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NSG Membership: Will the nuclear apartheid continue?

Obama-Nawaz summit of October 2015 survived a derailing attempt by America media that aired reports that an1213 agreement was near completion for constraining Pakistan’s “fast growing nuclear programme. And in-return, the US would press the NSG to issue a waiver to Pakistan. While following this approach, America was capitalizing on the desperation of Nawaz government to drastically make a visible cut in loads-shedding before 2018 elections. American gamble failed. Because any Pakistani government would rather reconcile with an electoral setback than to compromise on Pakistan’s nuclear capability.

Both Pakistan and India seek the membership of Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG). However, both are following different approaches to achieve this objective. India is following a usual nuclear apartheid route, looking for shortcuts to have entry only for itself through country specific exemptions, while Pakistan supports a criteria based entry for all those countries which seek NSG membership now or in future. There are striking similarities in the nuclear profile of the two countries; hence if criteria based approach is followed then either both would qualify or none would qualify.
America, known for its cherry pick approach on nuclear affairs, circulated a paper to NSG members in 2012 suggesting that instead of granting membership on the basis of already laid down criteria by the NSG, India’s actual nuclear profile should become the criteria for its membership. This is a clear example of going much beyond proverbial shifting of goalposts; it amounts to altogether dismantling the goal posts.
India has quietly launched a new push to get into NSG. The chairman of the NSG visited New Delhi, last month, as part of a diplomatic “outreach” that seeks to build a consensus to admit India at its annual meeting next June. Remarks by Rafael Grossi, widely reported in India are quite instructive; he ruled out a “tailor made India-specific solution” for NSG membership. NSG operates by consensus, thus admitting India alone would mean it would then bar Pakistan’s entry.
The sequence of events leading to nuclear apartheid—to India’s advantage— started with Indo-US Agreement 123 in 2005. Operationalization of this agreement needed a nod from the IAEA and NSG membership. Pakistan committed the cardinal blunder, under pressure from the US, by not casting a negative vote at IAEA. Due to this, India was able to accrue the most lax Additional Protocol ever signed by IAEA, which later became foundation stone for grant of NSG waiver.
Nevertheless, US had a lot of difficulty in getting the waiver for its nuclear protégé. India gave a number of assurances to NSG in an effort to bolster its non-proliferation credentials. These included reference to its “No First Use” doctrine, Indian participation in FMCT negotiations and its unilateral test ban. Continuation of Waiver would be in serious jeopardy if India reneges from any of these commitments. Ever since, Indian strategic community is uneasy with No First Use and scientific community is uncomfortable with a ban on further nuclear tests. Thus India is desperate to get a membership of the NSG, because once a member, it will not be bound by these restrictions; rest is a fiction built around it.
Major driver for America to sign Indo-US Agreement 123 was sale of its nuclear power reactors. For India’s part, even at the time of signing Agreement 123, it was quite close to fabricating its own nuclear power plants. However, shortage of Uranium had emerged as centre of gravity for its nuclear programme. Hence, for India major driver for Agreement 123 was to have openings for Uranium supply. So for no American nuclear power plant has been bought by India. And Indian Agreements with Australia, Canada and some other countries focus on purchase of Uranium. These countries have chosen to ignore the fact that projected quantities of Uranium that India wishes to buy is much more that its genuine electricity requirement, and it could be used to develop nuclear weapons. International community is wilfully violating, the little known [Senator] Barak Obama amendment to Indo-US Agreement 123 that stated that nuclear fuel provided to India should be proportionate to its requirement for production of electricity.
India expressed its interest in 2010 for formally joining the nuclear club. India’s lobbying has met with scepticism from European countries like Switzerland, who have questioned its refusal to sign the NPT and give up nuclear weapons. Indian negotiators are relentlessly focusing on winning over European sceptics. Following the traditional Indian pattern of diluting its international commitments, its spin doctors are floating various phrases to influence the swing voters of NSG, with a hope that, in turn, it could bring around China. “We are optimistic; there is a desire within the NSG to bring this process to a conclusion sooner rather than later,” one Indian diplomat told Reuters. “People are comfortable with India.” Despite two summit meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Beijing has yet to signal its assent. China is following a balanced approach toward Pakistan and India, earlier this year China announced that it has taken notice that India desires to join NSG, and after a month it also took notice of Pakistan’s desire to join the NSG.
In their desperation, Indian diplomats are making the logic stand on its head, for example one diplomat recently quipped that: “It’s [NSG] not about arms controls. It’s about export controls.” And that: “France joined the NSG before ratifying the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Both are silly arguments—completely out of context. Any sane headed approach would yield the principle that there should be a uniform criteria for all non-NPT members who desire to join the NSG. And, by the way, NSG is all about non-proliferation, in unison with remaining three export control regimes. Ironically, NSG came to existence as a result of so called Indian PNE of 1974, which became possible by stealing fissile material from a Canada supplied power plant.
Pakistan has consistently stated that NSG should follow an objective, equitable and non-discriminatory approach for admitting new members. Grant of exclusive NSG membership to India as an exception, on account of political and commercial considerations, would adversely affect the credibility of non-proliferation regime. It would also bear negative implications for regional peace and security. Pakistan is making a concerted effort to convey its concerns about pitfalls of country [read India] specific criteria. Pakistan’s diplomatic missions accredited to the 48-NSG member states, continue to actively brief their respective hosts about Pakistan’s strong credentials for NSG membership. Moreover, on Pakistan’s request, the NSG Chair has circulated a document amongst all NSG members elaborating Pakistan’s point of view. A high-level Pakistani delegation has also held a meeting with NSG Troika in Vienna.
Pakistan is certainly not getting fair deal from the US, and on its behest, by its nuclear camp followers. In exchange for letting Pakistan in into the NSG, it is trying a barter by asking Pakistan to accede to certain international regimes like CTBT that even USA itself has not ratified, and India vehemently opposes it. Another proposal is that Pakistan should agree to FMCT and forget about existing huge stock piles of weapon grade fissile material held by India. Moreover, India has not accepted any restrictions on its ambitious Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR) programme; these FBRs are actually factories churning out bomb making Plutonium. Fuel output by these FBR facilities is more than the fuel input—hence called Fast Breeders. Therefore, India continues to retain the capability to continuously snowball its fissile material stocks. Another sick proposal by American think tanks is that Pakistan should unilaterally abandon its tactical nuclear weapons, while India continues to build infrastructure and reorganize its military to execute its Cold Start Doctrine, though under a new brand name—Proactive Operations.
There is a need for the international community to ponder over the results of the nuclear apartheid; it has certainly  not been helpful in achieving the objective of universal non-proliferation.  All countries  which felt the need to acquire nuclear weapon capability, and had the requisite political will, have been able to acquire nuclear weapons. A reappraisal in this context is long overdue.

