At stake, a symbolic erasure of the distincion between NPT-recognised nuclear weapon states and NWSs outside the treaty...
9 November 2010
In a first, India, U.S. for dialogue of all nuclear weapon states
New Delhi: The United States has become the first nuclear weapons state (NWS) as defined by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to endorse the idea of talks between the five NWSs and the three nuclear-armed nations outside the NPT, i.e. India, Pakistan and Israel.
In their joint statement issued on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and U.S. President Barack Obama “affirmed the need for a meaningful dialogue among all states possessing nuclear weapons to build trust and confidence and for reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines.”
The statement adds: “They support strengthening the six decade-old international norm of non-use of nuclear weapons.”
Until now, the U.S. has remained firmly wedded to the NPT framework and structures — or to bilateral forums with other NWSs like Russia — for all dialogues related to nuclear weapons. Others like China have also been reluctant to engage in any discussion with India on nuclear strategic issues such as no first use, risk reduction and confidence-building measures.
What Mr. Obama and Dr. Singh envisage, however, is a framework which will bring all eight countries possessing nuclear weapons together for a dialogue on building trust and confidence, a major step in the direction of harmonising the NPT, which the three outsiders will never sign, with the wider aim of “universal and non-discriminatory global nuclear disarmament in the 21st century.”
In doing so, India and the U.S. have assembled the basic building blocks of a framework which has the potential to transcend the NPT, while remaining faithful to the twin goals of non-proliferation and the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The joint statement also says the U.S. intends to support India's full membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group and Missile Technology Control Regime in a phased manner “and to consult with regime members to encourage the evolution of regime membership criteria, consistent with maintaining the core principles of these regimes,” as the Indian government simultaneously moves ahead with coming into conformity with these regimes' export control requirements.
The Hindu has learned that in the course of the negotiations, the U.S. side confirmed to India that NPT membership would not be one of criteria for India's membership. Moreover, a commitment to this effect was read into the official records.
India, which is pushing for an international no first use agreement and a Nuclear Weapons Convention outlawing atomic arms, considers its position on doctrinal issues to be far ahead of that of the U.S. Although the Obama administration has spoken of reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in its military doctrine in the latest Nuclear Posture Review, this is the first time the U.S. is committing itself to a dialogue on the issue with all other countries possessing nuclear weapons.