NPT and the Challenge of Nuclear Disarmament

A Critique of UNSC Resolution S/RES/1887 (2009): Part 1

It is noteworthy that the U.S. Draft Resolution, which was placed before the UN Security Council on 11.09.2009 (and which the UNSC unanimously adopted on 24.09.2009), was titled “Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Disarmament.” This is because the phrase “nuclear disarmament” – for all practical purposes – had disappeared from the vocabulary of the U.S. Administration for over 46 years until President Barack Obama assumed office. The last occasion when the issue of “nuclear disarmament” had attracted serious attention of the U.S. Administration was during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Three events – the McCloy-Zorin Accord of 20.09.1961,1 President Kennedy’s “Freedom From War” speech2 before the UN General Assembly on 25.09.1961, and the setting up of the “Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA)”3 on 26.09.1961 – signified the deep concern that the Kennedy Administration had begun expressing in this regard. After the dastardly assassination of President Kennedy on 22 November 1963, ACDA at least had a token presence under successive U.S. administrations until President Clinton effectively wound it up towards the end of his term. In fact, as early as 1973, the neoconservatives had started targeting ACDA. According to a report:

Richard Perle, a senior staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and an aide to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson…, use[d] his position to help fellow neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz gain a position with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). Neoconservatives such as Perle and Wolfowitz do not believe in either arms control or disarmament.

Moreover, another report published in 1981 shows that:

After 20 years, the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) remains an object of controversy. The “right” is suspicious of arms control and arms controllers, and a Regan transition team considered abolishing the Agency.” (The House passed an authorisation bill last summer that sought to shorten the Agency’s title to the Arms Control Agency.4

Not only was the issue of “disarmament” effectively discarded as one of the goals when administrative tasks were reorganised by the Clinton Administration in 19995 but also even the issue of “arms control” got completely sidelined during the period when the arch neoconservative John Bolton6 remained Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (2001-2005). Under the circumstances, President Obama’s attempt to re-focus attention on “nuclear disarmament” is a very welcome step.

However, the concepts “nuclear non-proliferation” (since in its present form it only sought to freeze the number of “recognised” nuclear weapon states) and “nuclear disarmament” (i.e., the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide) are contradiction in terms. This is because the concept of “nuclear non-proliferation” (which only opposed “horizontal” but not “vertical” proliferation) by definition not only sanctified possession but also permitted unlimited expansion of nuclear weapon stockpile by the five permanent members (P-5) of the UNSC,7 whereas the concept of “nuclear disarmament” seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons from all nations without exception. This inherent contradiction in the Resolution that the UNSC adopted on 24.09.2009 exemplifies the dilemma, which the Obama Administration is currently facing. While there is no reason to doubt President Barack Obama’s professed commitment to the goal of global nuclear disarmament,8 overcoming the numerous hurdles created by successive U.S. administrations for the preceding 46 years against the proposal (i.e. since the abrupt removal of President Kennedy from the scene) is the major problem in this regard. A detailed examination of the Resolution would lay bare its hollowness. If the Obama Administration is at all serious about the professed goal of global nuclear disarmament, its first task should be to seek a thorough revision of the present Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to bring it in consonance with the goal of nuclear disarmament.

The very first para of the preamble to the Resolution begins with the declaration that the Security Council was: “Resolving to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons… based on the principle of undiminished security for all.” This laudable commitment is what the entire world has been looking forward from members of the United Nations for the last sixty-four years. However, there is a catch in this professed commitment. This is because this fervent hope that is expressed in the opening para is negated by the qualifying phrase in its midst, which unequivocally states that the attempt to create a nuclear weapon free world would be “in accordance with the goals of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).” On the face of it, while it appears to be a well-intended statement, it would be impossible to achieve the objective of the Resolution through the NPT because of the questionable character of the NPT and the manner in which it has been in operation since 1970. The submission here is that the NPT, which is an overtly discriminatory treaty, was designed entirely to serve the interests of the P-5 Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) of the UNSC – the only states that were known to possess nuclear weapons prior to 1968. A closer examination of the way in which the NPT has been operating since 1970 would reveal that the P-5 NWS have been using the various provisions of the NPT as a means for subverting all progress towards the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons. [Among the P-5 NWS, China is the only nation to undertake a unilateral No-First-Use pledge against NWS and as well as a commitment not to use nuclear weapons against Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS)]. Thus, the fundamental issue is, how could the NPT, which has been the single biggest hurdle in the way of nuclear disarmament for the last forty years,9 suddenly become the means for achieving global nuclear disarmament without being drastically amended?

