Strategic Analysis

Strategic Analysis:
A Monthly Journal of the IDSA

August 2000 (Vol. XXIV No. 5)


NPT Review: Issues and Challenges
By Manpreet Sethi *


The NPT Review Conference (RevCon) concluded on May 19, 2000. This was the sixth review conference in the NPT’s 30 year life–one being held every five years. Each RevCon has generated a fair amount of enthusiasm and optimism, especially regarding the possibility of registering some sort of movement in the direction of a nuclear weapons free world. However, experience of the past such reviews reveal that very often these long meetings have ended up without any results to show for the hard labour that goes into organising and holding them. In three RevCons out of the six held so far, lack of consensus prevented the formulation of a final document. 1

The most recent RevCon, however, at least was a success on this count. A report was consensually put forth as the final declaration of the Conference. This by itself is being considered a sort of an achievement, given that every state party to the treaty–and 155 out of a total 187 attended it–put in its bit to make sure that the language of the final document was just right and that the commas and full stops were exactly where they should be. Naturally then, Conference deliberations on the final document spilled over beyond the stipulated time. The last day of the Conference turned out to be forty hours long as delegates walked the tightrope. They were faced with the twin challenge of making the Conference a success by producing a final document and at the same time, making sure that their national or bloc positions were not fundamentally compromised.

Finally when the marathon ended, relief was writ large on every face. But it is debatable whether everyone felt an equal sense of satisfaction at what the RevCon achieved. Was the outcome worth the effort? What were the issues that animated the discussions and what new ground was broken, if any? What are going to be the challenges for the NPT in the future? And, what does it entail for India? These are some of the questions that the article seeks to address. It begins, however, by examining the backdrop against which the review was taking place. This helps explain why some issues dominated over others and why the outcome turned out the way it did.


The Backdrop

The 6th RevCon, was, in a way, being considered a sort of a test case, since this was the review of the NPT being undertaken after the treaty’s extension in 1995. At that time, the indefinite extension of the NPT without a vote had been secured by accepting three solutions that have since come to be described as concessions. They were like sops that the nuclear weapon states (NWS) held out to the non nuclear weapon states (NNWS) in order to pacify them and relieve them of the troubling thought that by granting an indefinite extension, they were surrendering their leverage over treaty implementation. The three decisions were held out as a means to secure the NPT’s permanence with accountability.

The first of the three decisions sought to strengthen the review process through an enhanced and a more substantive review of treaty implementation. Besides assessing progress in the past five years, the review process was also given a forward-looking orientation by asking it to identify steps for the future. And, to carry out this exercise, three preparatory committee (prepcom) meetings were envisaged in the last three years before the run up to the RevCon. The task of the prepcoms was also expanded beyond the traditional mandate of considering only procedural matters to include discussions and recommendations on substantive issues as well. As the Resolution specified, “...the purpose of the Preparatory Committee meetings would be to consider principles, objectives and ways in order to promote the fullest implementation of the treaty, as well as its universality, and to make recommendations thereon to the Review Conference... These meetings should also make the procedural preparations for the next Review Conference...” 2

Decision no. 2 defined a list of Principles and Objectives for Non-proliferation and Disarmament. These were to be the bench-marks against which to assess how much, and in which direction the international community, especially the NWS had moved on these two crucial issues. It specified guidelines and indicative targets designed to promote greater accountability.

The third resolution related to the Middle East and as is pretty much self-evident was included to garner the support of Egypt and the Arab states for the NPT’s indefinite extension. In 1995, none of these were in favour of an indefinite extension, not even Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that were viewed as client states of the US after the Gulf War. The resolution on Middle East was then worked out. It expressed concern on the continued presence of unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in the Middle East and called for “the establishment by regional parties of a Middle East zone free of nuclear and all other weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems”.

The NWS, in 1995, might not have thought much of granting these concessions. Their priority then was to secure an indefinite extension for the NPT so as to gain a right in perpetuity to retain their monopoly on nuclear weapons. However, an examination of the three prepcoms and the 2000 RevCon reveals the widespread implications of the three decisions. As mandated by the strengthened review process (SRP), the prepcoms held in 1997, 98 and 99 examined and debated substantive issues besides considering procedural matters. In the process, and contrary to NWS expectations and wishes, they turned out to be like mini review conferences. The NNWS perceived the prepcoms as a forum through which to make the NPT review a more credible and meaningful process for ensuring treaty accountability. Consequently, the NWS found their policies and decisions that impinged on the treaty subjected to minute scrutiny and comment.


