23 April 2004

India, Pak join forces against US move on N-proliferation

23 April 2004
The Times of India

UNSC resolution on proliferation

India, Pak join forces against US move


NEW DELHI: Declaring that the Security Council has no right to compel UN members to pass domestic legislation on any issue, India and Pakistan on Thursday joined hands to oppose an intrusive US-backed draft resolution which demands that all states adopt "effective laws" banning the proliferation of nuclear weapons to "non-state actors".

Both India and Pakistan have argued in the UN Security Council that the US proposal on non-proliferation was “intrusive”.

India's permanent representative to the UN, Satish Nambiar, told the Council that the urgency of taking steps to prevent terrorists from getting hold of weapons of mass destruction "does not obscure our more basic concerns over the increasing tendency of the Security Council ... to assume new and wider powers of legislation on behalf of the international community, and binding on all states".

Pakistani ambassador Munir Akram voiced a similar objection and said the Security Council was not the most appropriate forum to oversee nonproliferation since its five permanent members all possessed nuclear weapons and were doing nothing to fulfil their obligations to disarm.

Among the other objections raised by India:

  • International treaties or agreements in this field should be multilaterally negotiated, not imposed.
  • The issue should have been addressed through existing international instruments and fora such as the Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention and the Conference on Disarmament.
  • By exclusively focusing on nonproliferation, the draft undermines the "mutually reinforcable linkage between disarmament and nonproliferation".
  • The Security Council should not prescribe norms on export controls
Pakistan has also expressed the fear that the resolution "because it invokes Chapter VII of the UN Charter authorising the use of coercive measures" could be used to impose sanctions or use force against a country for the actions of individuals or groups outside that country's control.

While arguing that "state accountability cannot be absolved on grounds that proliferation was the result of private enterprise" - a clear reference to the A Q Khan episode - India too is opposed to the threat of force.

"The resolution ought to steer clear of any coercive or punitive approach or follow-up mechanism," Nambiar told the Security Council.

Despite the stiff opposition of most non-aligned countries, the resolution is expected to be passed by the end of April.

In the event that it is passed, India, said Nambiar, would "not accept any interpretation of the resolution that imposes obligations arising from treaties that India has not signed. India will not accept externally prescribed norms or standards, whatever their source, on matters pertaining to domestic jurisdiction of its Parliament.".

The US amended an earlier draft of the resolution authorising the interdiction of suspect shipping on the high seas after China threatened a veto.

But Washington contends that operational Para 8 of the draft - which "calls upon all states ... to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related material".

John Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms control, told the Washington Post last month that this language covered the interdiction of ships suspected of illicitly carrying WMD or missiles.

The interdiction of shipping - a key part of the Bush administration's controversial Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) - currently rests on extremely shaky legality. The Law of the Sea convention (UNCLOS) prohibits it and a number of NGOs working on disarmament issues have urged that the draft resolution be amended to state that any action taken by member states pursuant to it be in accordance with UNCLOS.

India, which is mulling over a US invitation to join the PSI, has not taken a public view on the law of the seas implications.

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