waiver means India has arrived as a power (Comment) (Lead)
By K. Subrahmanyam
India had always strongly supported the nuclear nonproliferation
regime. In 1965, India with Ireland and other nations sponsored
Resolution 2025 which laid down the balance of obligations
between the five nuclear weapon powers and the rest of the
international community. The nuclear weapon powers were to
enter into negotiations in good faith to stop the arms race
and reduce their nuclear arsenals.
The non-nuclear powers were to undertake not to proliferate
nuclear weapons. However, as the three nuclear weapon powers
started their negotiations and India participated in them
it was obvious that the three powers - US, USSR and UK - were
not abiding by the obligations of Resolution 2025. While they
piled the obligations on the non-nuclear nations, they kept
their own options open for an arms race.
Under those circumstances India refused to join the Non-proliferation
Treaty (NPT). Further China, though a weapon state under the
NPT, refused to join the treaty at that stage. A Maoist China
declared in those days all peace-loving nations had a right
to have nuclear weapons. Given the developing close relations
among China, US and Pakistan and the intimidatory USS Enterprise
mission sent by US during the last days of the Bangladesh
war, India decided to develop its nuclear explosive capability.
The result was the Pokhran nuclear test of 1974.
The nuclear weapon nations and their allies reacted swiftly
to the Indian nuclear test. US, USSR, UK, France, Germany,
Canada and Japan formed the London Suppliers' Group to ban
export of all nuclear technology, equipment and materials
related to the plutonium route to nuclear capability. A list
was prepared, called the Zangger list, which itemised all
things to be banned. It did not include at that time uranium
enrichment technology since it was felt that it was too sophisticated
for developing countries.
This omission was made use of by Pakistani scientist A.Q.
Khan and he obtained all his technology, materials and equipment
from Western European countries. The bomb making technology,
design, the trigger material and basic stock of enriched uranium
he was able to obtain from China which was then not a member
of the NPT.
Though India was aware of the China-Pakistan proliferation
axis and US looking away from Pakistani proliferation because
of its reliance on Pakistan for its support to the Mujahideen
in the Afghan war, India was reluctant to initiate weaponisation
in most of eighties. Within this time there was another proliferation
involving South Africa, Germany and Israel which led to the
South African white minority regime acquiring nuclear weapons.
It was after his plea for global nuclear disarmament was totally
ignored by the international community in the UN Special Session
on Disarmament that Rajiv Gandhi decided to weaponise in March
1989. Pakistan had completed its weapon assembly in 1987.
In 1992, both France and China joined the NPT to have an effective
say in the NPT review conference of 1995. The conference,
by extending the treaty indefinitely and unconditionally,
legitimised the nuclear weapons in the hands of five nuclear
weapon powers. Having secured the legitimisation of the nuclear
weapons the five nuclear weapon powers promoted the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) to prevent any new nation becoming
Meanwhile, the South African white minority regime gave up
its nuclear arsenal since the whites did not want the black
majority to have nuclear weapons. Then Indian prime minister
P.V. Narasimha Rao at that stage attempted to conduct a nuclear
test but was thwarted as the US satellites discovered the
preparations. India refused to sign the CTBT and declared
that nuclear testing involved its national security. Pakistan
By the 90s the original London Suppliers' Group swelled to
above 40 and became the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). But
its vigilance and technology denial could not stop Pakistani
or Chinese proliferation. Again the US adopted a permissive
attitude towards Chinese proliferation to Pakistan, mostly
because the US administration did not want to jeopardise growing
trade relations with China. But the NSG 's technology denial
hampered India's access to various dual use technologies.
It came in the way of India growing even faster.
India conducted its nuclear tests provoked by Pakistan's
Ghauri missile test. Pakistan followed suit. Both countries
were immediately put under sanctions in 1998.
By 1999 the world had all countries other than Israel, India
and Pakistan in the NPT. North Korea, a signatory of the NPT,
withdrew from it and conducted a nuclear test, and is now
negotiating its way back into the NPT. China was admitted
into the NSG in 2004 because it is a weapon state of the NPT
and has a large civil nuclear programme. It was considered
better to have China as a stakeholder in the non-proliferation
regime in spite of its past proliferation to Pakistan.
In 2005, the US first took the initiative to help in India's
efforts to become a major power. This was because of India's
high growth rate, its nuclear and missile capabilities, its
trillion dollar economy, its IT prowess and its off-source
contributions to global economy. There was world wide recognition
of India as one of the six global balancers of power. Though
India was an emergent power, it was not seen as a threatening
power by the international system. Not only the US but France,
Russia and the UK came to the conclusion that India should
be incorporated in the international nuclear non-proliferation
regime, especially in view of the fact that in spite of technology
denial by the NSG countries, India on its own had developed
into a country with advanced nuclear technology, with reactors
of its own design, fast breeder reactors and is attempting
to develop uranium-233 from thorium.
India had already been admitted into the international Thermonuclear
Energy Research Project. India has very large energy demand
and is planning to use nuclear energy to meet part of that
demand. Above all, the major powers, the sponsors of the NPT
and the founders of the NSG came to appreciate India's impeccable
record in respect of non-proliferation; the Indian policy
of no-first-use; India's restrained pace in building up its
arsenal and its voluntary moratorium on testing also attracted
favourable attention of the major powers.
That is why one saw the entire G-8 countries coming out in
favour of India getting the NSG waiver and access to international
In today's balance of power world, India's fast growth is
welcomed by the US, EU, Russia and Japan as a balancer to
China's growth and dominance in Asia. Perhaps that was one
of the reasons China was not quite happy about India getting
the waiver. On the other hand there is a view that the fast
growth of countries like India, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa,
South Korea and Indonesia will diminish the share of US GDP
in global GDP and reduce its dominance.
By giving waiver to India and making India a part of the international
non-proliferation regime, the regime now covers the whole
world barring Israel and Pakistan. Israel has no interest
in civil nuclear commerce. Pakistan unfortunately has a record
as a proliferator and even now is refusing to allow access
for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to A.Q.
Khan, the notorious proliferator.
Pakistan may have to prove its non-proliferation credentials
over a period of time before it can become eligible for NSG
waiver. It was very befitting that the sponsors of the NPT
and the founders of the NSG moved for waiver for India. It
is not a case of India becoming a major power as a result
of this development. This development was an acknowledgement
of India having arrived as a power. Today, India is the sole
nuclear weapon power that is not a signatory to the NPT and
yet given a waiver by the NSG. An international regime has
been modified to accommodate India.
(K. Subrahmanyam is India's pre-eminent analyst on strategic
and international affairs. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Indo-Asian News Service