It may appear that the harsh criticisms being raised against the NPT, which is backed by 189 of the 193 UN member-nations, are rather outlandish and unwarranted. However, that is certainly not the case. That there is ample basis for raising such charges would be evident from a closer examination of the main articles of the NPT and the manner in which the P-5 signatories to the NPT have violated the same. The preamble to the NPT does highlight the danger of nuclear war and about the “need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples”. Since “the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war”, it further states that the task of “prevention of wider dissemination of nuclear weapons” is of utmost importance. Articles – I & II of the NPT, which were formulated with these objectives, state as follows:

[I] “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; and not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, or control over such weapons or explosive devices.”
[II] “Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or of control over such weapons or explosive devices directly, or indirectly; not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive any assistance in the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

Violation of Articles – I & II

The P-5 NWS have had no compunctions in violating Articles – I of the NPT with impunity. For example, contrary to the undertaking that “Each nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons…”, USA had continued to deploy nuclear weapons abroad and had deployed about 12,000 nuclear weapons in 23 NPT member-states until 1977, i.e., even nine years after signing the NPT. The status in this regard in 2006 was as follows: “The United States possesses some 1,100 tactical nuclear warheads, of which approximately 480 are nuclear gravity bombs stored in six European countries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom).” According to latest available information, in 2008, U.S. withdrew its nuclear weapons that it had stationed in the UK since 1954. However, the other five NATO allies, which are non-nuclear weapon NPT-member states as well, continue to allow the U.S. to deploy nuclear weapons on their soil.10 Granting permission for such deployments constitute patent violation of the letter and spirit of Article – II of the NPT, which states that, “Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to Treaty undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transfer or whatsoever of nuclear weapons…”

Therefore, not only are the U.S. and the said NATO allies guilty of “dissemination of nuclear weapons” but they are also guilty of acting in a reckless manner that “enhance the danger of nuclear war”. However, such utter disregard for the NPT by the very signatories to the NPT is quietly overlooked.

The P-5 NWS have also deployed thousands of nuclear weapons on submarines (and on ships until 1991) that patrol the oceans and seas across the world, which amount to spreading their nuclear tentacles worldwide. While USA and USSR/Russia are the biggest culprits in this regard, the other three NWS do not appear to be entirely free of guilt on this count either. In short, the P-5 NWS have made a complete mockery of Article – I of the NPT by brazenly deploying nuclear weapons outside their respective mainland and, thereby, increasing the possibility of outbreak of nuclear war through accident, miscalculation, or deliberate use.

It would be pertinent to mention that the United States from 1958 onward had deployed nuclear bombs regularly on bombers, which remained continuously airborne in national/international airspace on rotation basis – a highly dangerous practice, which had to be discontinued in 1968 due to increasing number of accidents. [This category of accidents involving nuclear weapons is called “Broken Arrows.”] According to a report: “Until then, the Air Force kept about 12 strategic bombers in the air at all times, with each one usually carrying two to four nuclear gravity bombs.” In view of the fact that the destructive power of many of these nuclear bombs on these strategic bombers was in the multi-megaton TNT range, the unwarranted risk to which humanity was recklessly exposed was just staggering!

Another disturbing aspect is the extension of the huge nuclear infrastructure of the P-5 NWS into the territories of the NNWS. Nuclear weapons are only one part of the nuclear infrastructure; an equally important part is the communication network. A study that was carried out as early as 1985 had pointed out that:

“Command, control, communication and intelligence (C3I) systems – the nervous system of the nuclear arsenals – are what gives the superpowers the confidence that they can fight and win a nuclear war.”

According to the said study: “…65 nations and territories house facilities of the nuclear infrastructure: the United States has nuclear related facilities in 40 foreign countries and territories, the Soviet Union in 11, Britain in 12 and France in 9.”11

China is the only P-5 NWS that has not set up such facilities on foreign territories so far. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the situation had marginally changed for the better. However, the fact remains that all the NWS, which have set up foreign nuclear infrastructural facilities, are guilty of violating Article – I of the NPT by exercising “control over” nuclear weapons by “transferring” nuclear infrastructure to “recipient” NNWS. Similarly, the NNWS that continue to host such vital facilities on their territories are guilty of violating Article – II of the NPT by “directly or indirectly” helping NWS to exercise “control over” nuclear weapons, which are deployed outside the territories of the NWS.

The discriminatory nature of the NPT also comes out starkly in Article – II of the NPT, which extracts an undertaking from the NNWS “not to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” while the P-5 NWS are exempted from giving any such undertaking. The consequence of such wholly unjustified exemption to the P-5 NWS has proved to be very costly for humanity at large. Why was it that the stipulation “not to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons”, which was applicable to the NNWS not made applicable to the P-5 NWS as well? What were the insurmountable hurdles in the way of making that provision non-discriminatory? Therefore, it is abundantly clear that in the NPT all responsibilities and obligations were on the NNWS while the P-5 NWS could not only continue to test, produce, and stockpile nuclear weapons but also assert the right to threaten and, as well as, use such weapons on NNWS when it suits them!

