Wednesday, 6 July 2016

What its scuttling of India’s NSG bid reveals about Pakistan

 What its scuttling of India’s NSG bid reveals about Pakistan
At least three strands are apparent in Pakistan's reaction to the developments leading up to, and following, the Seoul meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
One, there is a lot of jubilation and chest-thumping that India has been denied entry into the NSG despite its aggressive diplomacy and once again "parity" between the two neighbours has been retained. There is glee that Pakistan applied for membership at the eleventh hour on 18 May, the deadline for applying. This effectively scuttled India's entry into the NSG because had Pakistan not applied, India could have had an easier time at the plenary meeting.
 Pakistan's "principled" position (tailored to mirror China's) is that it is opposed to "country-specific exemptions"; it wants a level-playing field and a "criteria-based" approach for NSG membership. Islamabad wanted its application for NSG membership considered alongside India's to ensure strategic stability in South Asia.
Pakistan's attitude was possibly best summed up in an article in The Express Tribuneclaiming that the non-proliferation regime had become stricter due to India's peaceful nuclear test in 1974, but in a twist of fate "it now wants to rehabilitate the thief and make it a sheriff without the latter changing its habits".

However, realists in the Pakistani establishment have cautioned that they should not get carried away by its "success" in foiling India's bid at Seoul. They have pointed out that India enjoys much greater support in the NSG as compared to Pakistan. They have also noted that the NSG waiver that India got with the US support in 2008 provides it most of the benefits that an NSG membership would. Finally, they also realise that the US is likely to continue to press for Indian exceptionalism in nuclear energy development.


Two, Pakistan's "all-weather" friendship with China has been reinforced. Pakistan has noted with great satisfaction China's assurance that it would stress that in case the NSG members made an exception for India, they should do the same for Pakistan. In other words, if India became an NSG member, so would Pakistan. China's insistence on Pakistan's inclusion was justified as being essential to putting in place a non-discriminatory criterion for offering NSG membership: all interested states should be asked to sign the NPT first because exempting any nation from this would weaken the entire non-proliferation regime.
If exemptions are to be made, then the group must agree on a criteria for admission of non-NPT states with no arbitrary "selectivity or exclusion". In this manner, China has signaled that Pakistan could piggyback on the Indian application to become a member of the NSG.


Three, and most significant, is the feeling of hurt over the manner in which the US, and especially President Barack Obama, invested a lot of time and political capital in pushing for India's membership. Pakistan has noted with some alarm the US statement that it strongly supported India's role in global institutions like the NSG and the UN Security Council, and that Washington desired to "continue to work constructively" with NSG members to admit India into the organisation.

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