The PrepComs

The first PrepCom, convened in 1997, had representatives from 149 states and 135 NGOs. They gathered with hope and optimism at the potential of the strengthened review process. The meeting, however, could not live up to expectations. Rather, it exposed differences between groups of nations on a number of substantive issues, the most irreconcilable ones being on nuclear disarmament. Moreover, there was a dispute over the very meaning and scope of the strengthened review process. There was disagreement over what kind of recommendations should be made and what their status should be. While some countries favoured the initiation of a rolling text of recommendations that could be passed from one prepcom to another until it reached the RevCon, others objected to restricting the RevCon to the confines of what the prepcom recommended. Differences of opinions and interpretations existed on such basic issues as the role and function of prepcoms–on whether they should focus on information exchange, or on implementing the Principles and Objectives from the previous RevCon and provide an annual report based on that, or develop a text for the RevCon, or perform all the three functions. Owing to a lack of consensus on these issues, the first PrepCom failed to forward any major recommendations to the second one.

That disillusionment with the strengthened review process was beginning to set in was evident in 1998 when only 97 nations and 76 NGOs chose to attend the meeting, in contrast to impressive numbers of the previous year. Yet again, the progress on disarmament, or the lack of it, dominated the debate at the PrepCom. Another issue that troubled the gathering was related to the 1995 resolution on the Middle East. Drawing upon this resolution, Egypt and other Arab states requested background documentation on the issue and insisted that the NPT must exhort Israel, by name, to join it. However, the US resisted these attempts, taking the view that the Middle East resolution was separate from the 1995 package. It described it as a one-off stand alone agreement that had no standing beyond that date. 3 It also dismissed the demand for background documentation on the premise that making such documentation available was limited only to issues addressing the articles of the treaty.

The stalemate over this issue held up the second PrepCom from passing even a paragraph on the preparation of documentation. Neither was any business transacted on procedural matters with a hurdle arising over the rule covering the work of committees. While South Africa, backed by the countries of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) and some other NNWS wanted the mention of working groups to be supplemented by an explicit reference to subsidiary bodies, Russia objected to it. Attempts to include both terms also floundered. Finally with time running out, the second PrepCom passed all its problems to the next one.

The third PrepCom began with the burden of sorting out all issues–substantive and procedural–before the 2000 RevCon. Its awesome task was made difficult by an international security environment that had come to be riddled with uncertainties and heightened security concerns. To mention only a few, NATO had reaffirmed its commitment to nuclear sharing and first use; its military action in Kosovo was conducted despite Russian and Chinese objections; nuclear tests had been carried out by India and Pakistan and there were a number of other developments that had increased the salience of nuclear weapons and undermined the chances of nuclear weapons free world (NWFW). All these developments came in for severe criticism and country positions hardened on major substantive issues. Consequently, the PrepCom could make no formal recommendations on substantive matters.

It did nevertheless register a few procedural and organisational advances. It was agreed that subsidiary bodies on nuclear disarmament and on regional issues, with reference to the Middle East, would be established to look at the issues in a focussed manner. As has been mentioned earlier, the US and Russia had vehemently opposed the concept of subsidiary bodies at the second PrepCom. However, the two countries downplayed their change in positions. They described it as a mere change of name. As the Working Paper presented by the US at the PrepCom stated. “The change of name does not imply any change in the status of these subsidiary bodies”. 4 In another significant compromise, the US agreed to allow the UN Secretariat to prepare background documentation on the Middle East. Realising the widespread support for this resolution from Egypt, the Arab nations, NAM, European Union member states, and, Canada and France, the US conceded that the resolution formed an integral part of the 1995 package and that it would remain valid until those goals were achieved.