In other words, while horizontal proliferation (i.e., testing & acquisition of nuclear weapons) by the NNWS was prohibited under the NPT, there was no prohibition on vertical proliferation (i.e., testing, production, & stockpiling of nuclear weapons) by the P-5 NWS. As a result, between 1968 and 1995, the P-5 NWS had carried out no less than 1185 nuclear weapon tests as opposed to 858 tests that the P-5 NWS had carried out between 1945 and 1967, i.e., before signing the NPT.12

That the NPT had clearly failed to restrain the aggressive policies of the NWS is evident from the fact that while the entire stockpile of nuclear weapons (both strategic & as well as tactical ones) in 1968 had totalled 38,974, by 1986 the figure had shot up to 70,481.13 As far as the strategic component alone was concerned, the U.S. stockpile, which was 4,839 in 1968, reached a high of 13,002 warheads in 1987, while the Soviet Union’s figure was 1,605 in 1968 and 11,320 in 1989 respectively.14 The total destructive power of this huge nuclear arsenal was about 22,000 megatons of TNT, which was roughly equivalent to over 1,470,000 Hiroshima-type atom bombs. The mind-boggling devastation this huge arsenal could have unleashed may well be imagined! Thus, after 20 years of the NPT, the world had become a far more dangerous place to live in – all thanks to the framers of the NPT, who were intent on pandering to the whims and fancies of the P-5 NWS and their allies. Can these facts be denied? For whose benefit was unbridled vertical proliferation permitted?15 Why did the NNWS remain a mute spectator to this mindless nuclear arms race?

This perilous situation was a testimony to the fact that while formulating Articles – I & II of the NPT, no attempt was made to ensure that the signatories to the NPT would abide by the stipulation that was set out in Clause 2(a) of the UNGA Resolution 2028 (XX) of 19.10.1965. The said stipulation was that: “The treaty should be void of any loop-holes which might permit nuclear or non-nuclear Powers to proliferate, directly or indirectly, nuclear weapons in any form.”
As is evident, Articles – I & II of the NPT had left enough loopholes to help the P-5 NWS to indulge in unbridled proliferation. Not only did the P-5 NWS recklessly increase the stockpile of nuclear weapons but also they thoughtlessly deployed nuclear weapons on numerous bases across the world (stationary ones within territories of allies and mobile ones on submarines). Thereby, the stipulation made in clause 2(a) of the said UNGA Resolution 2028 (XX) was rendered completely meaningless.

Discriminatory Nature of the NPT

The thoroughly discriminatory nature of the NPT again comes out clearly in Article III of the NPT, which essentially states as follows:
1. Each non-nuclear-weapon State Party to the Treaty undertakes to accept safeguards, as set forth in an agreement:

to be negotiated and concluded with the International Atomic Energy Agency in accordance with the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Agency’s safeguards system, for the exclusive purpose of verification of the fulfilment of its obligations assumed under this Treaty with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices….”

As per Article III of the NPT, nuclear facilities of only the NPT-member NNWS were to be placed under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s safeguards system. This was for the exclusive purpose of verifying whether the said NNWS were fulfilling their obligations, which they had assumed under the NPT, i.e., to use nuclear technology only for peaceful purposes and not divert the same for building weapons of mass destruction. While all the nuclear facilities of the said NNWS were to be covered by IAEA’s “Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement”, the P-5 NWS were “not obliged to conclude safeguards agreements”! After making this revelation, the IAEA grudgingly went on to state that: “…the nuclear weapon States have agreed that IAEA safeguards may be applied to all or part of their civil nuclear activities.” This implies that the military nuclear facilities of the P-5 NWS are wholly exempt from the voluntary safeguards agreement, which amounts to a clear case of discrimination towards the NNWS. Therefore, by definition, the present NPT does not embody an acceptable balance of mutual responsibilities and obligations of the nuclear weapon powers and non-nuclear weapon states as originally envisaged in Clause 2(b) of the UNGA Resolution 2028 (XX) dated 19.10.1965. The said stipulation was that: “The treaty should embody an acceptable balance of mutual responsibilities and obligations of the nuclear and non-nuclear Powers.” As is apparent, Article – III of the NPT sets out conditions and obligations, which are strict and inflexible for the NNWS. On the other hand, as is shown below, the conditions and obligations set out for the P-5 NWS under Article – VI of the NPT were lax and very flexible.

It would appear that Article – VI of the treaty had fulfilled the principle stipulated in Clause 2(c) of the UNGA Resolution 2028 (XX), which was that: “The treaty should be a step towards the achievement of general and complete disarmament and, more particularly, nuclear disarmament”. On the contrary, the wording of Article – VI betrays its intent and purpose. It says that: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” As is apparent, it is a completely vague statement because the issue of nuclear disarmament in the first place should have been addressed solely to the P-5 NWS and not to “Each of the Parties to the Treaty.” This is because other than the P-5 NWS no other nation across the world was known to possess nuclear weapons at the time of signing the NPT in 1968.

