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NPT-REVIEW CONFERENCE 2000 AND INDIA: A COMMENTARY

Paper no. 1117

Background:

The Non Proliferation Treaty that entered into force in 1970 was indefinitely extended in 1995.

Such an extension was possible only after the Nuclear weapon States conceded an agreement for strengthening its review process, a set of Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament as also a Resolution sponsored by 14 Arab States for a weapons free zone in the Middle East.

The first formal review of NPT after its indefinite extension is set to take place in New York between 24th April and May 19th, 2000.

On the eve of the Conference, the good news is that the Russian Duma has ratified the START II Treaty (14.4.2000) seven years after it was signed by Russia and the USA and four years after the US Congress approved the treaty.

The bad news is that the leading proliferator (China) is involved in yet another scandal of transferring long range missile technology to Libya this time. (1)

An unexpected and unprecedented situation was created when South Africa withdrew from the Presidentship of 2000 Review Conference in November 1999 and Ambassador Abdallah Baali of Algeria was nominated as the President designate for the ensuing Conference. With many thorny issues that have cropped up since the last extension, Ambassador Baali’s task is not going to be easy.

NPT 1995 Review Conference:

The 1995 Review and Extension Conference showed considerable division and acrimony mainly between the haves (Nuclear Weapons States ) and have nots (Non Nuclear weapons States). In order to get the indefinite extension without a consensus vote, the Conference President, Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala with a little help from Canada adopted an unusual procedure of informally getting the approval of majority of the States and getting the resolutions adopted including the extension without a vote.

Many of the non aligned States felt cheated in letting the Nuclear weapons States "off the hook" in not binding them specifically on the issue of disarmament under Article VI of the NPT. Ambassador Dhanapala is now the Under Secretary for Disarmament in the United Nations. (2)

Prep.Coms:

The current Review process has become important and relevant as NPT by itself has no institutional infrastructure to oversee the implementation of various provisions. After the indefinite extension, the weapon powers maneuvered to designate the three meetings mandated by the 1995 Conference as preparatory meetings (Prep Coms) so as not make any substantive review of the progress made on the implementation of the treaty.

The three Prepcoms held in the intervening period between 1995 and 2000 failed to prepare an agreed agenda and the discussions became progressively more acrimonius.

An excellent and an objective account of the earlier Review Conferences ever since 1975 with the details of the three prep. Committees leading to the current Sixth Review Conference in New York has been provided by Rebecca Johnson, the Executive Director of ACRONYM Institute (3).

Articles I and VI of NPT:

The basic issue of Non-Proliferation Treaty whether it was intended to achieve total disarmament or to prevent additional states acquiring nuclear weapons is yet to be resolved even after thirty years of the Treaty. For this only the nuclear weapon States are to blame.

In the third Prep Com of May 1999, the nuclear weapon powers barring China gave a kind of updated fact sheets of figures on the cuts and measures taken as part of fulfilment of their obligations under Article VI of the treaty. China on the other hand reiterated its doctrine of no first use and "restraint" in building up its arsenal without revealing any details of the state of their nuclear forces and commitment on reduction. In such a situation the 2000 Review Conference will again be faced with the obstructionist tactics of the weapon States with regard to disarmament.

Much is being made of two signatories, North Korea and Iraq of violating the norms of the NPT, though each was given different treatment. The nuclear weapon powers have continued to pay scant regard to the spirit of the Article VI of the NPT. What else could one make of the NATO ministers on the 50th anniversary declaring a strategic concept of NATO’s reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence as "supreme guarantee" of the security of the alliance or the use of nuclear weapons in the case of the need to repel an aggression when all other means fail, in the latest security doctrine enunciated by President Putin of Russia?

Indian Position:

Until 1995, the Indian policy towards Non-Proliferation was consistent with its stand in opposing any treaty which was discriminatory in character. The indefinite extension of the NPT in that year followed by negotiations in the conference on Disarmament on CTBT at Geneva threw the Indian policy out of gear. India regarded the indefinite extension as one of legitimising the possession of nuclear weapons by the "nuclear weapons states forever." The arguments put forward by the weapons powers in the International Court of Justice only confirmed in India’s view that the NPT legitimised the right of such states to use them. (4).

