Pakistan’s Perspective: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty


Pakistan has conducted nuclear tests to provide a strategic balance that is being infected by India’s nuclear tests. The United States, which is the leading nuclear power, has conducted more than a thousand nuclear tests. There are now at least 17,300 nuclear warheads stockpiled by different countries, enough to wipe out the whole of humanity, not just once but several times.

Pakistan’s secret military plans to be a nuclear-weapon state (NSW) started after the defeat by India in 1971 and after India conducted a nuclear test. By nefarious means, Pakistan obtained the technology and equipment from companies in Western Europe and North America to manufacture highly-enriched and weapons-grade uranium. Then China helped by providing a complete design of a bomb.

Initially, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project was mired with technical problems because of strict measures introduced by western countries, which owned the technology. Moreover, the U.S. and the European nations passed negative publicity directed at Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project. Then, the U.S. introduced sanctions and stopped aid to Pakistan, which denied the country’s legitimate security issues against its long-time rival, India. In 1976, it started to make weapons-grade uranium at the Kahuta plant. The nuclear program was started by Dr. A. Q. Khan, who formerly worked for URENCO, a European enrichment firm, and took advantage of the information for Pakistan’s nuclear ambition.

Pakistan’s security threats come from its direct neighbor, India, from whom she was formerly a part of. These two countries have engaged in four wars since 1997 and some other small conflicts.

How does Pakistan view the NPT?

Pakistan, along with India and Israel, is not agreeable to the NPT because of its double standard and discriminatory features. It has offered to sign the NPT if India would sign. Afraid that India has more nuclear weapons, it has agreed to sign the “Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty,” a treaty aimed to verify and reduce nuclear stocks in their arsenal. India then offered the “No First Use” treaty, which Pakistan refused, as it wants that both countries should balance their nuclear and conventional weapons.

There are worries about Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons and its posture on the NPT because of news insinuating that it is supporting terrorist ideologies. Pakistan has denied such allegations, adding that its nuclear weapons are safe and strict measures are implemented against accidental or unauthorized use.

Each country has its own security challenge and Pakistan’s dilemma is to develop its nuclear capabilities because of India’s threat. In the words of Malik Qasim Mustafa, Pakistan benefited from a peaceful application of nuclear energy when it applied in the 1953 Atoms for Peace program and supported the goals of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Initially, Pakistan’s nuclear program was for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Pakistan was at the forefront of the international movement to stop the use of nuclear weapons technology in order to support world efforts to promote peace.

However, the 1965 war against India made Pakistan vigilant of its national security; it vowed against the production of weapons of mass destruction. In the 1971 war against India, Pakistan grew aggressive in pursuing nuclear weapons as it vowed any move to counter India’s aggression. This made its leaders look for ways, even by nefarious activities, to acquire nuclear weapons. One of its leaders commented that Pakistan would become a nuclear weapon state even if their people had to eat grass in their quest for nuclear weapons to defend themselves from India.

Many developing countries agree with Pakistan’s argument that the NPT is a discriminatory instrument since it separates countries into nuclear haves and “have-nots”. The West is using the double standards policy to suit its interests; they used it in offering diplomatic and financial incentives to “denuclearize” Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and also to North Korea to develop a civilian nuclear program so that it would cease to develop weapons of mass destruction. Countries not a signatory to the treaty have been linked not only to each other but also to treaty-benders within it.

Pakistan has made it known that its nuclear policy aims for nuclear deterrence, but it will not sign the NPT. It is also clear that Pakistan will use its nuclear weapons against any conflict. That Pakistan will sign the NPT if India will sign is still to be seen. However, Pakistan has shown that it is for a peaceful world, free of nuclear weapons.

Pakistan has expressed that it is for peaceful coexistence even without the NPT. Despite concerns of India’s threat, Pakistan helped in stopping the nuclearization of South Asia, such as creating a nuclear-weapons-free zone as proposed in the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Mexico in 1974. India reciprocated Pakistan’s efforts by conducting the Peaceful Nuclear Explosion, arguing further that the Asia Pacific region should be free of nuclear weapons. Pakistan also proposed inspections of their two countries’ nuclear weapons’ stockpile, and that it would sign the NPT after the IAEA inspection and safeguards. All these went as empty rhetoric as the two countries would not vow to each other’s wishes.

Besides pursuing its nuclear weapons program merely to defend itself from India, Pakistan wanted to stop the nuclear arms race by proposing a nuclear test ban treaty. This has been its stance in the nuclear arms control and disarmament issue. During the period 1984 to 1986, the country was included in ten resolutions by the UN General Assembly, asking nations to fulfill the goals of complete disarmament through the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

In 1987, it proposed a test ban treaty with India. The Pakistani government was convinced that having a negative security assurance (NSA) in accordance with the NPT, creation of an NWFZ, and safety inspections by the IAEA, would stop nuclear weapons proliferation. India declined the suggestion, citing the threat from China and other issues on the nuclear tests conducted by major nuclear powers.