Instead of placing the onus of nuclear disarmament squarely on the NWS, there was an attempt to obfuscate the issue by making it appear that the NNWS also had an equal role in nuclear disarmament. While NNWS could at best give an undertaking not to acquire nuclear weapons and place all their nuclear facilities, if any, under strict IAEA safeguards, how could they be disarmed of weapons that they did not possess in the first place? What could the NNWS possibly do other than to urge the NWS to end the nuclear arms race and to begin the process of nuclear disarmament? It is impossible to carry out clandestine nuclear weapons programme anywhere on Earth without the knowledge of one or the other P-5 NWS or the governments of the NNWS in whose territory such activity could possibly take place. This is because, the level of scientific & technical know-how, the number of skilled personnel, and the size of infrastructure required for the purpose are significantly high. Considering the advanced level of detection and monitoring mechanisms that were available even at the time of signing the NPT, any possibility of some disgruntled group or organisation carrying out wholly clandestine nuclear weapon programme could have been completely ruled out. [However, the likelihood of some anti-social elements stealing fissile material is considerably high since the huge amount of fissile material, which is currently stockpiled, may not have been secured in the best possible way. Therefore, the real danger is the high probability of fissile material being stolen and used as a radiation weapon than as an explosive devise. Under the circumstances, it is of utmost importance to keep a proper inventory of all available fissile material and to ensure that the same is absolutely secure. The possibility of anyone stealing nuclear weapons and using it can also be ruled out because such weapons cannot be used without appropriate delivery systems and accurate knowledge of the trigger mechanisms; only those connected with the nuclear establishment and posses the necessary wherewithal would be capable of using them.]

Article – VI also did not specify any time-frame within which to end the nuclear arms race or even for initiating the process of nuclear disarmament. Moreover, what do the phrases “negotiations in good faith” and “at an early date” supposed to mean? In fact, they are merely inbuilt “escape clauses” to assist the NWS to eschew their obligation to begin negotiations to end the nuclear arms race and eliminate the stockpile of nuclear weapons. Is it not an appalling situation that even 42 years after the signing of the NPT in 1968, the nuclear weapon powers have not been able to find an “early date” for beginning the process of nuclear disarmament?

The worthwhile role that the NNWS could have actively played was by interacting with the NWS to help formulate the necessary policies for advancing the cause of nuclear disarmament and peace. But was it lack of initiative on the part of the NNWS, which failed to curb the nuclear arms race and which was responsible for holding back the process of nuclear disarmament? One of the principles on which the NPT was to be based, as per Clause 2(d) of the UNGA Resolution 2028 (XX), was that: “There should be acceptable and workable provisions to ensure the effectiveness of the treaty”. [See: fn.26] What are the workable provisions in Article – VI that would have made it effective? There was none at all! The reasons are simple: Article – VI was not designed to have either workable or effective provisions. Whereas, the effectiveness of Article – III, as far as the NNWS were concerned, is hardly in doubt since its workable provisions, which the IAEA implements, were very tough and stringent. [Twenty-seven years after the signing of the NPT, an attempt was made to rectify this lacuna when the 1995 NPT Review Conference found it necessary to adopt a “Programme of Action” for implementing Article – VI of the NPT!]

By 1995, all states that would have possibly signed the NPT had already signed it and, thereby, the U.S. and its allies had achieved their goal. Therefore, at the 1995 NPT Review Conference, they were quite happy to extend the NPT indefinitely, whereby the NNWS would be under IAEA surveillance ad infinitum, and the interests of the P-5 NWS would be left unscathed. What did extending the NPT indefinitely mean? It meant that this retrograde step would not only legitimize the possession and the self-proclaimed right of use of nuclear weapons by the P-5 NWS against NNWS in perpetuity but also would by implication postpone for ever even the possibility of beginning negotiations for cessation of the nuclear arms race and elimination of nuclear weapons. The issue of nuclear disarmament, thus, was sought to be reduced to a mere pipedream! It had become evident that the U.S. and its allies have had no interest or intention of implementing Article – VI of the NPT at any stage.

Why couldn’t the NWS give an unequivocal commitment to cease the nuclear arms race forthwith – by agreeing to freeze all nuclear weapon programmes – pending initiation of the process of nuclear disarmament at the time of signing the NPT? Why was it not expedient to pursue negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament immediately after the NPT entered into force? Was it the NNWS, which were hindering the process of nuclear disarmament? Were prolonged negotiations really necessary for the NWS even to express a commitment to cease the nuclear arms race? Therefore, there is absolutely no doubt that Article – VI of the NPT was merely the carrot at the end of the long stick to lead the peace movement up the garden path! The complete failure during the last four decades or more to get a firm commitment from the NWS to end the nuclear arms race and begin the process of abolition of nuclear weapons is a testimony to that fact.