Critics of India point out the inconsistencies of Indian position at the time of negotiations for the CTBT. For example, on 21.3.1995 the Foreign Secretary of India declared in Geneva (5) "We do not believe that the acquisition of nuclear weapons is essential for national security." But on 15.7.96, the Foreign Minister declared in the Parliament "Our nuclear policy as expressed in the CTBT negotiations is linked with our national security concerns’. (6).

On 11 May India conducted three underground nuclear explosions including a thermo nuclear device followed by another two explosions on 13 May 1998 (Pokhran II). At the same time India declared itself to be a nuclear weapon power.

Being outside the NPT, technically India has not violated any of the non proliferations forms. But the tests showed up the fragility of the entire disarmament architecture built over the past thirty years. The P5 countries swiftly condemned the tests and called for a roll back in its resolution no 1172 of Security council. In the third Prepcom the Indian tests came in for explicit expression of concerns from many countries. Though not condemnatory, some like the NAC statement referred to severe setbacks on non proliferation in South Asia (Rebecca Johnson).

In August 1999, the National Advisory Board in India submitted a draft nuclear doctrine to the government which among other things suggested a triad of air, sea and land based nuclear forces.

India’s approach to NPT Review Conference:

Having conducted five tests and by declaring itself a "nuclear weapon power’, India’s position among the non nuclear weapon states and particularly among the non aligned countries has considerably weakened. It would lack credibility if it would try to influence the Non weapon States on any of the issues facing them

India will not be accepted as a weapon power either under the current provisions in the NPT. Thus India is in a peculiar situation of being neither here nor there.

Indian tests in May 1998 are certain to come in for severe criticism in the coming Conference and Indian diplomats would need all their skills to moderate any condemnation that may be proposed.

Having issued a draft nuclear doctrine which calls for a build up of nuclear arsenal for sea, air and land, India can take no position either with respect to disarmament process, though its commitment to a general and total disarmament can never be doubted.

In one of the papers of a government funded think tank of Delhi(7), mention is made of two options of countries that feel frustrated over the lack of progress within the NPT. The options mentioned are A. The Non Nuclear Weapon states could call for an amendment conference under article VIII of NPT to push for a more concrete and significant shape to elimination of nuclear weapons.

B. to withdraw from the treaty.

It adds that both these options could prove beneficial to India and that India could let it be known that it would support movement in that direction.

India is not a party to the treaty and is set on a path of having a credible minimum deterrence. The nuclear doctrine proposed even suggests a triad of nuclear arsenal for its security. These are the national security goals. In such a situation it is best that India keeps a low profile rather than deluding itself that it can influence the course of events in the Conference.

S.Chandrasekharan                                                      15.4.2000

 

Notes:

  1. Bill Gertz.,"Beijing delivered missile technology to Libya," Washington Times.
  2. See his paper The NPT at cross roads, in the "Non Proliferation Review, Spring 2000, Volume 7-Number1. While giving a good summary of the Review process, Principles and objectives, the good and the bad news, he has avoided mention of the flagrant violation of article I of NPT by one of the declared weapon powers.
  3. Rebecca Johnson: Non-Proliferation Treaty: Challenging Times: Publication of Acronym Institute No.13, February 2000. Also, available in their web site. Also see Tariq Rauf, " The 2000 NPT Review Conference" The Nonproliferation Review Vol.7, Number 1, 2000 spring issue.
  4. Statement of Arundhati Ghose Ambassador/Permanent Representative of India to the UN-Office in Geneva on the plenary of the conference on 20.8.1996
  5. The Plenary meeting of CD at Geneva on 21st March, 1995
  6. Suo Moto Statement by Shri. I.K.Gujral, Minister for External Affairs, in the Parliament regarding CTBT on 15.7.1996.
  7. Manpreet Sethi, NPT Reviews Conference: What lies in store?, Strategic Analysis, April 2000, Vol.XXIV,No 1. P.63.
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