These positions may have been accomodated because the US and other NWS realised that unless the prepcoms met with some success, disenchantment with the treaty would only grow and this would not augur well for the forthcoming review conference. The same had very much been said at one of the PrepComs itself. Ambassador Mark Moher, the Canadian permanent representative at the Conference on Disarmament (CD) did not mince his words when he said, “There are some very significant challenges in front of this regime. I do not think anyone should ever operate on the assumption that a treaty is above question. As long as people see a reasonable return on their investment, they will continue to participate. If they perceive that the treaty is not living up to their expectation they may reconsider”. 5 It was to avoid any such reconsideration that the US opted to show flexibility, at least on procedural matters, so that delegates leaving New York city after the final PrepCom could return the next year with a more positive frame of mind.

Yet it cannot be denied that the inability of the PrepComs to address substantive issues in any meaningful way, thereby belying the original intention of the strengthened review process, cast a shadow over the RevCon. The feeling of scepticism and frustration at the inability to transact any meaningful business was further heightened by the vast number of actions of the NWS that had only added to increasing the role and relevance of nuclear weapons since 1995. For instance, the nuclear doctrines of nearly all NWS as well as military alliances, such as NATO have been revised to lend greater credence to nuclear weapons, including through mention of first use. NATO actions in this regard, besides its expansion eastwards, have led to a revision of Russia’s national security doctrine to one that specifies the use of nuclear use when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country is threatened, even if by conventional might. Nuclear weapons remain on hair trigger alert in all NWS. The CTBT has been denied ratification by the US Senate. The Russian Duma just about ratified the CTBT and START 2 before the start of the RevCon, but under the condition that the US should not violate the ABM treaty deploying national missile defence. 6 Meanwhile, the CD has proved to be powerless to resolve the deadlock on the issue of negotiating the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT). All these developments did, in some way or the other, contribute to the turbulence faced by the NPT at the three PrepComs and was naturally expected to impinge upon the proceedings of the review conference as well.

The apprehensions over the possibility of the RevCon being rocked by the adverse impact of these developments added to the pressure to register some sort of a success, especially so that the future of the NPT would not be jeopardised. As the President of the Conference, Ambassador Baali of Algeria said, “The outcome of this Conference will have a major impact on deciding the future course of the NPT and the nuclear non proliferation regime for generations to come.” 7 Perhaps, it is also for this reason and sensing just such a mood that the state parties, both nuclear and non nuclear, strove to at least bring out a consensual final document.


The P-5 Statement

However, much before the final document, in the 2nd week of the RevCon, the NWS, in a significant move, and in a clear bid to restore confidence in the NPT and its principles, issued a statement committing themselves unequivocally to the ultimate goals of a complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a treaty on general and complete disarmament. This was the first such joint statement at an NPT RevCon. 8 While collectively reiterating the significance of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the early conclusion of the FMCT, the five NWS promised to provide individual accounts of their systematic and progressive efforts at reducing nuclear weapons globally. In another significant paragraph of the statement, they declared that none of their nuclear weapons were targeted at any state. While retargeting can be done quickly, this was put forth as a major confidence building measure.

Apart from the declaration on detargeting, no major progress from positions that already existed may be inferred from the P-5 statement. The unequivocal commitment hardly implies anything more than what has been enshrined in Article VI of the treaty for thirty years and the commitment remains as ambiguous and open ended. The British Defence Minister even said as much in a BBC interview shortly after the issue of the joint statement. He said the pledge was an “agreement in principle to which there was no time-table attached.” 9 So it has remained ever since the NPT first came into being. Rather, the P-5 statement has once again put nuclear disarmament back into the context of total worldwide disarmament–a linkage that the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice in 1996 had denied. 10

Perhaps, the significance of the P-5 statement lies in the fact that the NWS were troubled by the drift within the NPT. They sensed the mood of the NNWS and hence, felt the need to bring out this statement. By issuing it at the time they did, the NWS sought to ensure that the treaty’s future would not be jeopardised, at least not for another five years and till the RevCon. At the same time, it sought to unify the five NWS themselves, since fissures were most evident over the possibility of a revision of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the Chinese intransigence over the issue of FMCT. It was as if the members of the nuclear club found greater merit in sticking together to keep the treaty alive and thereby retain their privileges. They realised, perhaps, that united they could withstand the increasingly mounting pressure of the NNWS to make them give up their nuclear weapons. In any case, whatever may have been the motive of the P-5 statement, to some extent, it may be credited for having had a positive impact on attempts to reach a final document. This becomes doubly important when one realises that the RevCon was likely to be stalemated over a number of issues.