Why was an explicit provision not included in the NPT to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons by the NWS especially against NNWS? Who stood to gain from the absence of such a provision – the nuclear weapon states or the non-nuclear weapon states? This was yet another deliberate loophole in the treaty in favour of the NWS. When the NNWS insisted on security assurances from the NWS, they were again hoodwinked into believing that Resolution 255 that was adopted by the UNSC on 19.06.1968 would provide such security to the NNWS. The fact was that the security that the said Resolution 255 was supposed to guarantee to the NNWS was a complete sham. It was not worth the scrap of paper it was written on and those who proposed that Resolution knew that very well! Believe it or not, it was called “positive” security assurance to NNWS, i.e., after a NNWS becomes “a victim of an act…in which nuclear weapons are used”, the Security Council promises to step in and take measures to maintain international security! Could there have been a more absurd proposition to assuage the fears of the NNWS (that the Security Council will step in to provide security to a NNWS after the latter becomes a victim of a nuclear attack)? No wonder that even the proponents of the NPT try their best to avoid referring to that preposterous UNSC Resolution 255 of 1968 any more! (China was not one of the parties that supported Resolution 255, because China’s place on the UNSC was occupied by Taiwan until 25.10.1971.)

Introduction of “Principles & Objectives”

After the U.S. and its allies came out in their true colours, the other supporters of the NPT consisting of the majority of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) members, members of the New Agenda Coalition (NAC), and various NGOs, who had repeatedly quoted Article – VI to propagate the virtues of the NPT, found themselves in a quandary. Contrary to their euphoric expectations, while horizontal proliferation – in terms of the number of NWS – had been kept more or less in check from 1970 onwards, the NPT in its present form by no stretch of imagination had advanced the cause of nuclear disarmament, let alone that of general and complete disarmament. The only way members of NAM, etc., could redeem their credibility was by trying to infuse some life into the lifeless Article – VI. As a face-saving exercise at the 1995 NPT Review Conference, they managed to push through on 12.05.1995 a decision called “Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament”, which was annexed as Annexure – II to the conference report.

One of the significant points to be noted is in Section 3 of the said “Principles and Objectives…,” which is sub-titled “Nuclear Disarmament”. It states as follows:

….The undertakings with regard to nuclear disarmament as set out in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons should thus be fulfilled with determination. In this regard, THE NUCLEAR WEAPON STATES reaffirm their commitment, as stated in article VI, to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament. (Emphasis added)

Furthermore, the focus in Section 4 of the said “Principles and Objectives…” is on how to implement Article – VI of the NPT effectively through a “programme of action”, which would include among other steps:

The determined pursuit by THE NUCLEAR WEAPON STATES of systematic and progressive efforts to reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goals of eliminating those weapons, and by all States of general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. (Emphasis added)

What is most notable in these official decisions at the 1995 NPT Review Conference is the admission that the responsibility for ensuring nuclear disarmament is squarely on “the Nuclear-Weapons States” and not on “Each of the Parties to the Treaty”, as originally stated in Article – VI of the NPT. This was a major shift in emphasis since the operative part of the new decision reads as follows: “the nuclear-weapons States reaffirm their commitment…to pursue in good faith negotiations on effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament”. It was for the first time in NPT’s 27-year old history (i.e., in 1995 when this admission was made) that the NWS had affirmed that the responsibility for achieving nuclear disarmament was primarily on them. In addition, for the first time in NPT’s 27-year old history, an attempt was made to introduce certain workable provisions – called “programme of action” – into Article – VI.

Whether or not the said “Programme of Action” was sufficient to address the issue of nuclear disarmament is highly debatable. However, the admission that such “Programme of Action” was missing from Article – VI for the 27 years since the signing of NPT is very significant. Apart from the “Programme of Action”, there were also specific references in Sections 7 and 8 of the said “Principles and Objectives…” regarding problems with the then existing NWFZs and regarding Security Assurances to NNWS. With reference to NWFZs, Section 7 of the said “Principles and Objectives…” emphasises that: “The cooperation of all the nuclear-weapons States and their respect and support for the relevant protocols is necessary for the maximum effectiveness of such nuclear-weapon-free zones and the relevant protocols.” This was an admission that despite the existence of various NWFZs (by 1995 there were three: in Antarctica, Latin America and in the South Pacific), not all the P-5 NWS were respecting or observing all the relevant protocols necessary for making such NWFZs meaningful and effective.

Similarly, Section 8 of the said “Principles and Objectives…” – with reference to the status of security assurances made to the NNWS – observed that:

Noting United Nations Security Council resolution 984 (1995), which was adopted unanimously on 11 April 1995, as well as the declarations of the nuclear-weapon States concerning both negative and positive security assurances, further steps should be considered to assure non-nuclear-weapon States party to the Treaty against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. These steps could take the form of an internationally legally binding instrument.