The CTBT is one of the moves created under the NPT regime, i.e. to control and totally eliminate nuclear weapons. It aimed for the cessation of nuclear tests, which was first a major agendum in the UNGA in 1954. The CTBT, which was formally introduced by the UN body in 1996, also aimed to discourage states from helping other states in testing nuclear weapons. Years have passed but the CTBT has not been enforceable as many states have not ratified it. Pakistan has not signed it because of the same reason in not signing the NPT – its enemy, India. India’s nuclear capability had become a reality and in 1998 India tested nuclear bombs.

On the international scene, there was the issue of the superpowers’ rivalry at the time of the Cold War. Russia and Washington both believed that having more nuclear weapons was the best option. Pakistan was also not contented with the slow progress of the nuclear test ban agreement so that it asked that nuclear testing be stopped. Showing their anxiety in agreeing to the CTBT, major nuclear states sought to maintain their stance as advanced and complicated nuclear weapons owners, which needed more nuclear tests.

In 1991, Pakistan and India signed a bilateral agreement not to attack each other’s nuclear installations. In 1996, Pakistan voted to sign the CTBT, but India did not. By this time, India already possessed nuclear weapons capability and did not want to participate in the disarmament programs and bilateral suggestions. Worried of India’s nuclear programs, Pakistan kept its nuclear ambition open. In 1998, India tested nuclear devices prompting Pakistan to continue pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

After successfully obtaining nuclear weapons, Pakistan announced to the world that its nuclear weapons capability was for defense and not for offensive purposes. It also stressed that it would stop nuclear testing and offered bilateral talks with India to mitigate any occasion of a nuclear war with India. On 23 September 1998, Pakistan demonstrated that it wanted to sign the CTBT and the NPT if India would do so and the U.S. would lift its sanctions.

Areas of the Treaty that need Improvement

There are many comments about Article VI which is for disarmament and the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The three states – India, Pakistan and Israel – are not inclined to be non-weapon states and it will be a major challenge for the member states to make the three countries agreeable to the NPT provisions. There are other signatories that have opted out and have become nuclear-weapon states. Pakistan is asking what to do with them. How should they be convinced to disarm?

Both India and Pakistan have indicated that they would want to be a part of the NPT regime, like the other nuclear-weapon states (NWS), and not as non-weapon states (NNWS). Current NWS have not fulfilled their obligations to disarm themselves, nor have they subjected to an effective internal control as provided for in Article VI of the NPT. A test moratorium was declared in 1998 but India and Pakistan ignored it, arguing the United States’ refusal to ratify the CTBT.

Pakistan wants a system of checks and balances, nuclear restraint, decision on current disputes, so that peace will prevail and all countries will adhere to the NPT. The Pakistani government under General Musharraf proposed that the CTBT could be successful if there is fairness and nations are not forced to agree by major nuclear-weapon states. The Indian nuclear agenda committed coercion on Pakistan regarding CTBT. Musharraf disregarded the nuclear arms race and suggested to create a regional nuclear test ban treaty in order to promote peace and stability.

Pakistan is asking for new non-proliferation and disarmament methods which must not be discriminatory and based on universal principles. It argued that the records of the Conference on Disarmament show that a pattern of double standards exists by selecting not to discuss agreements that malign the interest of major nuclear-weapon states. The CTBT was formalized after the major powers had a significant number of nuclear tests and more testing was not anymore necessary as their engineers could do this using computer simulation. Pakistan further indicated that major powers should not defer an inclusive method towards nuclear disarmament and all proposed treaty should be in accordance with security programs of member states (Mustafa 48). This is so due to the following arguments:

  • Some nuclear-weapon states which had parted from NPT are developing and deploying nuclear weapons.
  • Pakistan argued that India benefited from its nuclear deal with the United States by upgrading its strategic weapons systems.
  • There are proliferation threats from even the NPT members.
  • NNWS have the technological know-how to make nuclear weapons.
  • Large supplies of fissile material are available.
  • Non-state players are active in the nuclear proliferation agenda.

Key Items in the Review Conference Agenda

Pakistan has suggested that any forthcoming treaty prohibiting fissile materials production should include verification and subsequent decrease of stocks. This is one of the reasons why the UN Conference on Disarmament has not progressed in its efforts. Pakistan has proposed positive measures aimed at bilateral or regional conferences for non-proliferation, such as their two countries’ renouncement of nuclear weapons production, identification of a South Asian Weapons Free Zone (WPZ), simultaneous inspections of nuclear weapons for India and Pakistan along with adherence to IAEA regulations, a test ban treaty for the two countries, and a no-missile zone in South Asia (Nayyar 5).

