Numero uno nuclear proliferator and the only user of nukes USA had thought of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as early as 1950, within a year of the Soviet Union exploding the first nuke in 1949. However, they waited deliberately to allow the other P-5 members of the UNSC to achieve nuclear capability. China was the last P-5 nation.
NPT came into existence in 1970. The tenth review meeting has been postponed due to COVID. 50 years of NPT has not been able to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in a clandestine manner. In fact, P-5 nations themselves have helped rogue nations viz North Korea and Pakistan go nuclear.
As a facade, the P-5 nations have only recently announced non-use of nuclear weapons. This is in stark contradiction to Putin's doctrine, which clearly states that in the face of a powerful conventional weapon attack, Russia will use nukes.
No first use (NFU) is a flawed policy. Weapons are not produced for storage. Unambiguous intent- to use if 'red lines are crossed- is the primary tenet of national security.
India has to move over from NFU to NBFU sooner than later. The geo-strategic scenario was different 40 years back when we went nuclear and adopted NFU policy. World order is no longer as stable as it was then. Hence the need for change.
Joined by 191 countries, the NPT is the world’s most widely ratified nuclear arms control agreement. Under the pact, nations without atomic weapons committed not to acquire them; those that had them at the time — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China -- committed to move toward eliminating them; and everyone endorsed all countries' right to develop peaceful nuclear energy. Nations without nukes also agreed to ongoing verification that any nuclear energy programs they might have aren’t being diverted to weaponry.
Non Proliferation Treaty was evolved as a ‘dormant yet potent political weapon’ by the P-5 to control global affairs. Their contention to make the world a safer place notwithstanding. It is another matter that it was deftly projected as an attempt to prevent development of nuclear weapons by other nations by terming the nukes as weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It is ironic but true that while the two nukes dropped by USAF over Japan killed a mere 1,25,00 and maimed millions for life, but a look at elementary data of post 2nd World War global casualties, both military and civilian, suffered in hundreds of past and ongoing regional conventional weapon wars would indicate that more than 100 million people have been killed/maimed by conventional weapons. Most of conventional weapons used/still in use are produce of weapon producing establishments of P-5 nations.
Lack of technological advances in the rest of the world also helped the P-5 nations to control and dictate terms to other nations. The P-5 went a step further; they formed military alliances viz NATO, Warsaw Pact to name a few. Fundamental precept of US diplomacy of 60s simply stated ‘if you are not with us-you are against us’.
Latest announcement by P-5 nations on 3rd January, 2022 that they will ensure that nukes are not used in any future war must not be viewed as an attempt towards maintaining/promoting world peace. Instead it is a hidden agenda by these nations to promote and proliferate sales of expensive conventional weapons, thereby benefiting their respective large conglomerates involved in producing weapons.
Perhaps there is a need to eliminate the term ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and replace it with ‘Nations of Mass Destruction’ (NMD) trying to preach the rest of the world ills of development and possession of nuclear weapons. Can, rather should we differentiate between two war scenarios? One in which a single nuke kills few lakh/thousand in one day and the other war using conventional weapons lasting few years killing millions, destroying infra-structure and sometimes national identity.
Long and protracted wars in some part of the globe are in the economic interest of P-5 nations and few others, who are the major weapon producers. Diplomacy, politics and peace is a distant second. Recent mega deals involving all these nations of weapon sales to their ‘friends’ is a testimony of their intent to ensure that peace does not prevail. Countries like USA has gone a step further by introducing provisions viz CAATSA to be imposed on nations buying weapon platform from adversaries of USA. But if similar weapon platform was purchased from US weapon manufacturer, there was no issue.
It is in this context that renewal/extension of NPT that merits a look into. NPT was intended to contain development of nukes. But the facts prove otherwise. In fact NPT has become the primary cause of proliferation of nukes in a clandestine manner by rogue nations. North Korea and Pakistan are near perfect examples. Even P-5 nations have continued with advancements in development of miniature nukes, delivery systems and number of warheads. Ongoing attempt towards development of hypersonic delivery system is one such case.
The development of nukes resulted in an entirely new military philosophy of deterrence. But has nuclear deterrence really worked? P-5 nations have been fighting/promoting proxy wars over the entire globe commencing with the Suez crisis in 1948. It is another matter that neither P-5 nations have used nukes against each other nor have they used it on a non-nuclear-weapon state, at least as yet. But such actions are not out of human empathy because each one of P-5 has been involved in the killing of millions either singly or collectively in various parts of the globe fighting proxy wars.
NPT suffers from yet another stark reality. Should the self-proclaimed nuclear-capable nation-states have a different status/standing as compared with other nations? Why does United Nations Security Council has only P-5 as its permanent members? All P-5 nations, without exception, are practitioners of strategic hypocrisy, when it comes to a nation viz India and Israel decide to develop nuclear weapons as a deterrence. If possession of nukes is ‘the qualification’ to be a member of UNSC, why should India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea not be part of it?