Indeed, if the said Security Council Resolution 984 of 1995 and other so-called negative and positive security assurances by the P-5 NWS to the NNWS were at all meaningful ones, what was the need for considering further steps “to assure non-nuclear-weapon States party to the Treaty against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons”? The fact was that this was a frank admission by the signatories to the NPT that the earlier security assurances, including Resolution 984 of 1995, by the P-5 NWS (except for China) were completely farcical ones as none of them was “an internationally legally binding instrument”.

Flouting of Articles – IV, V & VII

Articles – IV of the NPT, which upholds “the inalienable right of all the Parties…the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy” [see: fn.13], would appear to favour the interests of the non-nuclear weapon member-states. However, the reality is that the P-5 NWS are not doing enough to assist the NNWS in planning for and in the use of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes. The concern expressed by the Malaysian delegation at the Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2010 Review Conference of Parties to the NPT at Vienna on 10.05.2007 would be largely representative of the views of the NNWS in this regard in general. According to the Malaysian Ambassador to the UN:

…my delegation firmly believes that more could be done to advance the inalienable rights of developing States Parties, especially, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy, as well as the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, material and technology for peaceful purposes, without discrimination and in conformity with their respective safeguards agreements, as enshrined under Article IV of the Treaty.

In other words, the P-5 NWS are guilty of contravening Article – V of the NPT, which enjoins them to ensure that:

…potential benefits from any peaceful applications of nuclear explosions will be made available to non-nuclear-weapon States Party to the Treaty on a non-discriminatory basis and that the charge to such Parties for the explosive devices used will be as low as possible and exclude any charge for research and development.

The P-5 NWS have had no compunctions in sidestepping their obligations under Article – V of the NPT. This is precisely one of the major drawbacks of the NPT: there is no provision in the NPT to take the P-5 NWS to task when they choose to act contrary to the letter and spirit of the NPT.

Article – VII of the NPT is a verbatim reproduction of the principle propounded in Clause 2(e) of the UNGA Resolution 2028 (XX), which is that: “Nothing in this Treaty affects the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.” The framers of the NPT had little problem in accepting this clause because the onus of executing this principle was placed entirely on the NNWS. It may be recalled that it was the apprehension regarding the deployment of foreign nuclear weapons on or near the territories of NNWS that initially gave rise to the demand for creation of Nuclear Weapon Free Zones (NWFZs). However, in the absence of a competent monitoring mechanism, there was no way of detecting any violation of the sanctity of the six NWFZs that have been established so far if and when NWS choose to violate such sanctity. As of today, NWFZs essentially mean that the NNWS within such zones would provide a one-way guarantee to the NWS that the NNWS would not use nuclear weapons against NWS! However, the NWS (except for China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea) have so far refused to give a reciprocal guarantee to the NNWS that the NWS would not target NNWS with nuclear weapons.

In other words, the absence of a clear-cut commitment on the part of four of the P-5 NWS (i.e., those other than China) not to use nuclear weapons against the very signatories of such NWFZ treaties has made the task of assuring “the total absence of nuclear weapons” within NWFZs completely impossible. At the same time, all nuclear activities of the member-states of the NWFZs are subjected to regular inspection by the IAEA since the member-states of the NWFZs are all signatories to the NPT as well. However, the task of tracking any military-related nuclear activity of the NWS within such zones, which in letter and spirit violate various provisions of the NWFZ treaty, apparently does not fall within the purview of the IAEA! IAEA inspectors also choose to turn a blind eye to the presence of U.S. nuclear weapons on the territories of USA’s non-nuclear NATO allies – namely Belgium, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, and Turkey – who are all parties to the NPT, and whose territories and nuclear facilities are supposedly subjected to regular IAEA inspection! These are other classic examples of the grossly discriminatory nature of the present NPT regime and the extremely sectarian manner in which the IAEA has been forced to carry out its duties.

[Articles – VIII, IX, X, & XI of the NPT essentially deal with procedural matters and, therefore, they are not specifically discussed here.]

The “13 Practical Steps”

Between the 1995 and the 2000 NPT Review Conferences, instead of the much awaited progress towards ending the nuclear arms race, the world witnessed further horizontal nuclear proliferation with India and Pakistan becoming de facto members of the nuclear weapons club. Therefore, the 2000 NPT Review Conference, after reaffirming its commitment to Article – VI, agreed on, what were reported as, “Practical steps for the systematic and progressive efforts to implement article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and paragraphs 3 and 4 (c) of the 1995 Decision on ‘Principles and Objectives for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.’”16

If the said “13 Practical Steps” do provide, what some quarters call, “important guidelines on promoting the nuclear disarmament process” and of “immense significance”, the first question to be asked is, who prevented the inclusion of these steps of “immense significance” from the text of the NPT at the time of adopting it in 1968? What was the problem in including these “13 Practical Steps” then? Why was it necessary for the NPT member-states to wait another 32 years (i.e., until the year 2000) and to let the nuclear threat multiply manifold before deciding to attach the said “13 Practical Steps” to Article – VI? Was it really the absence of these “13 Practical Steps” that was holding up the process of disarmament? Has there been any significant progress in the implementation of Article – VI after the adoption of the said “13 Practical Steps” in the year 2000? None at all! In effect, by introducing the “13 Practical Steps” (and through the “Programme of Action”, etc., before it), the P-5 NWS have found a convenient way to divert attention of the peace movements away from the basic issues that are holding back implementation of Article – VI. Through such diversionary tactics, the P-5 NWS have repeatedly succeeded in quelling the anger of most peace activists, who are outraged by the complete lack of progress towards the goal of nuclear disarmament since the signing of the NPT in 1968.

