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Quest for an equitable FMCT

Dr. Tanvir Ahmad Khan

(This article is an edited version of the transcript of a presentation made at the Rabita Forum International seminar on FMCT-Problems and Prospects held in Islamabad on 3rd May, 2012)
Pakistan opted for nuclear deterrence for three major reasons: one, the post-1947 South Asia has continued to be without a stable security architecture and the national boundaries of 1947 have been changed to Pakistan’s detriment; two, India has never stopped making exponentially large investments in its armed forces and has on more than one occasion used the widening disparity in conventional forces to adopt a posture of coercive diplomacy towards Pakistan; three, Pakistan’s efforts at the United Nations spread over two decades to turn South Asia into a nuclear free zone made no progress; and, fifth, beginning in 1974, India developed a large programme of nuclear weaponisation with the explicitly intended capability to use nuclear weapons on land, from air and sea.
BY far the most important single feature of Pakistan’s nuclear programme has been to peg it at the minimum possible level. This decision was consistent with Pakistan’s smaller economy as well as with the lessons learnt during the East-West Cold War when massive nuclear arsenals capable of destroying the world many times over were built. Pakistan has also continued to support universal nuclear disarmament and a nuclear restraint regime in the region.
It has also resolutely opposed discriminatory nuclear policies and firmly advocated equitable application of international instruments. In its view, the decision of the United States to conclude a civil nuclear deal with India has enabled India to divert its indigenous material to a much bigger programme of amassing nuclear weapons.
Pakistan’s approach to the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty (FMCT) currently on the agenda of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva is based on the imperative of an equitable nuclear order. The structure of this seminar, and in particular the impressive list of experts that will address it, made me think of the ways in which I could make a useful contribution.
There are participants who have studied the Fissile Material Cut off Treaty issue more thoroughly than I have done. It would be better to leave the details to them. Speaking early in the debate, I should perhaps begin with two or three main strands that impinge on nuclear discourse today and provide the context for a closer analysis of the FMCT issue.
Consider the current status of the movement towards global nuclear disarmament that would bring to an end this perennial threat to mankind. On April 5, 2009 President Barack Obama delivered his famous Prague speech in which he, on behalf of the United States, endorsed the objective of a “world without nuclear weapons”.
He promised that the role of the nuclear weapons in the U.S national security strategy would be reduced. The latest U.S Nuclear Posture reviews reflect the same desire. Washington has made some progress with Moscow in reducing the nuclear arsenals but in this regard three considerations still demand attention:
 ONE, both the powers still maintain large stockpiles of war heads and possess vast delivery systems; reduction in numbers has been compensated with notable improvement in quality and precision;
 TWO, differences on deployment of anti- ballistic missiles have slowed down the movement towards a world without nuclear weapons; both Russia and China have made adjustments in their programmes to counter the American project for deploying anti-missile systems;
 THREE, by adopting a clearly discriminatory strategy to legitimise and facilitate the Indian nuclear enterprises as a trade-off with the promise of India enlisting in the plans for the curtailment of China’s influence in Asia, the United States has intensified Asia’s arms race, effectively pushing back the declaratory objective of the Prague objective.
Pending an across-the-board rapprochement between India and Pakistan and given the growing imbalance between their military capabilities, Pakistan cannot but take measures to maintain deterrent stability. It cannot look at FMCT in isolation. Its position on the proposed treaty is conditioned not only by its inadequate provisions to which I would turn in a minute but also by decisions that have a further asymmetrical impact on deterrence stability in the South Asian context.
Asymmetrical configurations of power in South Asia are found in the domain of strategic weapons as well as in conventional arms. In fact, these are more prominent in the widening gap in the latter.
According to Jane’s Defence Weekly, India’s aggregate defence procurement spending between 2011 and 2015 would exceed $100 billion. Cash-strapped Pakistan cannot and should not emulate this example. Formulation of Indian doctrines such as ‘a limited war under a nuclear over hang” and “Cold Start” have not helped matters; they pose a clear and present threat to Pakistan’s security.
