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)