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Pledge to Stop Nuclear Proliferation: Permanent Five of UNSC

  • 04 Jan 2022
  • 9 min read

For Prelims: United Nations Security Council, Non-Proliferation Treaty, Cold War, IAEA, JCPOA, New START, Nuclear Weapon.

For Mains: Non-Proliferation Treaty its significance and what changes are needed to make it better, India’s Stand on NPT, Cold War, IAEA, JCPOA, New START.

Why in News

Recently, the Five permanent United Nations Security Council members (China, France, Russia, the U.K. and US) pledged to prevent atomic weapons spreading and to avoid nuclear conflict.

  • The pledge was made in a rare joint statement ahead of a review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) 1970.
  • The statement comes as tensions between Russia and the US have reached heights rarely seen since the Cold War over a troop build-up by Russia close to the Ukrainian border.
  • The statement also comes as the world powers seek to reach agreement with Iran on reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 2015 over its controversial nuclear drive, which was rendered dying by the US walking out of the accord in 2018.

Key Points

  • The Pledge:
    • The further spread of such weapons must be prevented. A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
    • The avoidance of war between nuclear-weapon states and the reduction of strategic risks as our foremost responsibilities.
    • Nuclear weapons — for as long as they continue to exist — should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.
    • They intend to maintain and further strengthen their national measures to prevent unauthorised or unintended use of nuclear weapons.
  • China’s Stand:
    • It raised concerns that tensions with the US could lead to conflict, notably over the island of Taiwan.
      • China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has vowed to one day seize it, by force if necessary.
  • Russia’s Stand:
    • Russia welcomed the declaration by the atomic powers and expressed hope it would reduce global tensions.

Non-Proliferation Treaty

  • About:
    • The NPT is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to foster the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and to further the goal of disarmament.
    • The treaty was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. Presently, it has 190 member states.
      • India is not a member.
    • It requires countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
    • It represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States.
    • Nuclear-weapon states parties under the NPT are defined as those that manufactured and exploded a nuclear weapon or other nuclear explosive devices before 1st January, 1967.
  • India’s Stand:
    • India is one of the only five countries that either did not sign the NPT or signed but withdrew later, thus becoming part of a list that includes Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan.
    • India always considered the NPT as discriminatory and had refused to sign it.
    • India has opposed the international treaties aimed at non-proliferation since they were selectively applicable to the non-nuclear powers and legitimised the monopoly of the five nuclear weapons powers.
  • Issues Related to NPT:
    • Failure of Disarmament Process:
      • The NPT is largely seen as a Cold War era instrument that has failed to fulfil the objective of creating a pathway towards a credible disarmament process.
      • Treaty proposes no tangible disarmament roadmap, no reference to test ban or to the freezing of production of either fissile materials or nuclear weapons, and omitted provisions for reductions and elimination.
      • It instead allowed sustenance and expansion of arsenals by stipulating January, 1967 as the cut-off date to determine the NWS.
    • System of Nuclear ‘Haves’ and ‘Have-Nots’:
      • Non-Nuclear Weapon states (NNWS) criticizes the treaty to be discriminatory as it focuses on preventing only horizontal proliferation while there is no limit for vertical proliferation.
        • Vertical proliferation can be defined as the advancement or modernization of a nation-state's nuclear arsenal, whereas horizontal proliferation is the direct or indirect transfer of technologies from one nation-state to another, which ultimately leads to the more advanced development and proliferation of nuclear weapons.
        • As there is no explicit obligation on part of NWS to reduce their arsenal, NWS have continued to expand their respective arsenals without any constraints.
      • In this context, NNWS groupings demand that the Nuclear-Weapon States (NWS) should renounce their arsenals and further production in return for commitment of NNWS not to produce them.
      • Due to this tussle, most of the quadrennial Review Conferences (RevCon), the forum that reviews the health and functioning of the treaty, has remained largely inconclusive since 1995.
    • Post-Cold War Challenges:
      • The treaty’s existential challenges began in the post-Cold War setting when the attempts by a few State Parties to break-out or gain nuclear latency led to numerous instances of non-compliance, violations and defiance.
        • For example, the US alleges Iran of building nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction.
      • The NPT’s indefinite extension in 1995, while invoking its irreplaceability, also underlined the inability of states to formulate a stand-alone instrument towards the objective of disarmament, as enshrined in the NPT.
      • The emergence of non-state actors with declared intent to access weapons of mass destruction and the detection of a global nuclear black-market, has raised concerns on the limitations of the treaty to address the challenges thrown up by the new strategic milieu.

Way Forward

  • Rising energy demands have led to a growing number of countries pursuing nuclear energy, and many countries wish to be energy-independent, in order to ensure a sustainable and dependable domestic energy supply. As clean energy, development, and peaceful coexistence are essential for every country.
  • Thus, the challenge for the international community will be to reconcile states’ desire for energy independence with their desire to both reduce the intrusiveness of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and diminish the possibility of proliferation.
  • Also, NNWS welcomes New START and other initiatives, but is anxious to see more concrete actions on reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national security doctrines, reducing alert levels, increasing transparency, and other steps.
  • More regions in the world (preferably comprising NWS) should enter into an arrangement of establishing Nuclear-weapon-free zones.
  • Further, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a step in the right direction for nuclear disarmament.

Source: TH

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