By Zubeida Mustafa
treaty review conference being held in New York
since May 2 is the biggest hoax in the history of
nuclear disarmament negotiations. There is a lot
of sound and fury that is being generated at the
moot. But it seems strange that the thrust of the
nuclear club’s attack is against the supposedly
aberrant states in the Third World.
At the same time, a blind eye is turned to the inherent
inequity envisaged in the treaty that was concluded
in 1968 and came into force in 1970. What is more,
the haves of the nuclear world appear to be acquiring
greater privileges and power while the have-nots
are being pushed further against the wall. This
inequality in their relationship has been growing
with the passage of time causing greater discontent
The fundamental flaw inherent in the treaty is that
it divides the world between the nuclear powers
(those who had exploded a nuclear device before
Jan 1, 1967) and the non-nuclear states. Thus, it
does not give recognition to a situation, which
in fact exists today, where states have acquired
nuclear weapons after the cut-off date. There is
the case of India, Pakistan and Israel which never
signed the NPT and now possess nuclear weapons.
North Korea was a signatory but withdrew from it
in 2003 in accordance with Article X which allows
a state to pull out in exercise of its sovereignty.
Pyongyang subsequently announced that it had manufactured
nuclear weapons. According to the terms of the treaty
the have-nots are required to remain have-nots in
perpetuity and the nuclear powers are obliged not
to transfer nuclear weapon technology to those outside
the nuclear club.
How this anomaly is to be resolved is not quite
clear, especially when this inequity is written
into the treaty and has been perpetuated regularly
at the review conferences held every five years.
In 1995, it was decided that the treaty would continue
in force indefinitely (as the treaty required the
parties to decide after 25 years).
At the same time the second pillar of the NPT that
imposed the obligation on all states, especially
the nuclear weapon states, to negotiate a general
nuclear disarmament treaty, was blatantly not addressed.
Even now, there are no signs that the nuclear powers
will surrender their weapons in a hurry while they
press the others to institute a stringent non-proliferation
regime globally. In fact, the United States, the
world’s only superpower today, has regressed
on its earlier nuclear disarmament commitments.
In 1999, the American Senate refused to ratify the
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and President Bush
subsequently made it clear that he would not try
to persuade the upper house to change its stance.
He went further to renounce the Anti-Ballistic Missile
treaty and a verifiable fissile material cutoff
The 2002 agreement that Washington has concluded
with Moscow and which provides for deep cuts in
their deployed nuclear stockpiles does not require
the two powers to dismantle their weapons, which
will only be mothballed. Moreover, the Bush administration
has announced that it will be working on a new generation
of nuclear weapons.
All this makes grim news for the world community.
The Americans have also made it clear that they
plan focusing on another “leg” of the
NPT, which according to them, has created havoc
in the non-proliferation regime. This is Article
IV which unequivocally recognizes the “inalienable
right” of all parties to “develop research,
production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful
It is this right which Iran has been exercising
and for which it has come under attack from Washington
on the suspicion that the enriched uranium Tehran
has produced will be used for the manufacture of
weapons. Although the nuclear programs of countries
which have them are under the International Atomic
Energy Agency’s safeguard, efforts are now
being made to tighten these safeguards.
Pakistan has not signed the NPT on the grounds that
its security has been threatened by India all these
years and since India is not a signatory, there
was no question of Islamabad signing the treaty
either. With the strategic/political situation in
the region changing radically and given the anomalies
in the NPT pointed out above, it is time the Musharraf
government did some hard thinking on the issue.
Why the situation is grimmer than is generally realized
is because of the reports which have been emanating
from Washington over the last few years.
Last week, a Harvard University study group warned
of the possibility of Al Qaeda attempting to steal
nuclear weapons in Pakistan, “The US and Russia
will become vulnerable to nuclear terrorism if they
don’t focus on securing weapons of mass destruction,”
writes Mathew Bunn, the author of the report Managing
the Atom Project.
Other reports are more serious in their implications.
They indicate that America’s concern is not
just that the extremist groups will steal nuclear
weapons. Another major concern that has come to
the fore in the US Senate testimonies is “if
Musharraf were assassinated or otherwise replaced,
Pakistan’s new leader would be less pro-US.
We are concerned that extremist Islamic politicians
would gain greater influence”. The Bush administration
has assured its opponents in Congress that it has
taken security measures against such possibilities.
Under normal circumstances, one would have believed
them to be safety devices the US has negotiated
with India and Pakistan in case of an emergency
like a fire or the breakdown of an aging plant.
But these are not normal times. It is being said
that the US has had devices installed in Pakistan’s
nuclear program called permissive action links (PALs)
to disable nuclear warheads if they fall into the
wrong hands. One report by Seymour Hersh in The
New Yorker also spoke of a US-Israeli plan to take
control of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in
case of an Islamist coup, which the Bush administration
denied, calling Hersh a “liar”.
Coming back to the NPT review conference in New
York, the moot question is what approach should
the Third World governments adopt? Given America’s
mood any government with a nuclear program —
even one for peaceful use of nuclear energy —
could come under attack on grounds of unfounded
In this case, will nuclear weapons really protect
the country as is claimed by the champions of nuclear
arms? Way back in 1975, Dr Henry Kissinger had threatened
Prime Minister Z.A. Bhutto with dire consequences
if plans for the nuclear reprocessing plant was
not abandoned. Ziaul Haq could clandestinely continue
the nuclear plan because he extended full support
to the Americans in their war in Afghanistan. President
Musharraf has Washington’s support at the
moment because he has extended cooperation to the
US in its war on terror.
Pakistan finds itself in a dilemma that has no simple
answers. All non-nuclear weapon states at the NPT
review conference should at least join hands and
put pressure on the nuclear weapon states to move
concurrently on three fronts — namely, nuclear
disarmament, non-transfer of nuclear technology
and stringent regulation of peaceful nuclear energy
But how should countries such as India, Pakistan,
Israel and North Korea, which are not participating
in the NPT conference, react? What should be their
role? One thing is certain that if the nuclear weapon
states were to actually embark on an arms cut program,
they would be on a moral high ground to persuade
others to voluntarily follow suit. (Courtesy Dawn)