Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema
FMCT: an introduction
The fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) is a proposed multilateral treaty to prohibit the future production of fissile material for nuclear weapons. The treaty and its various provisions have not yet been agreed.
The treaty is currently on the agenda of CD (Conference on disarmament), whose negotiations are allegedly stalled due to Pakistan’s objections.
FMCT: declarations of excess military stockpiles of Fissile Material
In 1993 Russia concluded an arrangement with the United States known as “Megatons to Megawatts” and declared excess HEU of 500 tones from its military uses and designated for down-blending to LEU to be used to produce fuel for US civilian power reactors. The first shipment of LEU to be used to produce fuel for US civilian power reactors. The first shipment of LEU to the United States took place in 1995 and by the end of 2011 the programme has successfully eliminated 442.5 tones of HEU.
FMCT: declarations of excess
Military stockpiles of fissile material
In 1996, the United States declared more than 370 tones of HEU as excess to its weapons requirement. In the second declaration, made in 2005, the United States pledged to remove up to 200 tones of HEU “from further use as fissile material in U.S. nuclear weapons”. The bulk of this material, 160 tones, was designated for use in naval propulsion reactors.
FMCT: its origin
The proposals for FMCT originated immediately after the end of the Cold War, when the United States and the former Soviet Union, now Russia, have carried out limits nuclear Disarmament in pursuit of the SALT and START treaties, ceased production of fissile material and declared excess stockpiles.
There is a large volume of academic and journalistic literature on the prospective FMCT.
On 27th September 1993 in a speech before the UN General Assembly, President Clinton called for a multilateral convention banning the production of fissile materials for nuclear explosives outside international safeguards.
In December 1993 the UNGA adopted resolution 48/75L calling for the negotiation of a “non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
On 23rd March 1995 the CD agreed to a establish a committee to negotiate a non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. However, substantive negotiations have not taken place.
FMCT: a period of stalemate
From 1994-96, the emphasis of international non-proliferation remained focused on CTBT and FMCT was relegated to a secondary position. The CTBT could not enter into force, because of U.S. congress’s refusal to ratify, lack of requisite members states to ratify it and disappointment of its principal proponents to get India, Pakistan and Israel into its orbit. It restarted in 2003.
P-5 Military and Excess Pu and HEU in 2003 (in Metric Tons)
Country M. Pu Ex. Pu M. HEU Ex. HEU
Britain 3.2±0.15? 4.4 21.9? –
China 4.8±2 – 20±5 –
France 5±1.5 – 30±7 –
Russia 95±25 50 773±300 300
U.S.A 47±2 52.5 580±50 123
Total 155±31 1071 425±362 423
* In Round Figure
Global Stockpiles of Military HEU and PU (2007) Pu (2007)
Uranium Stockpiles (Metric Tons)
US 250 UK 21.9
Russia 640 Pakistan 1.3
France 30 India 0.2
Plutonium stockpiles (Metric Tones)
US 30 UK 3.5
Russia 95 India 0.52
France 5 Pakistan 0.064
China 4 Israel 0.45
North Korea 0.035
Source: Collated from Global Fissile Material Report 2007.
Disparities in (estimated) military HEU in metric tons in 2011
US 390 (260+130E)
UK 11.7 + 8.1. +1.4 (for Blendown)
*: India is matching very fast with Pakistan.
Source: global Fissile material Report 2011 (IPFM).
M: for Military, E for Excess.
Disparities in (estimated) military Pu in metric tons
US 85.9 ( 38M53.9E)
North Korea 0.03
Source: global Fissile Material Report 2011 (IPFM).
M: for Military, E for Excess, and ASS for Additional Strategic Stockpile.
FMCT: its current status
In 2004, the United States announced its opposition to the inclusion of a verification mechanism in the treaty on the grounds that the treaty could not be effectively verified. On November 4th , 2004 the United States cast the sole vote in the First Committee of the UNGA against resolution (A/C.1/59/L.34) calling for negotiation of an internationally verifiable treaty.
The Bush Administration supported a treaty but advocated and ad hoc system of verification wherein states would monitor the compliance of other states through their own national intelligence mechanisms, and not IAEA inspections.
On April 5th 2009, U.S. President Barrack Obama reversed the U.S. position on verification and proposed to negotiate “a new treaty that verifiable ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in nuclear weapons.” On May 29, 2009, negotiating committee. FMCT was not designed to be a Pakistan specific treaty, but it has now become one.
