The FMCT Threat
By Shireen M Mazari

Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington once again brought the usual whining rhetoric from him regarding Pakistan even though he has far greater issues with civilian collateral damage within his own country. And, of course, the US Administration, including Condoleezza Rice, showed their increasingly hard line posturing vis-a-vis Pakistan – a trend that is spreading rapidly across the US polity. As discussed last week, there is the intrusive and highly negative Congressional effort to stack up conditionalities for aid to Pakistan, going far beyond the Pressler requirements. But this is just one of many negative bilateral moves on the part of US policy makers in relation to Pakistan.
At other levels, we are seeing the US moving fast on the nuclear track in ways that directly threaten to undermine the credibility of Pakistan's nuclear deterrence, even as India's nuclear weapons' capability is being bolstered. There is the Indo-US nuclear deal which has now been revised to accommodate the Indian demand that no conditionalities be put on future testing by India in terms of assurance of nuclear fuel supplies. Now an even more ominous development is threatening to come to the fore.
This is the US effort to fast track an international Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty (FMCT) in the multilateral UN forum of the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva, and India is committed to working actively with the US on the FMCT as one of the conditions of its nuclear deal with the US. The problem that has arisen is due once again to the US efforts to contravene the norms that have been agreed to in this very forum in connection with such a Treaty. The arrangements agreed to in terms of the content of a fissile material treaty were embodied in the Shannon Report of March 1995. The parameters laid out for a future FMCT and the mandate provided to the Ad Hoc Committee for this purpose were reflective of Resolution 48/75L of the UN General Assembly and so the Committee was directed to negotiate a "non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally verifiable treaty" while the issue of existing stockpiles and Prevention of a Race in Outer Space (PAROS) was to be part of the discussions within the Committee as it evolved an acceptable FMCT.
Unfortunately, the US is seeking to alter all these parameters in order to get a half-baked FMCT that, like the NPT, has an in-built discriminatory clause because of the US refusal to include the issue of reductions and eventual destruction of existing stockpiles of fissile materials within the FMCT. Nor is the US prepared to include international verification procedures -- something that is an intrinsic part of the Chemical Weapons Convention and of the CTBT (still-born, thanks to the US Congressional rejection). As for PAROS -- a major issue for countries like China -- the US is at the very least not interested and at worse is actively opposed to the notion given its efforts to develop Missile Defense which has a space based component.
So if the US is attempting to fast track its distorted version of a FMCT, why should countries like Pakistan worry given that the international consensus reflected in the Shannon Report runs counter to this US design? Unfortunately, the US has managed to bully the international community once again by threatening to make the CD redundant if it failed to fast track the US FMCT draft. The draft itself was introduced before the CD in May 2006 in a most arrogant fashion, in which it was made clear that the "challenge to effective multilateralism" was for international bodies like the CD to accept "US priorities" and focus on these issues which were important to "US security" -- or else the US would bypass these legitimate organizations and opt for the "coalitions of the willing" model. So, effectively, the US was holding the CD hostage to its demands even though these were in direct contravention to an international consensus already arrived at on the FMCT negotiations.
Following this arrogant approach to the FMCT, we have seen the CD renege on its own mandate on the FMCT even as its March 2007 Presidential Draft Decision tries to offer a poor sop to member states by suggesting the formulation of four coordinators to discuss separately the previously linked issues of disarmament, PAROS, negative security assurances and an internationally verifiable FMCT. While the Coordinator for the FMCT was given a mandate for negotiating, "without any preconditions", an FMCT -- with no mention of international verification provisions -- the other Coordinators were merely to preside over "substantive discussions" on the remaining issues! So once again the rest of the world was being duped by the US and its allies in duplicity.
For Pakistan, the form of an FMCT is crucial on two counts: First, if there are no provisions for reductions in existing stockpiles of fissile material, it will be at a permanent disadvantage in terms of its nuclear deterrence vis-a-vis India. Worse still, eventually this deterrence capability will be compromised especially in the face of the Indo-US nuclear deal which will allow India to use its "liberated" and un-safeguarded nuclear fuel from its civil reactors for weapons production -- given that the US will now be supplying the fuel for Indian civilian reactors. Second, without international verification provisions, and with existing trust deficits, who will ensure the provisions of the FMCT are indeed being enforced? Can Pakistan forget how it was deceived by India on the issue of Chemical Weapons in a bilateral agreement when it declared it had no such weapons; and only when it became a party to the internationally verifiable multilateral Chemical Weapons Convention it had to admit to possessing these weapons which were subsequently destroyed!
So the new US ruse on the FMCT must be countered and in time since the CD has begun meeting on this issue in Geneva. There is too much at stake for Pakistan in the long term in terms of the FMCT. We were strangely sanguine, despite warnings, on the Congressional Bill and this is going to be costly for us over the next few years. But the US-sponsored FMCT will be even worse, since it will directly undermine our nuclear capability and the credibility of our deterrence over the long term. Even if we are the only ones holding out -- and the CD does work on the consensus principle -- we must do so without flinching. To compromise on this would be to compromise on our security and eventually our very existence as a state. If we still needed proof of Pakistan and the US having intrinsically divergent strategic interests even on global issues of arms control and disarmament, the present FMCT debate should be a stark reality check.
Additionally, while national cohesion is critical to the stability and development of our state, so is our ability to hold our own externally. Neither can be compromised and although we are rightly so drawn towards our internal dynamics presently, we cannot afford to ignore vital external developments impacting our well-being in the long run. Here, the insidious designs of the US portend to be our major source of threat for the future.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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