ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Body Blow to Nuclear Disarmament

The waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group has fed into a mood of nuclear triumphalism at home.

When the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) concluded its 27-hour long debate on granting India a special exemption from its nuclear trade rules on September 6, a frosty silence descended upon the conference room in Vienna where it was meeting. A European diplomat at the gathering told Reuters: “For the first time in my experience of international diplomatic negotiations, a consensus decision was followed by complete silence… No clapping, nothing…” This showed the extent to which many of the NSG’s 45 member-states “felt pressured” by the furious pro-waiver lobbying by the United States and India, which bludgeoned them into submission. Very few members were fully satisfied with the decision, and many entered reservations through “national statements”. Said another dismayed diplomat: “NPT RIP (rest in peace)!”

While it is premature to pronounce the demise of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is incontestable that the NSG’s decision delivers a devastating blow to the global disarmament order and great ly weakens t he nuclear export cont rol regime. For the first time, the world’s major powers have agreed to resume nuclear trade with a country that possesses nuclear weapons, but has neither signed the NPT nor acceded to any other nuclear restraint or disarmament agreement, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Despite its limitations and flaws, the nonproliferation order remains the sole legal basis on which to prevent t he spread of t hese weapons of mass destruction – itself a precondition for their eventual elimination worldwide. India has long paid lip service to the cause of complete nuclear weapons elimination, but has defied and treated with contempt the global non-proliferation and disarmament regime, without proposing an alternative. It is a disgrace that the NSG chose in effect to reward India’s defiance, and erased a part of the very rationale that brought itself into existence. This was India’s 1974 nuclear explosion, based on diverting to military uses imported nuclear material and equipment pledged for civilian purposes.

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