Issues at the RevCon

Nuclear Disarmament

As has happened so often in the past, the issue of nuclear disarmament dominated discussion at the sixth RevCon too. Maximum time and effort has been spent by countries on articulating their positions on this crucial issue. Broadly speaking and going by the trend that became crystallised during the three prepcoms, two camps can be identified. On the one hand are the NWS who take recourse to recounting the progress already made by them in this direction by playing up the overall reduction in nuclear stockpiles from the Cold War years; the progress made in START 1 and 2; the conclusion of the CTBT etc. For further progress, however, they insist on regional stability as a precondition.

It fact, it is very interesting to note that each of the five NWS has conditioned further progress on this issue on matters that are considered crucial to their security. For instance, the US has warned that “if countries demand unrealistic and premature measures, they will harm the NPT and set back everyone’s cause." At the PrepCom too it had made it clear that nuclear disarmament could not “take place on demand, but could only come about as a consequence of conventional disarmament and regional stability”. 11 Russia, meanwhile, too voiced its opposition to granting too much importance to the attainment of nuclear disarmament. At the 2nd PrepCom, the Russian delegate stated that, “We believe it is untimely, and consequently, counterproductive to start talks at the Conference on Disarmament on a programme for nuclear disarmament within specific time limits.” 12 Since then Russia’s position showed further hardening on the subject since at the RevCon, Moscow linked further progress on nuclear disarmament to the continuance of the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. As is well known, Russia is opposed to the deployment of national missile defence by the US through any revision of the ABM. Apprehensive of the likely impact it would have on its own nuclear deterrent, it has conditioned all further actions on nuclear disarmament on the continuance of the ABM.

In fact, on this issue, Moscow has found an ally in China. Traditionally a supporter of nuclear disarmament, China has taken a harsh view of what it deems are US designs to eventually militarise outer space. Therefore, it has predicated its participation in arms control on two conditions–that they do not compromise global strategic balance and stability; and, that they do not undermine China’s national security interests. Since China will be the sole determinant of whether these conditions are satisfied or not, its support to nuclear disarmament appears to be little more than a case of being politically correct. France, on the other hand, has agreed to discuss issues relating to nuclear disarmament at the CD provided a mandate can be adopted by consensus. A tall order, given that differences run deep with the other camp.

The other camp primarily comprises the NNWS that deny that nuclear disarmament could be achieved only when general and complete disarmament has been accomplished. 13 In this field, NAM and New Agenda Coalition (NAC) 14 have encapsulated their positions and suggestions in their working papers presented at the RevCon. The NAC list of actions includes a call for re-examining nuclear doctrines, removing nuclear weapons from delivery vehicles, eliminating tactical nuclear weapons, negotiating a global legally binding negative security assurance treaty, and holding a dedicated conference on nuclear disarmament. Above all, it holds that the actions in the direction of nuclear disarmament should be transparent, irreversible and accountable. NAC proposals have garnered increasing support from among the NNWS, however as shall become evident in the following paragraphs, NWS are opposed to a majority of the NAC suggestions.

Given such divergences, the RevCon was faced with an unenviable task. The main committee 15 looking at this issue, broke it up into two parts–one dealing with unfinished business, such as CTBT, FMCT, START etc. and the other one focussing on the identification of steps for the future. Expectedly, there wasn't any consensus on the latter. While the NAM and NAC sought an acceleration in negotiations between 2000-2005, Britain, US and Russia were reluctant to confine themselves to a time frame. Russia further expressed its reservations on the clauses calling for irreversibility and those addressing the issue of tactical nuclear weapons unless it was put in the context of strategic stability. In fact, the term strategic stability became a sort of a buzzword that the NWS exploited whenever necessary. It may be taken to mean stability made possible by the mutual retention of comparable levels of nuclear weapons. And every time faced with a proposal that appeared to be threatening their hold over their nuclear arsenals, the nuclear weapon states resorted to agreeing with the proposal in principle, but subject to its being able to maintain strategic stability.

