at a subsequent stage.

“If Nuclear Suppliers Group member countries can provide an assurance that as a result of FMCT these eight Indian reactors and its Fast Breeder Programme will be put under safeguards, we may then consider FMCT...till the time we get these assurances, we will not agree to FMCT. Assurances have not been given so far,” Mr Akhtar said.

“We have to factor into consideration possible actions by India that could undermine credibility of our nuclear deterrence,” he maintained.

Dr Mansoor Ahmed, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Centre, observed that Pakistan was not engaged in a classic cold war type arms race but was striving for maintaining the credibility of its deterrent.

This quest, he noted, was a dynamic process in response to destabilising technological, doctrinal and force posture developments in India.

“It’s striving for balance, not parity with India,” he asserted and reminded that India was pursuing the fastest growing fissile material expansion and conventional and strategic force modernisation outside the NPT states, besides moving in the direction of a first strike option coupled with a review of their No-First Use policy.

Dr Mansoor further said that India’s development of ballistic missile defence shield and multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles for their Agni missiles and also for sub-marine launched ballistic missiles along with its other emerging conventional and nuclear counterforce capabilities were straining Pakistan’s deterrence, forcing it to take appropriate counter-measures.

Published in Dawn February 7th, 2017


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