Despite a bi-partisan U.S. support to an FMCT, there are apprehensions of republican opposition to international verification provisions in prospective treaty, which may undermine prospects of its ratification by the United States congress, as it happened in case of the CTBT, or if there are less number of states required for entry into force of the prospective FMCT, and therefore, its entry into force is questionable.
Negotiations on the FMCT are currently stalled due to Pakistan’s opposition. It’s sharply criticized for being the “lone country” booking the negotiations to formulate an FMC, which a vast majority of the other members of the CD and the “international community” want to conclude.
All great-powers, e.g., the U.S., Russia, France, UK, Germany and Japan support the FMCT negotiations to proceed. China is also in favor of negotiating an FMCT which is internationally and effectively verifiable. It is however sympathetic to Pakistan’s position in the sense threat and prospective treaty should take into account the security interests of all member states. China’s ambassador to CD and its President from March 21st May 2001, Wang Qun, stated during an interview to arms control Association that: “For an FMCT to be meaningful, it is essential that all countries with the capability of producing fissile materials be on board.”
Main contents of Pakistan’s FMCT policy
1. Pakistan voted in favor of the 1993 UNGA resolution 48/75L calling for the negotiation of a “non-discriminatory, multilateral and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”
2. As per its current policy, which is apparently articulated by the Ministry of Foreign affairs and presented by ambassador Mr. Zamir Akram at CD, is that the prospective FMCT is discriminatory and therefore, in violation the 1993 UNGA supports a non-discriminatory FMCT.
3. More important, Pakistan states that the prospective FMCT would legitimize the great disparity of existing stockpiles of fissile material and allow countries with large stockpiles to continue to add nuclear weapons to their current arsenals.
4. Pakistan now consider that the indo-U.S. Nuclear Deal would help India to improve its military stockpiles of fissile material, increase its triad of nuclear forces and disturb the strategic equilibrium and stability in south Asia.
5. Pakistan postulates that a prospective FMCT would undermine its national security interests, especially its MCD (Minimum Credible Deterrence) as it would perpetuate its lower stockpiles and freeze its current nuclear weapons capability.
6. Some thinks tanks in Pakistan, e.g., SASSI and others, support a FMCT instead of FMCT.
7. Pakistan’s FMCT policy has a wide public support. However except the elite echelons, general public has not demonstrated any particular concerns.
Pakistan’s FMCT policy: an appraisal
1. Pakistan’s FMCT policy centers around its national security interests, is sound in principle, cogently argued and well presented. It based upon hard facts like the disparity of existing stockpiles and discriminatory nature of prospective FMCT.
2. Its however is less pragmatic. In its general policy on non-proliferation, Pakistan has never supported principles likes’ discriminatory nature of the NPT and its associated elements. Contrary to that, Pakistan supported the NPT but did not sign it for geo-political reasons concerning India.
3. Allowing negotiations is not axiomatic that Pakistan will have to vote for approval of the prospective FMCT. It can still block passage / approval of the FMCT by voting against it. It is ignoring the chances that some other countries might also vote against the FMCT either because it is not in their interest to sign or they might have reservations.
4. Pakistan has not coordinated its opposition to negotiations with other actual and potential opponents of the negotiations or those states which might have reservations, e.g., Iran and those GCC sates which are apprehensive about Iran’s nuclear intention and Israel’s nuclear weapons capability.
5. Israel (which under no circumstances will sign any prospective FMCT), is gleefully silent that Pakistan is not taking into account India’ is bearing its part of the brunt as well.
6. Pakistan is not taking into account India’ non-proliferation history of taking dramatic u-turns, like the CTBT which is authored but when the CTBT came to realize, India cast a veto. India’s FMCT policy, thought currently supportive, but it may undertake a volte face if there is no other opposition to FMCT.
Pakistan’s FMCT options
Currently, Pakistan has 5 options to oppose the FMCT
1. It may continue to stall negotiations by itself and continue to face isolation.
2. It may explore to co-opt other potential opponents to FMCT and enhance its bargaining position.
3. It may allow negotiations to proceed and caste a negative vote to stop it becoming a Treaty (FMCT).
4. It may engage in collaborative campaign if the FMCT is taken to UNGA and attempt to block its approval, like it has been opposing India’s entry into the UNSC.
5. It may not sign the FMCT even if it is passed through UNGA by passing the CD.
Recommendation: Pakistan drops its opposition to the resumption of negotiations and work on the remaining options.