On the 13th June 2017, over 170 delegates gathered in the Serena Hotel, Islamabad for a conference organised by the East West Stability Studies Organisation, Pakistan House and Anquan. The conference theme was the ‘Nuclear Supplier Group: Challenges and Opportunities’ and the aim was to consider India and Pakistan’s aspirations to join this organisation. The seminar had two main areas of focus: 1. The need for a balanced approach regarding membership application (which is regarded by Pakistan as unbalanced in favour of India’s application) and how this might be a catalyst for stability and engagement between the two countries 2. To bridge the information gap at the international level regarding Pakistan’s recent history of compliance and application of international standards on non-proliferation.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Dr. Rana Athar Javad, head of the East West Stabilities Studies and Pakistan House think tanks. Keynote speakers for the event were Ambassador (Ret’d) Zamir Akram, Mr. Khalid Banuri (Former DG Arms Control & Disarmament Affairs), Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema (Executive Director – Strategic Vision Institute) and Mr. Khalil-ur-Rehman Hashmi (DG Arms Control and Disarmament – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad). Additional material was contributed by James Browning (Founder – Anquan Group) and William Burton (Consultant – Anquan Group). There were two sessions with James Browning chairing the first session entitled ‘The NSG’s Relationship with the NPT and the Question of Future Membership’ and the second session was chaired by Ambassador Ali Sarwar Naqvi (Executive Director of CISS) with the subject of ‘The NSG’s response to an Evolving Global Nuclear Trade Regime.’
One of the overriding themes running through the speeches and question and answer sessions that followed was the increasing politicisation of the NSG, especially when considering new members. Mr Hashmi explored this in some detail and, along with other speakers, stated that it is this political manoeuvring that is not only creating issues within the NSG, it is also jeopardising Pakistan’s efforts to be seen in a positive light during this process. While they acknowledged the need to balance geopolitical ambitions with economic priorities, the speakers rightly pointed out that this should not be at the expense of other states wishing to join. As such, a discriminatory environment exists that precludes Pakistan from being giving the fair judgement that they believe it deserves. If the NSG membership process were to be based on technical and safety criteria, which, in their opinion, was the original conception of the NSG, then Pakistan would qualify for membership, perhaps even ahead of India. As well as this, the need to assess both nations in an equitable and nondiscriminatory way is absolutely paramount for continuing stability within the region. Ambassor Naqvi’s discussion of Pakistan’s need to access to civilian nuclear technologies to alleviate its power demand led to the conclusion that this will only be possible on the scale required through the NSG. As a result, membership of the NSG is critical and should be considered in light of the concrete efforts by Pakistan, with the help of the IAEA, to monitor their civilian nuclear industry. A core theme of the presentations was that the question of nuclear weapons must be seen in the context of Pakistan’s security concerns when faced with Indian conventional force superiority and a developing nuclear weapons programme. The speakers (Mr. Banuri in particular) felt that given the length of time since India and Pakistan’s application, the NSG’s hesitancy to explore a realistic set of criteria for nonNPT states to operate under and their failure to prioritise these discussions, the question of India and Pakistan’s non-NPT status was being used for the purposes of stalling and should be waived.
The seminar and the high level discussions that took place were intended to start an ongoing dialogue on the subject of NSG membership and South Asian stability. Here, we will consider some additional arguments and information that were covered during the post-seminar discussions, along with a more detailed exploration of the seminar themes, presenting additional factors that are important to the NSG membership discussion.