Meanwhile, the UK made known its preference for mentioning transparency, irreversibility and accountability as voluntary offers rather than as necessary obligations as was being insisted by NNWS. China, on the other hand, wanted no reference at all to transparency or irreversibility. It said that greater transparency was not possible till there existed a superpower, ready to intervene in other countries internal affairs, resorting to force and engaged in continuously improving its first strike nuclear capability. Instead, China suggested a commitment to no-first-use. This was of course, unacceptable to Russia and NATO.

The final document then could not really break any new ground on the crucial issue of nuclear disarmament. It confined itself to expressing deep concern over the continued threat to humanity from the possession of nuclear weapons by some states and over the reaffirmation of nuclear weapons doctrines, including those that retain first use. In the paras looking forward, it urges NWS to further efforts at reducing nuclear arsenals, unilaterally, and accepting the principles of irreversibility and transparency as a voluntary CBM. Expectedly, and rather tamely, it also seeks an early entry into force of the CTBT, negotiations on an FMCT at the CD and the establishment of a subsidiary body in the CD to deal with disarmament.

Nuclear Sharing

Another related issue that was vociferously raised by NAM at the conference related to nuclear sharing arrangements under NATO. The NAM working paper called upon NWS to refrain from nuclear sharing for military purposes “under any kind of security arrangements among themselves, with non nuclear weapons states, and with states not party to the Treaty.” 16 It may be mentioned that even though the NPT prohibits NNWS from acquiring nuclear weapons and the NWS from transferring them, six non nuclear NATO member states (Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey) house American nuclear weapons on their territory. All through the three prepcoms too, NNWS had voiced their concern over this issue. For instance, Egypt had recommended at the end of the third Prepcom that the NPT should be interpreted in a way so as to outlaw current NATO practices and possible future EU nuclear weapons cooperation. 17 Drawing upon these sentiments, at the sixth review conference, NAM sought to put the removal of US nuclear weapons from European territories as the next step towards disarmament. However, its attempt came to nought since the final document does not include any reference to this.

Iraq’s Non-Compliance

Yet another subject that kept the RevCon in a state of animated suspension right until the end was that of Iraq’s non-compliance with safeguards. In his report to the conference, the IAEA director general stated the inability of the IAEA to provide any assurance that Iraq is in compliance with its obligations. But the Iraqi representative dismissed this and said his country was in full compliance with all its obligations under the NPT and the IAEA safeguards regime. Rather, in a bid to divert attention from his own country, he protested that no action had been taken to force Israel to join the NPT, or to place its facilities under safeguards.

Therefore, at the stage of drafting the final document, a problem arose over how to make a mention of this issue. In fact, a stand off on the subject between US and Iraq at one time even threatened to scuttle the possibility of a consensual final document. Interestingly, around this time, there were rumours that the US never wanted a final document since it did not want to stand committed to the provisions on disarmament and was using the Iraqi issue as a scapegoat. Whether there was any truth in this or not, a compromise was subsequently reached when Iraq conceded that its name may be mentioned for non compliance, provided the final document also noted that in January 2000, after Iraq’s conclusion of a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, inspections were carried out and were able to verify the presence of nuclear material subject to safeguards. The Conference reaffirmed the importance of Iraq’s full and continuous cooperation with IAEA.

Israel’s Non-Adherence

Moving on from the problem of non-compliance to non-adherence, the mention of Israel crept into the RevCon discussions several times. As in the past, Egypt took the lead in pushing the NPT to address the problem posed by Israel’s unsafeguarded nuclear facilities and nuclear weapons capabilities. It also presented a working paper with a proposal that envisaged:

(a) The setting up of a follow up committee comprising the chair of each session of the PrepComs plus the three depository states 18 to initiate contacts with Israel and report back to successive RevCons;

(b) designating a special envoy from among the NPT states to pursue discussions with Israel and report back.

The proposal managed to gather the support of NAM and Arab countries. But, the US was opposed to singling out Israel in such a manner. Rather, it drew attention to the need for progress in the broader peace process, which would naturally improve prospects for an NWFZ in the region. The UK, meanwhile, objected to the depository states having any special responsibilities on this count. It quoted the 1995 resolution as calling upon all states parties to the NPT to work for an NWFZ in the region. Finally, the RevCon final statement reaffirmed the importance of Israel’s accession in realising the goal of universality. It also requested all states parties, particularly the NWS and states of the Middle East and other interested states to report through the UN secretariat to the President of the next RevCon and to the Prepcoms on the steps taken to promote a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East.