India must reconfigure its stance on bilateral and arms control since it has articulated security issues and plans that cover beyond South Asia. It has constantly streamlined it’s being a nuclear weapon state by stating that it had to possess nuclear weapons because major powers owned such weapons. In recent years, India is becoming ambitious and has demonstrated to become a major world power. Aiming to become a world economic power, India also thinks of becoming a military world power. It has begun assuming larger roles in international affairs and has shunned minor roles.

Pakistan has some concerns about the US-India nuclear arrangement. Pakistan is concerned that the world thinks the U.S. has recognized India’s status as an NWS, which will allow India to increase its nuclear weapons capability; it asks that the U.S. should also consider honoring Pakistan the same status. Pakistan is worried that the U.S.-India nuclear deal would affect strategic stability in the region as it would give India the opportunity to make more fissile material from unsafe nuclear reactors. Because of the nuclear deal, the U.S. created a problem instead of a solution, thus Pakistan demands that this should be a major topic in the Review Conference.

Pakistan has also demanded that it be allowed to work on a civilian nuclear technology, with the guidance of the IAEA and with the help of the U.S., similar to the Indo-U.S. deal. The United States has refused this request because it argued that Pakistan has not shown to be responsible for matters of nuclear proliferation. Pakistan’s ties with terrorist ideology, as some news would say, threatens the NPT and the world as terrorists might be able to take hold of nuclear weapons, something that Pakistan has vehemently denied.

Adviser to the Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz argued that Pakistan is fighting terrorism and the “bad ideology”. Pakistan just wants a balance of power. It is also aiming for this balance of power in terms of conventional weapons. For the Review Conference agenda, Pakistan has suggested the following:

  • A pledge by all countries to provide confirmable nuclear disarmament
  • Scratch out the discriminatory elements in the NPT regime
  • Regular discussions with former nuclear weapon states
  • Address other concerns like access to weapons of mass destruction by non-state players
  • Non-discriminatory policies allowing every state access to nuclear energy for peaceful means
  • The missiles issue should be properly addressed, including banning the spread of ABM systems
  • Underpinning existing international treaties to prevent the arming of outer space and enhancement of ASATs
  • Address the increase in armed forces and the build-up and complexity of non-nuclear weapons

Pakistan has continually stressed its willingness to give up its nuclear weapons if other NWS would do so. Disarmament must be observed by all and should not be applicable to only a few. Unilateral disarmament will not serve the objectives of the NPT regime. However, Pakistan is at times inconsistent with its nuclear and conventional weapons policies. For example, its suggestion on asymmetries in conventional weapons was suggested to give it a favorable light. It has often declared that its nuclear weapons are only for deterrence purposes but it has increased nuclear weapons stockpile (Nayyar 7).

The double standards and discrimination content of the NPT are the main items that should be included in the Review Conference because it can be perceived that both countries want peace. Pakistan also wants recognition as NWS. It seems the U.S. is in that direction (the giving of the NWS status) but this would create a precedent as other countries would ask the same privilege. The world is not far from the reality that being an NWS is a common occurrence or a status symbol, which is what the NPT regime is trying to stop.

India and Pakistan can play a role in arms control. Under Secretary of State Ms. Gottemoeller, in a talk with members of the U.S. Arms Control Association, commented that both countries are contributing to the global nuclear disarmament process by creating their regional training centers to enhance nuclear security. This move has helped the International Atomic Energy Agency on the subject of regional security. This role will enhance the two countries’ outlook on the NPT and how the West would be able to view their stances on the NPT.

We can surmise that it will only take a matter of time before the world will recognize India and Pakistan as NWS, which is what they want. It is not categorically stated but the U.S. actions are going to that direction. An example of this situation is Ms. Gottemoeller’s statement that India and Pakistan should conduct strict measures to prevent their fissile material holdings from going to the wrong hands. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudry answered that they were doing everything to protect fissile materials and that Pakistan had established a robust command and control system to address the issue.

Pakistan is not totally against the NPT and has proposed the principle of complete strategic stability that may encompass “conventional weapons balance,” nuclear limitations, and solving the unsettled issues. With these principles, the NPT regime can be enhanced to guide the countries in addressing the issue of nuclear disarmament.

Works Cited

Mustafa, Malik Qasim. n.d. CTBT: A Critical Evaluation from a Pakistani Perspective. n.d. Web.

Nayyar, A. H. 2008, A Pakistani Perspective on Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Web.

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DemoEssays. "Pakistan’s Perspective: Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." February 9, 2022.