06/07/2012 - 03:45

Universality for the NPT’s objectives and principles

Naeem Ahmad Salik notes that participants in this spirited debate have largely maintained the positions that they espoused when the discussion began. Salik did not deviate from that pattern in his final essay and neither will I. Instead, I will offer a few new observations to buttress my earlier arguments and challenge those of my colleagues.

Sunday Jonah in his first Roundtable essay suggested that the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) be expanded so that the agency is empowered to evaluate nuclear security arrangements in nations that are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Jonah and Salik have debated this point extensively, and Salik has correctly noted that expanding the agency’s mandate would require amending the treaty, which is no small matter. But it is my view in any case that nuclear security issues within each state are properly state responsibilities. To my mind, the greatest risks associated with nuclear security emanate not from parties to the treaty -- the IAEA knows a great deal about these countries’ nuclear facilities and materials -- but rather from outlier states, about which the international community knows relatively little.

Just as Salik and Jonah have disagreed on expansion of the IAEA’s authority, Salik and I have disagreed about how to bring India, Pakistan, and Israel into the nonproliferation regime. I have argued that these countries should, as called for in the 2010 NPT Review Conference, join the treaty as non-nuclear weapon states. (By the way, to forestall any possible misunderstanding of the introduction to Jonah’s second essay, I have never argued that these countries should be allowed to join as nuclear weapon states.) Salik, meanwhile, has advocated that they should be allowed to join as nuclear weapon states. In his third essay, Salik argues that these treaty outliers cannot be accused of violating the NPT’s stipulations or spirit, precisely because they have never joined the treaty. But it is my belief that the principles and objectives expressed in the NPT should be seen as applying to all states, even those that are not parties to it -- just as the UN Charter stipulates that all states, not only UN members, are expected to act in accordance with certain principles governing international relations.

Salik also mentions that Egypt acceded to the NPT even though Israel's nuclear weapons program predated the establishment of the treaty. This is true, but it should be pointed out that, at the time of Egypt’s accession in 1981, Egypt and Israel had already concluded a peace agreement foreswearing the use of force or the threat of force against one another. It should also be noted that when Egypt agreed to the treaty's indefinite extension in 1995, it did so only after winning the adoption of a resolution on the Middle East, which, among other things, called for the establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region and called on all states in the region to accede to the treaty. The bottom line, however, is that Egypt deserves praise rather than criticism for fully participating in the global nonproliferation regime.

Earlier in the Roundtable, Salik alluded to the Obama administration’s intention to facilitate membership for India in global export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG); and to the fact that India has received a waiver from the NSG allowing it to participate in nuclear trade despite its not being a party to the treaty. Salik argued that these developments, along with a number of countries’ eagerness to engage in nuclear business with India, have created an atmosphere of exceptionalism that neither encourages NPT outliers to join the regime nor promotes the treaty’s equitable implementation. I entirely concur.

I would add an important point, however. Not only does a country such as Australia arguably violate its obligations under the Treaty of Raratonga by engaging in nuclear trade with India, as Salik points out. It is also the case, from my perspective, that Articles I, II, and III of the NPT, along with the treaty’s preamble, prohibit nuclear trade with India, as these sections of the treaty are intended in part to ensure that nuclear weapons capability is not transferred, either directly or indirectly, to countries not recognized as nuclear weapon states under the treaty. Preventing nuclear proliferation requires, among other things, discipline from nations that supply nuclear material and technology.