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Expert regrets stalemate at NSG on membership of non-NPT states

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By Hamid Khan Wazir

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: An expert on nuclear issues has regretted the continuing stalemate at the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on the issue of admitting states, which are not the signatories of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

President Strategic Vision Institute Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, while speaking at a webinar hosted by SVI, said, “The (membership) applications of India and Pakistan are lying dormant since there has been no contemporary discussion on the subject matter.”

Pakistan and India had applied for the membership of NSG in 2016. Since then there has been little progress on the matter.

The 30th Plenary Meeting of NSG held in Brussel from June 24 – 25, in its public statement said, “The Group noted that discussions continue on the requests for participation that had been submitted. The Group noted the discussions on the issue of Technical, Legal and Political Aspects of the Participation of non-NPT States in the NSG”.

Dr. Cheema elaborated the division at NSG where one side are the countries supporting the ‘merit-based policy’, which can also be called a ‘country specific’ approach favouring India, while on the other side were the countries that are calling for adoption of a ‘criteria-based approach’, according which there should be a fixed politico-legal criteria that any state aspiring for NSG membership should fulfill before being allowed to join.

He recalled that an attempt was made in December 2016 in the shape of ‘Grossi Formula’ that was too biased in favor India and hence could not go forward. Nothing significant has happened since then on the issue.

Amb. (R) Tariq Osman Hyder, speaking on this occasion, said that Pakistan government should have discussed the issue of NSG membership with the United States in its discussions on peace efforts for Afghanistan. He said that he was disappointed at not seeing this issue in the readouts on recent talks with the US.

He contended that success of Pakistan’s case at NSG would depend on how vigorously it is pursued within the NSG and with its members in a broader framework.

About NSG, the retired diplomat said, “unless equitably restructured, NSG would impede the peaceful civil nuclear, and social development of developing countries which was becoming increasingly the case now with all the four control regimes restricting dual-use technology vital for development including Artificial Intelligence.”

Dr. Rizwana Karim Abbasi, Head of the International Relations Department at National University of Modern Languages, said it is in NSG’s interest to have Pakistan in the group in view of the size of its program.

Pakistan, she suggested, should avoid any sort of desperation and shouldn’t either make any compromises that are not in its security interest.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) official Dr. Tariq Rauf opined that simply securing NSG membership, if it happens, would not mean that doors would open for Pakistan to access nuclear materials and technology.

He said nuclear suppliers only agree on the guidelines and each of the participating governments, while taking any decision on export rely on its own national export regulations. “Each country is sovereign in its own right to use any criteria, political or otherwise, to grant or to deny exports to a recipient country, even if it is a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group,” Dr Rauf maintained.

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