Conference on Disarmament must overcome stagnation, webinar told

Published April 7, 2021
In this file photo, US Under-Secretary of State Andrea Thompson (C) and the US delegation attend a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference with the UN Security Council's five permanent members (P5) China, France, Russia, Britain, and US, in Beijing, China, January 30, 2019. ─ AP/File
In this file photo, US Under-Secretary of State Andrea Thompson (C) and the US delegation attend a Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference with the UN Security Council's five permanent members (P5) China, France, Russia, Britain, and US, in Beijing, China, January 30, 2019. ─ AP/File

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani official has expressed concern over the international security environment and asked the Conference on Disarmament, the multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament, to come out of its “stagnation”.

Director General at the Ministry of Fo­­r­e­ign Affairs’ Arms Control and Disarmament Division Kamran Akhtar, while speaking at a webinar hosted by Strategic Vision Ins­ti­tu­­te (SVI) on ‘NPT and Promise of Dis­armament’, said: “We are having an international security environment that has seen erosion of exiting treaty framework.”

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, is considered as the cornerstone of international non-proliferation regime. However, the ext­r­­emely slow disarmament progress has caused disappointment about it and its future.

The next NPT Review Conference is scheduled for August in New York. It has twice been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Akhtar said that nuclear weapon states were modernising their arsenals and adopting newer and emerging technologies that were undermining strategic stability and increasing reliance of states, which had been left behind in technology, on nuclear weapons.

“There are nuclear doctrines of nuclear weapon states, which talk about possible nuclear responses to cyber attacks,” he noted, adding that all of this was adding to an uncertain international security mix.

He believed that the environment at the international level was not very conducive for disarmament because of aversion of countries possessing technology to regulation for fear of losing the advantage they currently enjoy.

Mr Akhtar, therefore, asked the Conference on Disarmament to “come out of its stagnation” and take a “comprehensive view of international security environment”. He suggested that CoD could do this by taking up space capabilities of nuclear weapon states, considering regulation of emerging technologies and conventional arms control in the debate on disarmament.

A former official of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tariq Rauf, said on the occasion that NPT was backing the CEND (Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament) initiative, but the collapsing architecture of nuclear arms control between the US and Russia has instead increased the dangers of the use of nuclear weapons as compared to the cold war.

Prof Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal of Quaid-i-Azam University was not optimistic about the prospects of disarmament.

Disarmament, he maintained, looked impossible since the anarchic international system had reversed the order of nuclear proliferation. Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, there is considerable focus on military build-up at the regional and global levels, he added.

Former diplomat Tariq Osman Hyder said factors like re-emergence of great power rivalry and modernisation of nuclear arsenals, offensive doctrines, emerging techno­logies like artificial intelligence, and integration of cyber technology, autonomous weapons systems had stressed the global arms control and disarmament efforts.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema was of the opinion that the bargain made by non-nuclear weapon states with the nuclear-weapon states in the form of NPT has turned to be a bad one in the sense that until today the nuclear-weapon states have not only given up nuclear weapons but some more nuclear weapons states have also surfaced.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021

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