Absolute nuclear power

Non-nuclear weapon nations are apprehensive about the efficacy of the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Poweryan: Christopher at the U (Credit: AFP / UNI)MUCH before the 3-week Review and Extension Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) began in New York on April 17, the battle lines had been drawn. Although the 5 nuclear nations -- with the exception of China, which prefers an extension of 25 years -- strongly favour the treaty's indefinite and unconditional extension, many non-nuclear countries want a limited extension of the treaty.

The salvoes were launched on the eve of the conference. "The us and its friends are wrecking the chances for a fair and open debate on the future of the npt here this week," pointed out Stephanie Mills, Greenpeace's international NPT coordinator. Greenpeace has accused the us of political armtwisting, economic inducements and other bullying tactics to steamroll non-nuclear countries into accepting an unconditional and indefinite extension.

India, a vociferous critic of the NPT (Down To Earth, January 15, 1995), gave vent to its displeasure by refusing to participate both in the preparatory meeting held in New York late January this year, and the extension conference as well.

Widespread disillusionment with the NPT has marred the treaty which was signed on July 1, 1968, by 62 nations -- including the us, Britain and the erstwhile Soviet Union -- to bring closer the goal of nuclear disarmament. It now has 172 rather disillusioned members.

Critics have been particularly irked about the failure of the nuclear powers states to implement Article 6 of the treaty which calls on them to pursue "measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race...and on a treaty on general, and complete disarmament." Mohammed Shaker, Egypt's ambassador to Britain and a proliferation expert, argues that the big powers act "as a closed club which makes its own rules".

Further, there are too many transgressions: sceptics say that although North Korea joined the treaty in 1991, it has often kept the us and the nuclear inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency on a razor's edge about its nuclear capabilities. Yet, Pyongyang has been "rewarded" with the promise of nuclear reactors and fuel oil.

Hectic lobbying efforts by the US are afoot to persuade smaller states to toe the line and drive a wedge within the 111 developing, or non-aligned, nations. Since the non-aligned nations themselves have no consensus on the duration of the treaty, the US has an unchallenged field.

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