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Blasphemy issue needs a permanent solution

The good sense has prevailed, an imminent catastrophe has receded. In a written statement issued on August 30, Geert Wilders announced "not to let the cartoon contest go ahead.” The contest was to be held at the tightly guarded offices of his Party for Freedom in the Dutch parliament building. Meanwhile, the Netherlands government had been at pains to distance itself from the contest. Prime Minister Mark Rutte questioned Wilders' motive for organising the contest. Pakistan’s foreign minister congratulated the nation and Muslim Ummah on their moral victory and termed the cancellation of the contest a victory for Pakistan on the diplomatic front. Cancellation announcement came within days after Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a statement saying the act was hurting the sentiments of Muslims living all around the world. Condemning the blasphemous cartoon competition in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Imran Khan had blamed the recurrence of such incidents a collective failure of the Muslim world, saying he would take up the matter at the United Nations General Assembly’s upcoming session. After the publication of Salman Rushdi’s blasphemous book ‘Satanic Verses’, it has become very easy to malign Muslims in the West, the prime minister said. “And they have been successfully doing it.” If they [Western countries] feel pained discussing the Holocaust, why haven’t we been able to convey to the West how much we feel pained when they do blasphemous things against Islam and our beloved Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him)?” Pakistan’s foreign office is undertaking a hectic diplomatic campaign to avert the exhibition of profane cartoons in November. Hopefully the good sense would prevail. Time and again, Western Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment. While earlier such incidents in Netherlands were an act of non-state actors, this time parliamentary permission to hold the forthcoming exhibition inside parliament premises had made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious extremism. Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, according to him, sweeping the continent. Wilders also urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and urged his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also stands for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools. Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky and thoroughly mired in populist rhetoric, where both the government and the opposition are, more often than not, competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was defeated in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and claimed “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Close to end of his previous tenure as Prime Minster, Rutte thought that being tough on Turkey would fetch him more votes, therefore he “happily sparked a mini-international crisis for the sake of votes”. While during the electoral campaign, Rutte said stopping Wilders was about stopping the “wrong sort of populism”. Situation is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to articulate more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank. Pakistan had approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn had written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch Ambassador to Pakistan and the EU Ambassador, who represents 28 European countries, to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said. Pakistan’s new government had taken forth the process. During its first meeting, cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level. Pakistan lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands over an announcement of holding a competition of blasphemous caricatures. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August 13, and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam. “Pakistan’s ambassador in Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add. Foreign minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi also spoke to his Dutch counterpart. Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva were directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. Though the triggering issue is behind us, OIC should not lower its guards, it should firm up an action plan if any individual or government attempts such a misadventure in future. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering. Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to find a permanent solution to this recurring issue. Matter should be persistently raised at the relevant international fora until a sustainable way is found by the international community for preventing such abhorrent acts.

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