The Straits Times
JUN 9 1998 

 The risks of living with 7 nuclear powers  


WE CAN all agree that it would have been better if India and Pakistan had not joined the club of nuclear weapons powers. 

Assuming that our goal is the elimination of the nuclear threat, then even the most mathematically-impaired will understand that adding two nuclear powers to the existing five makes a total of seven and we end up further away from zero. 

The challenge is now to find a way to reduce the risks of living with seven powers and to find our way back to a path towards nuclear disarmament. 

It would be nice to believe that there is a strategy as yet untried whose time has now come, but realists will appreciate that it will now be harder to get a non-nuclear world. 

The challenge is to find ways to address the risks of nuclear proliferation in South Asia in a comprehensive way that lives up to the bargain promised by the nuclear powers in the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty -- the pledge to make progress towards global nuclear disarmament. 

The starting point for a new strategy must remain the necessity to make clear that proliferation has its costs. Sanctions must remain on India and Pakistan if only to persuade other would-be proliferaters in North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Libya or even Taiwan that there is still a price to be paid for violating the global norm against proliferation. 

But sanctions are risky -- an isolated Pakistan may try to support itself by selling nuclear technology -- and therefore they are only the first step. The challenge is to get to a point where sanctions can be lifted because India and Pakistan accept a larger package of policy reforms. The components of such a package might include most of the following. 

The first and most pressing challenge is to stop India and Pakistan from doing more stupid things -- adding weapons to their nuclear capability and deploying missiles. 

They should be expected to swiftly formalise their currently tentative moratorium on further testing and then join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and support the Fissile Material Treaty now being negotiated. 

There are those, most notably in France and Russia, who argue that India and Pakistan need to be offered extensive incentives to adopt these sensible policies. 

But offering, for example, civil nuclear power plants to both countries would reward bad behaviour, much as it did in the case of North Korea in 1994. 

At the same time, any package on offer to India and Pakistan will have to contain some form of incentive. More constructive incentives might include assistance to both countries with technology necessary to carry out sub-critical tests in accordance with the CTBT. Such deals were mooted for France and China in order to help them accept the CTBT. 

In this category of incentives one might also consider assistance for the modernisation of the command, control and intelligence capacities of India and Pakistan technology vital to ensuring more stable deterrence. Obviously, there are limits to what aid can be offered and accepted in the intelligence realm. 

A package of measures should also include efforts to resolve the dispute over Kashmir. Pakistan would welcome the "good offices" of an external mediator and India might reconsider its long-standing objection to such efforts in the light of similar successful offers in the case of Northern Ireland. 

Attention to Kashmir is vital because it is the high tension in border disputes that makes the India-Pakistan stand-off so worrying. 

The package of measures should also include efforts by the existing nuclear powers. 

The major roadblock to far more sweeping disarmament by the Russia and the United States is the opposition in the Russian Duma and the US Congress to further cuts, especially when they cost so much money. 

The Russians and Americans need to make greater efforts to resolve these domestic problems. Most important, more money will be needed to help Russia pay for the disarmament already agreed in the Start treaties. 

There is particular need to destroy the potentially "loose nukes" in Russian storage facilities rather than the more secure warheads on missiles. 

At the same time, France, Britain and China should formally indicate their willingness to enter into negotiations about their own nuclear disarmament. India sees itself in an arms race more with China than Pakistan and thus Beijing can no longer stay aloof from serious negotiations about arms reductions. 

Perhaps President Bill Clinton and President Jiang Zemin might be able to achieve something substantial if they engage in serious discussions on this matter during their summit in late June. 

An even more ambitious strategy by the powers would consider putting non-nuclear Japan and Germany on the UN Security Council. Reform of the council is long overdue and elevating non-nuclear powers and leaving India on the side would show that one cannot bomb ones way to the world's top table. 

So far the focus has been on what the existing nuclear powers and/or the G-8 can do, but it also worth considering the special need for Asian countries to take a lead. Indian and Pakistani tests constitute the greatest destabilising factor in decades in Asia. 

They risk undermining the fragile deal on North Korean proliferation and may lead Taiwan to reconsider reviving its nuclear programme. Taiwan, much more than India, has reason to fear China and its nuclear advantage. 

Asian states are not noted in recent years for being able to take decisive action on hard security issues, but precisely because they are confronting a problem arising in the less vital South Asian region, they have a chance to take more decisive action. 

The regional talkshop for security issues, the Asean Regional Forum, holds its major annual meeting next month. That is the time not only for firm statements on the nuclear tests, but also concrete action. 

Perhaps it is the ARF that should offer the good offices of its chairman for the Kashmir question. It might even tell India that unless its offer is accepted, India would be suspended or even ejected from its newly-acquired seat in the ARF. 

 [The writer is the director of Studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. He contributed this article to The Straits Times. ] 


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