Export Controls

Another subject that was considerably debated at the RevCon was that of export controls. Several NAM countries expressed concern at the way export controls hindered their right to participate in the “fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information" provided for in Article IV of the NPT. The NAM Working Paper argued against any denial on the basis of allegations of non-compliance not verified by the IAEA. Understandably, Iran expressed its dismay over the systematic denial of transfer of technology and criticised restrictive export control policies.

The nuclear suppliers however, pointed towards the large degree of transparency on export controls that had been achieved since 1985. Currently chairing the nuclear suppliers group (NSG), Italy gave examples of the measures the NSG had taken to increase transparency and its claim was supported by many, including Australia, USA and the EU countries.

In the final RevCon statement the issue of export controls was completely watered down or lost. Significantly, China refrained from committing itself to making full scope safeguards a condition for nuclear supplies. Does this have any implications for its nuclear relationship with Pakistan? Also, interestingly, Russia and France too were ambiguous on this subject and does that signify anything for the fact that both are desirous of finalising nuclear deals with India?

Strengthened Review Process

Finally on the SRP, while there was the expected rhetoric over the revitalisation of the process to make it more effective and meaningful, China did argue at one point that the SRP decision taken in 1995 covered only the five years from 1995-2000. Of course, it added in the same breath that it was not in favour of curtailing the review process. The final document, however, reaffirmed the importance of the SRP, stipulated three sessions of prepcom and agreed to subsidiary bodies at RevCons. It also instructed the prepcoms to prepare a summary of issues considered and pass it on to the next session and then a consensus report be drawn up for the next RevCon. Whether this will actually happen or not will be evident over the next five years.



From all that has been stated in the above paragraphs, it is evident that every nation raised issues and concerns and made statements reflecting its own security concerns. For instance, while no one deemed it politically correct to oppose negotiations for an FMCT, country positions nevertheless, exposed the seriousness, or lack of it, that they attached to it. In this context, the stance taken by China is demonstrative. It has made the negotiations on ‘fissban’ conditional on an agreement of a programme of work that is balanced and comprehensive in the CD. It wants concurrent negotiations on the issue of outer space and nuclear disarmament. Apprehensive of the US deployment of NMD that may at a later stage lead to the militarisation of space, it has sought the establishment of a committee on the prevention of an arms race in outer space and considers this even more urgent than the conclusion of an FMCT. In fact, it did not agree to even call for a collective moratorium on the production and stockpiling of fissile material, even though it is widely believed to have stopped production of its fissile material some years ago. Rather, in an intelligent move, China linked the call for moratorium on fissile material production with one seeking a moratorium on deployment of weapons in outer space.

Similarly, if one looks at the issues that Russia raised at the RevCon, they are drawn from its own immediate threat perceptions. It referred to local conflicts, international terrorism and militant separatism as providing the environment conductive for nuclear proliferation. In an oblique reference to the US it also decried attempts of states to undermine the system of strategic stability.

Also, while the NWS harped on the dangers from horizontal proliferation and hence, the need for universality and stringent supporting safeguards, the NNWS remained more concerned with gaining access to nuclear technology and disarmament. As is evident from this, the RevCon worked in an atmosphere in which parties pushed for implementation of those elements they found desirable while resisting those not in their interests. And in doing so, they resorted to the use of a beautifully clever play of words. For instance, China accepted nuclear disarmament, but also said that the measures should follow the principle of maintaining global strategic stability and undiminished security of every state. France, meanwhile, blocked a para enshrining the unequivocal undertaking to accomplish the total elimination of nuclear arsenals. Instead, all it was ready to accept was an unequivocal undertaking to the ultimate elimination. Meanwhile, the phrase ‘strategic stability’ was evoked in every context from reducing nuclear weapons unilaterally, to dealing with tactical nuclear weapons to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in security policies.