It is often argued the threat from these doctrines is exaggerated by special advocacy groups in Pakistan and that there is probably no final policy commitment to them by New Delhi’s political leadership. Nevertheless, the fact remains that in the language of a leading expert on South Asia, Rodney Jones, the “Indian Army’s practical efforts to reequip, reorganize, train, and prepare forward infrastructure for such operations” has continued to progress.
This basic fact has influenced Pakistan’s thinking on counter-measures in the conventional field as well as in terms of its strategic options. Pakistan’s 60-kuilometre range Nasr has widely been seen as heralding Pakistan’s resort to tactical nuclear weapons with a view to maintaining credible deterrence.
It should not be forgotten that credible deterrence is an answer not just to an actual use of force but also to the threat of use of force and to coercive diplomacy. Huge mobilisation of the Indian armed forces close to Pakistan’s borders in 1986, 1990 and 2001-2 was at the very least an effort to put military pressure on Pakistan with a view to compelling it to accept an Indian version of inter-state relations in the region.
Turning to the FMCT, I would like to begin with Pakistan’s stand on the UN resolution 48/75L of December 16, 1993 which recommended negotiations for a ‘non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.” Pakistan supported it while expressing concern that the resolution might address only the future production of fissile material and not the past stock.
The Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva has now been deadlocked for 15 years largely because of its inability to resolve this obvious flaw in the desired programme of work. During the last two years or so Pakistan has withstood enormous pressure to maintain its lonely battle to ensure its security.
A powerful group in the international community has worked over time to sweep aside Pakistan’s demand that the FMT, as it is called preferably, includes the existing stock piles. There has been a move to set aside the consensus rule that enables Pakistan to make efforts to get the programme of work modified favourably. There have been threats to take the issue out of the CD and there has been an initiative to proceed on the basis of informal discussions.
Over the years, the stalemate between the major proponents of the FMCT and Pakistan has increasingly reflected the larger differentiation between Pakistan and India on their nuclear status. Stepping aside its non-proliferation concerns, the United States has worked harder and harder to confer international legitimacy on India’s nuclear programme while denying the same to Pakistan.
At the Conference on Disarmament, Pakistani diplomats have based their case on (a) Pakistan’s security concerns if the treaty does not address the question of existing stockpiles and (b) the fact that the Pakistani position serves the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament. ON May 16 2006, Pakistan argued that in addressing the question of existing stocks, upper limits of fissile materials as well as the principles of proportionality and sufficiency must be taken into account.
In January 2011 Pakistan told the CD that it has strengthened its opposition to negotiating because of the 2008 agreement to lift long standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India. There is a general impression that positions are hardening because of the Plutonium factor. The key players do not want Pakistan to build any stockpile while Pakistan may want it to add lighter war heads to its inventory.
Pakistan is being increasingly accused of paralysing the 65-member Conference and a great deal of diplomacy in Geneva has centred on finding ways around the Pakistani roadblock. Several nations keep calling for alternative negotiating procedures. Pakistan and some other nations including China, however, emphasise the need to retain the CD as the sole negotiating body.
Pakistan’s negotiations with the U.S team led by Strobe Talbot after the 1998 nuclear tests highlighted basic differences in the approach to Pakistan and to India. It was evident that the objective was to find a way to legitimise the Indian programme while denying similar acceptance to Pakistan. These negotiations are an inhibiting memory and Pakistan is wary of a fissile material cut-off treaty that implicitly contributes to the same objective.
Pakistan has little leverage within the CD if it abandons its present stance. No prospect for accommodation of Pakistani concerns has emerged. Pakistan’s current difficulties with the United States in the context of Afghanistan and the war on terror make such accommodation particularly unpromising.
More significantly, the lack of progress on proposals for bilateral nuclear restraint between India and Pakistan as well as the stalled nature of their dialogue on key contentious issues dividing them make it very difficult for Pakistan to give up its insistence on a treaty that addresses the issue of existing stockpiles of fissile material.

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