Understanding The Logic Behind The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

All men may be created equal but all countries aren’t. There are “haves” & “have nots”. There is a hierarchy of countries where the countries on the lower rungs are patronized by the superpowers as if the “smaller” countries are kids who cannot comprehend the immense damage their toys can have. This is the logic behind the treaty for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.

I understand that nuclear weapons are dangerous— they can kill us, not once but several times over. But if the larger powers cannot trust the Ayatollahs of Iran or the Kims of the North to use their nukes judiciously, how can the larger world trust a buffoon like Trump— who has the braggadocio of calling himself high-IQ— to not annihilate a nation for nothing majorly mad?

John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State, familiarised the world about a future of “nuclear plenty” in which

the pettiest & the most irresponsible dictator could get hold of weapons with which to threaten immense harm….

…. [We should] prevent the promiscuous spread of nuclear weapons throughout the world.

So, when in 1967, when the US, USSR, UK, France & China had already acquired the nukes, by making other non-nuclear countries also sign the treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons or the NPT, the larger powers essentially said the following:

You know what, no country should acquire nuclear weapons now. We have them & we’ll keep them. You, on the other hand, must sign these papers & relinquish your right to ever acquire nuclear weapons capability. Yeah, there’s some part in the treaty about nuclear disarmament but who are we kidding, right? You know that’s a joke. And dear India, we are well aware that a nuclear China to your North is a perpetual gun pointed at your head & the Chinese will help Pakistan buy another gun to double your worries. But we don’t care. You must sign the NPT.

With the Non-Proliferation Treaty, every signatory gave up their right to acquire nuclear weapons. On the other hand, the five countries that had nukes in 1967 could keep them. This treaty was extended indefinitely in 1995. It is so clearly discriminatory treaty that creates nuclear “haves” & “have nots”. India has rightly refused to sign it & be a part of what it calls “nuclear apartheid”. 

India conducted its first nuclear test in 1974. But it had to abandon its nuclear program for another two decades. In 1998, India declared itself a nuclear power. Until 1998, India was a strong proponent of nuclear non-proliferation & disarmament. The Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for nuclear disarmament showed immense faith in the power of diplomacy. But China already had nuclear weapons & the Indian intelligence had been warning us that China was helping Pakistan to acquire its own nuclear weapons. 

So, what do you think we should have done?

India never signed NPT because it firmly believes that it is a discriminatory regime. Being a non-signatory, other countries were barred from sharing nuclear technology with India even for peaceful purposes (because it can very easily be put to a destructive end).

But finally, the US has come to realize what was at stake for India. In 2008, India was granted “one-of-its-kind” waiver from Nuclear Supplier Group or NSG which takes care of the illegal transfer of nuclear material & technology. It wasn’t the US empathy or something but just pure self-interest. With that, India also accepted to have some of its nuclear facilities inspected by IAEA like the way other NPT signatories have to. India has gradually come to be seen as a legitimate nuclear power without signing the NPT. With its admission into NSG, India will be able to enjoy almost everything that an NPT signatory does.

And all that without signing the treaty.

Kadyalwar Sunil Abhinav

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