In conclusion, it may be said that the NPT review process could not really live up to its expectations in terms of carrying out an actual and meaningful review of compliance and non-compliance. But this may also be blamed on the fact that the NPT itself defines nothing more than broad parameters without providing any yardsticks for measuring compliance. For example, on nuclear disarmament it is just said that negotiations will be carried out in good faith and at an early date. What could be more ambiguous than this? In order to circumvent this problem, the RevCons have been coming out with some prescriptive statements and identifying future steps. But the steps themselves are chosen as per NWS preferences. When they do not need to conduct more tests, the CTBT is negotiated. When they have enough fissile material stocks, the FMCT is put on the agenda. Meanwhile the actual elimination of nuclear weapons remains an open ended objective.

Notwithstanding, its shortcomings, however, there is widespread consensus that the NPT and its continuance is in the interest of every state. And I would venture to add that it would even be in the interest of India. Through its verification mechanism and international safeguards, the NPT does put brakes on rampant nuclear proliferation and to have less nuclear powers is in India’s interests. Moreover, the discriminatory nature of obligations enshrined in the NPT is beginning to bother a number of NNWS too. Also increasingly practical proposals are beginning to be made by many of these states. India could let it be known that it would support them and thereby help to craft some sort of a new regime that gives an equal, if not greater importance to nuclear disarmament, besides nuclear proliferation.



Note *: Research officer, IDSA.  Back.

Note 1: Final declarations could be adopted at the first review conference in 1975, the third one in 1985 and the most recent one in 2000.  Back.

Note 2: NPT/CONF. 1995/32 (Part 1), Decision 1, Para 4.  Back.

Note 3: Rebecca Johnson, “The 1999 PrepCom: Substantive Issues”, Disarmament Diplomacy, no. 36, April 1999, <>  Back.

Note 4: Working Paper submitted by the USA, NPT/CONF.2000/PCIII/6, May 10, 1999.  Back.

Note 5: Stephen Young, “1999 NPT PrepCom: Keys to Success”, Occasional Papers on International Security Issues, BASIC, no. 30, April 1999.  Back.

Note 6: This may be described as a very clever move on the part of Russia since it immediately sought to put the US on the defensive while letting Russia off the hook at the NPT. Most initial statements at the plenary session of the review conference praised the Russian move.  Back.

Note 7: Statement of the President of the 2000 RevCon, H.E. Amb Abdallah Baali, New York, April 24, 2000 <>  Back.

Note 8: For the text of the statement see, Strategic Digest, June 2000. At the first and second PrepComs though, joint statements by the P-5 had been made. However, a fresh statement could not be made in 1999 because of the deterioration in US relations with Russia and China following NATO action in Kosovo.  Back.

Note 9: Thomas Abraham, “Britain has no plans to reduce stockpile now”, The Hindu, May 23, 2000.  Back.

Note 10: For a detailed analysis of the ICJ opinion see.  Back.

Note 11: Douglas Roche, “An Analysis of the First PrepCom Meeting for the 2000 Review of the Non-proliferation Treaty”, <>  Back.

Note 12: Douglas Roche, “An Analysis of the Second PrepCom Meeting for the 2000 Review of the Non-proliferation Treaty”, <>  Back.

Note 13: Of course, it may not be understood that the NNWS project a monolithic viewpoint, agreeing on the means and the steps to achieve nuclear disarmament. Differences in how to approach the issue abound. For details on these see, Manpreet Sethi, “The NPT Review Process: Turning on the Heat”, Asian Strategic Review, 1998-99, pp. 168-185.  Back.

Note 14: The New Agenda Coalition is a grouping of seven countries–Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and Sweden. It was formed in 1998 after the failure of the second PrepCom to achieve any progress on substantive matters.  Back.

Note 15: The Review conference normally consists of a plenary and three Main Committees for negotiating the key issues of disarmament, safeguards and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The main committees submit their results to a drafting committee, which then seeks to harmonise the results of all the three into a final document.  Back.

Note 16: NAM Working Paper as presented to the RevCon and reproduced in Strategic Digest, June 2000.  Back.

Note 17: “Egypt proposes ending NATO nuclear sharing”, PENN Press Release, May 12, 1999. <>  Back.

Note 18: The three depositary states are the US, UK and Russia (formerly, the Soviet Union).  Back.