Is the national security issue of non-nuclear-weapon states any less important than P-5 nations’? Religious scriptures clearly enunciate that all human beings are born equal. Ironic but true; COVID onslaught across the globe has provided confirmed proof of divine order. Supposedly most developed nations have suffered/are still suffering more than the so-called ‘Third World Countries’, a most despicable term coined by these nations.
Global security cannot be ensured by treaties such as unequal status treaties viz NPT, which are evolved keeping in view the interests of very few. Global security can become better if an embargo is placed on sales of conventional weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) worldwide. P-5 nations will be on their knees because their arms lobby/economy will either collapse or suffer or both.
If nuclear deterrence is perceived to be the only reason why P-5 countries have not gone to war among themselves, it is logical to presume that proliferation of nukes will/may lead to a reduction in regional conflicts, which are invariably supported/fuelled by one or more P-5 nations. To believe that rest of the world countries other than P-5 nations are not responsible/mature enough to handle nukes is a fallacy. In any case, it is a matter of time (probably before 2030) that Iran may lead the brigade of aspiring nations also having nukes.
Can we conceive of such unequal terms/status in a treaty? The answer is an obvious no. Because sharing latest weapons technology and actual sales of weapons permits the weapon exporting nations to exercise political, diplomatic, and economic control over nations to whom weapon/technology is exported.
P-5 nations not only exercise such control over other nations outside P-5 but also practice it among themselves. An outstanding example of such control is sharing AWACS/AEW technology by the USA even with its all-weather friend, the UK. NIMROD, the only AEW developed outside the USA, was an RAF project. The USA ensured that the project did not progress any further. All NATO nations are dependent on the USA for AWACS/AEW support, even for their Carrier Battle Groups.
India’s stand on NPT has been consistent and commendable over the years, irrespective of the government at the centre. Full credit must be given to our bureaucrats, who have been advising successive governments to maintain our stand on NPT because the treaty was aimed at creating two different classes of nations. In spite of the formation of a Strategic Command, Military Officers are not yet included in the ‘nuclear strategy mainframe’. Uncontestable proof of such state is the fact that neither the Service Chiefs nor newly created CDS is a member of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
While discussing NPT, the issue of the use of nukes has to be dealt with. USA and erstwhile USSR coined numerous terms viz Mutually Assured Destruction etc during height of cold war. ‘no first use’ (NFU) too became an oft-quoted phrase during international seminars, which was coined more for ideological content than strategic inference.
Present comity of nations, P-5s in particular, believe NFU to be global policy. In the national/regional/global security narrative, there cannot be a uniform attribute governing all eventualities. Different nations at different times have varying security considerations/needs. Hence for India to remain stuck to an ideological precept of NFU in the present-day scenario is flawed to the core. Ideologues do not win wars and ensure national security.
The most important aspect of deterrenceis clear, unambiguous and enunciated intent that if and when need arises, the nation reserves the right to exercise to move from ‘state of deterrence’ to ‘actual use’ without notice, a fact not understood by myopic Indian intellectuals. Such clarity of intent, when enunciated unambiguously, prevents a hostile neighbour or hostile nation across seven seas from resorting to any military misadventure. North Korea and the USA stand off is a classic and perfect example of this.
It is, therefore, in India’s interest to move on and alter the stated policy on the use of nuclear weapons from NFU to ‘need-based first use (NBFU)’. It will send a clear message to the entire world, China and Pakistan in particular, that India will not (r) not hesitate to use nukes if red lines are crossed/approached endangering national security.
In order to close the discussion on nukes, a word about International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is essential. IAEA has merely become a toothless watch dog, which cannot even bark.
India must get rid of its defensive mindset if we have to grow as a regional power. Our intellectuals have to start viewing the globe from the eyes of the James Webb Telescope, likely to be installed about 1.5 million miles from earth. Ironically most intellectuals do not even see it from the eyes of Hubble orbiting a few hundred miles above the earth. Nuclear Weapons and delivery systems, which India already has, will serve as extremely effective and potent deterrence provided we move from NFU mindset to NBFU strategy. However think tanks viz IDSA, USI, etc are still in the stone age/pre-historic era as far as their thinking on national security is concerned.
Sadly none of them might have read the prophetic words of General Patton, who said “You do not win a war by dying for your country; you win a war by making your adversary* die for his country’ (*Gen Patton used a more effective word).
Our intellectuals appear to be scared ideologues rather than wise people of Chanakyan lineage in matters of strategy. The threat of sanctions and actual sanctions imposed is a curse that India has learned to live with be it MTCR or others. In spite of sanctions we have moved on and in 2022 we stand at par with P-5, ready to join them in UNSC.
Time is ripe and appropriate for India to announce its changed stand on the use of nuclear weapons to the world. Let the NPT discussion due to take place in UN discuss that as well. India in 2022 is in the most advantageous position to take on P-5. The current status of P-5 is as follows;
- USA and Russia are involved in the Ukraine crisis.
- USA and China, apart from a trade war, are involved in the Taiwan imbroglio.
- France is at loggerheads with USA and UK due to the AUKUS treaty and cancellation of the French Submarine deal with Australia.
- USA and Russia consider QUAD as a military alliance of which India is a member.
About The Author
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]