The developments (or, to be more precise, the lack of it) during the period between the 2000 and 2005 NPT Review Conference is again noteworthy. In the preparatory meetings leading to the 2005 Conference, the U.S. slowly began to distance itself from those portions of the decisions of the 1995 and 2000 NPT Review Conferences, particularly away from those decisions relating to Article – VI. It was not that the U.S. was really perturbed by the contents of the “Principles and Objectives…” of the 1995 Conference or of the “13 Practical Steps” of the 2000 Conference Final Documents that had been annexed to Article – VI. The truth was that the U.S. was in principle opposed to the process, despite having agreed to the rhetoric. However, what really unnerved the U.S. was the fear that, if this process did go forward, life might actually be infused into Article – VI at some point of time in the future by mistake or sheer accident. As far as the past positions of the U.S. were concerned, Article – VI was merely an attractive bait to lure unsuspecting leaders of NNWS and gullible peace activists into supporting the NPT. By creating the deadlock at the 2005 Conference, the U.S. had made its position very clear: that it had absolutely no intention of infusing life into Article – VI at any point of time. Thus, unlike many of the earlier occasions, the inability to adopt a Final Document at the 2005 NPT Conference was an ominous sign that the NPT was facing a serious crisis.

The failure of the 2005 NPT Conference evoked strong reactions from some of the ardent supporters of the NPT. In this context, it would be interesting to recall what Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Founding Director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, U.K., was forced to comment. Dr.Johnson’s remarks, which are culled out from her long article titled “Politics and Protection: Why the 2005 NPT Review Conference Failed” (Disarmament Diplomacy, Issue No.80, Autumn 2005),17 are as follows:

Now the credibility and effectiveness of the non-proliferation regime are under intense pressure….

The NPT’s historical discrimination between the rights and obligations of nuclear haves and have-nots, which was bolstered by cold war power relations, is proving to be unsustainable in the new security environment….

In the 21st century, nuclear deterrence has no convincing role and should be abandoned….

It is profoundly worrying to observe how nuclear weapons are increasing in salience after a drop during the 1990s….
What prevents the nuclear genie from being put back into its bottle is not the technology or know-how, but the value still accorded to nuclear weapons, particularly by states that have them.

That nuclear weapons are presently valued as an important emblem and currency of power is not a natural or military fact or attribute connected with the weapons’ utility, but a social and political fact constructed and sustained by the major powers. By its actions and policies, the United States has helped to create a context in which nuclear weapons become the ultimate necessity for, and symbol of, state prestige and security. Accordingly, when the United States or other nuclear powers try to prevent other states from obtaining nuclear weapons, they may be seen as coercively denying sovereignty, power and self-determination to others. What should be a collective endeavour for common security is thereby turned into a counterproductive contest for control, feeding nationalist and anti-imperialist passions.
Cuts in arsenals may reduce some nuclear dangers, but unless and until they are accompanied by a disavowal of use (and therefore value), they fail to have the desired political impact, both for the non-nuclear weapon states and on the decision-making of potential proliferators. Western allies have to stop running away from the inescapable logic of what the NAM have argued for years: non-proliferation is unsustainable without real and significant progress in nuclear disarmament and the devaluation of nuclear weapons….

The fact that disarmament has never been internalised as a genuine policy imperative by the nuclear weapon possessors continues to complicate and thwart efforts to prevent proliferation, rendering them less effective and authoritative.

Dr.Johnson had aptly summed up the crisis facing the NPT regime. The period between the 2005 and the upcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference has also turned out to be another alarming phase with North Korea joining the ranks of the de facto nuclear weapon states and reports (motivated or otherwise) about Iran attempting to join the same ranks. Iran’s contention, however, is that it is only trying to exercise its inalienable rights under Article – IV of the NPT. Thus, the fact is, the NPT has completely failed to prevent either vertical or horizontal proliferation: between 1968 and 1986. During this period, the worldwide stockpile of nuclear weapons nearly doubled (before beginning the downward trend – not due to the NPT but mostly due to the demise of the USSR) and the P-5 NWS – particularly USA and USSR/Russia – unhesitantly deployed nuclear weapons in all four corners of the world in blatant violation of Article – I of the NPT. That apart, five other nations, i.e., Israel, South Africa,18 India, Pakistan and North Korea, de facto became nuclear weapon states. Last but not the least, the promised progress towards the goal of nuclear disarmament never materialized.

