Strategic Studies Institute Islamabad (SSII) organized a conference on “Nuclear Arms Control: Challenges and Prospects”. In his comments Tariq Rauf, former head of Verification and Security Policy at the IAEA, touched upon the deteriorating state of international security and the steady erosion of the multilateral nuclear arms control architecture, the INF Treaty; the impending demise of the JCPOA which puts limitations on Iran’s nuclear programme; the challenges facing the nuclear test ban treaty, the inherent structural problems of nuclear export controls, and the dangers and risks to strategic stability from advanced new technologies of hypersonic weapons delivery vehicles.
He argued that the existing nuclear arms control mechanisms, such as the Conference on Disarmament and the NPT review process are stalemated because of irreconcilable differences, lack of vision, leadership and political will. As a result, by and large, diplomats no longer have the experience and skills to negotiate arms control measures in real time, there is a noticeable loss of civility in diplomatic discourse, and the international system based on the precepts of the UN Charter and a rules based multilateral order is eroding given thuggish behaviour by a major power and the powerlessness of other States.
During discussions on the achievements and shortcomings of the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the speakers agreed that although the CD was successful in bringing forward certain major instruments of arms control architecture, some treaties such as the NPT are inherently flawed and discriminatory. It was highlighted during the conference that states should adhere to certain principles that will be useful towards the attainment of arms control and disarmament.
The participants agreed that the most important requisite for a sustainable arms control architecture is that the states must retain the concept of strategic stability i.e.; security interests of each state must be considered. The speakers argued that new weapon technologies including cyber and artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons and space-based weapons are significantly threatening the current arms control architecture. Conference participants cautioned against major powers fuelling a regional arms race in the South Asian region.
It was highlighted that on the issue of fissile material, Pakistan favours a Fissile Material Treaty (FMT) over the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) which could leave Pakistan at a permanently disadvantageous position in terms of fissile material stockpiles. Usman Jadoon, Counsellor Permanent Mission of Pakistan to the CD, informed the audience that it is a misconception that only one country and one issue are blocking the CD. He argued that all the matters being discussed in the CD are deadlocked as the body operates on a consensus-based approach.
Ambassador Zamir Akram contended that the principle of equal and undiminished security of all states is being recognised in the CD and all the decisions in the forum should ensure national security of all states.
In her concluding remarks, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Human Rights, Dr Shireen Mazari suggested that a protocol should be added to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), which recognises Pakistan and India as nuclear weapon states. She also argued that Pakistan’s approach to nuclear arms control and disarmament has to be based on directly linking it to conventional forces reduction vis-a-vis India. On the issue of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership, Dr Mazari said that Pakistan should adopt proactive diplomacy and expose India’s proliferation record. The Federal Minister highlighted that Pakistan developed its tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) to ensure the credibility of its nuclear deterrence. While talking about the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), she suggested a regional approach viz-a-viz this issue and proposed the creation of a regional CTBT with P5 states joining it as guarantors. She also suggested multinational civil nuclear power plants and IAEA supervised fuel banks to further help diplomatic efforts towards peace and cooperation in the region. She concluded by saying that there should be a permanent strategic dialogue structure between Pakistan and India.