  1. The McCloy-Zorin Accord on General and Complete Disarmament was signed between John J. McCloy, representing the U.S., and Valerien Zorin, representing the USSR, on 20.09.1961. Subsequently, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the historic accord on 20.12.1961. See: Res.1722 (XVI). []
  2. President Kennedy’s speech titled “The United States Program for General and Complete Disarmament in a Peaceful World” was published under the title “Freedom From War” by the U.S. State Department. []
  3. ACDA was established as an independent agency of the U.S. Administration by the Arms Control and Disarmament Act (75 Stat. 631). ACDA ensured that arms control was fully integrated into the development and conduct of U.S. national security policy. ACDA also conducted, supported, and coordinated research for arms control and disarmament policy formulation, prepared for and managed U.S. participation in international arms control and disarmament negotiations, and prepared, operated, and directed U.S. participation in international arms control and disarmament systems. []
  4. Duncan L. Clarke, “Arms Control and Foreign Policy under Regan,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1981, p.12. []
  5. “As of April, 1999, ACDA was merged into the Department of State. ACDA’s four Bureaus were merged with the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs to form three new Bureaus, for Political-Military Affairs (PM), Arms Control (AC), and Nonproliferation (NP). In 2000, a fourth Bureau for Verification and Compliance (VC) was added by statute. All four Bureaus reported to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of State through the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.” Source. []
  6. Bolton is a protégé of Senator Jesse Helms, who was reputedly the most stridently conservative U.S. politician of the post-1960 era. According to a report: “Since he [Bolton] assumed his post as the Bush administration’s top arms control official in May 2001, the United States has withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, torpedoed a proposed addition to the Biological Weapons Convention, and disavowed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.” []
  7. USA, USSR/RUSSIA, UK, France and China – the five nations that possessed nuclear weapons at the time of signing the NPT. []
  8. President Obama’s statement on 05 April 2009 at Prague that: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons“, is an indication of this positive sentiment. []
  9. NPT as a Roadblock to Disarmament,” Counterpunch. []
  10. See table titled “Status of U.S. Nuclear Weapons in Europe” (26/06/2008). []
  11. “Focus on Nuclear Infrastructure,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, June/July 1985, p. 13-14 []
  12. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 1998 []
  13. Global Nuclear Weapon Stockpile 1945-2006” (BAS July/August 2006), p.66. []
  14. SIPRI Yearbook 1991, p. 25. []
  15. The total destructive power of the world’s nuclear weapon stockpile had reduced from the high of 22,000 megaton TNT in 1986 to about 6400 megatons of TNT in 2009, which was nearly one ton of TNT for killing every human-being on Earth. The widespread devastation this magnitude of destructive power could potentially unleash, therefore, continues to be of a very high order. Moreover, considering that a standard hand-grenade contains only about 60 grams of TNT as explosive material, one ton of TNT per human-being would be equivalent to the destructive power (excluding radiation effects) packed in over 16,600 hand-grenades for killing each human-being on Earth! It is to be noted that this huge nuclear explosive power is in addition to the so-called “conventional” explosive power, which is stockpiled in the arsenals of the nations across the world. This apocalyptical scene is an indication of the gravity of the challenge that is still confronting humanity today. []
  16. Final Document, Part – I, Article VI, Para 15. []
  17. Source []
  18. The then racist South Africa “voluntarily” gave up its nuclear weapon programme in June 1991 on the eve of the forcible end of the Apartheid regime there and before it acceded to the NPT in July 1991. []

N.D. Jayaprakash is the Joint Secretary of the Delhi Science Forum & National Coordination Committee (NCC) Member of the Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP), India. He can be reached at: jaypdsf@gmail.com. Read other articles by N.D..

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  1. Rehmat said on May 9th, 2010 at 3:52am #

    None of the five permanent members of UNSC and nuclear powers – will never agree to disarm themselves of their nuclear arsenal. Because, they still believe that that is the only way they can bully the non-nuclear majority of world countries. They even have looked the other way, when some of their ‘allies’ developed nuclear arsenal illegally, such as, Israel, India, N. Korea and Pakistan. Their problem with Islamic Republic is not due to their fear of a nuclear armed Iran but Tehran’s support for the Islamic resistance groups fighting against the Zionist entity in Occupied Palestine and Lebanon.

    Iranian President Dr. Ahmadinejad is the only head of the state which attended the current NPT Review Conference in New York – showing how much Tehran gives importance to the NPT – and the walkout of FM of France, the US and Britain during his speech showed the lack of those countries’ interest in fulfilling the NPT spirit.

    Ahmadinejad exposes the hypocrisy of his accusers
    http://rehmat1.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/ahmadinejad-exposes-the-hypocrisy-of-his-accusers/