Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

 

Basics and Background

  • Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treatyor NPT, is an international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament
  • It is the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States
  • It was opened for signature in 1968 and the Treaty entered into force in 1970.
  • It was designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, to further the goals of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament, and to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • Year 2020 marked the 50thanniversary of the entry-into-force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), a legal instrument treated as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

 

Three pillars of the treaty

  1. Non-Proliferation
  2. Disarmament
  3. Peaceful use of Nuclear Energy

 

Member countries

  • A total of 191 States have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States
  • Four UN member states have never accepted the NPT, three of which possess or are thought to possess nuclear weapons: India, Israel, and Pakistan.
  • In addition, South Sudan, founded in 2011, has not joined.

 

Objectives:

  • To further the goal of non-proliferation and as a confidence-building measure between States parties, the Treaty establishes a safeguards system under the responsibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the IAEA.
  • The Treaty promotes cooperation in the field of peaceful nuclear technology and equal access to this technology for all States parties, while safeguards prevent the diversion of fissile material for weapons use.
  • The provisions of the Treaty, particularly article VIII, envisage a review of the operation of the Treaty every five years,a provision which was reaffirmed by the States parties at the 1995 NPT Review and Extension Conference.

 

Implications:

  • States without nuclear weapons will not acquire them.
  • States with nuclear weapons will pursue disarmament.
  • All states can access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, under safeguards.

 

Key provisions:

  • The Treaty defines nuclear weapon states (NWS) as those that had manufactured and detonated a nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967. All the other states are therefore considered non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS).
  • The five nuclear weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • The Treaty does not affect the right of state parties to develop, produce, and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

 

Role of States:

  • Nuclear weapon states are not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons and not to assist, encourage, or induce any NNWS to manufacture or otherwise acquire them.
  • Non-nuclear weapons states are not to receive nuclear weapons from any transferor, and are not to manufacture or acquire them.
  • NNWS must accept the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)safeguards on all nuclear materials on their territories or under their control.

 

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency is the world’s central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field.
  • It works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, contributing to international peace and security and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

 

Why India never signed the treaty?

  • As per the stance of the Indian Government, the treaty in its current form is unfair as it, virtually, states that the 5 victorious nations of World War II have the right to possess nuclear weapons while condemning the rest of the nations who don’t have the weapons, to be subservient to the whims and fancies of the nations who do. In short, the treaty divides the world into nuclear ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.
  • India’s traditional position has always been that either the five nations denuclearize or everyone has the same rights as those who possess them.
  • Also escalation of tensions by one of its nuclear-armed neighbours i.e. China was the primary reason why India conducted its own nuclear tests in the first place.
  • It is this same escalation by India that prompted Pakistan to conduct its own nuclear test in order to act as a deterrent to what is perceived as “India’s naked aggression.

 

Limitations of the Treaty:

  • The main drawbacks of the treaty are that it never held accountable the 5 nations who possessed nuclear weapons at the time when the treaty was signed.
  • At the same time, the enforcement of the treaty is also a serious cause for concern. Despite the threat of economic sanctions and other serious consequences, North Korea detonated its first bomb in 2006. Now even Iran is poised to go down the same route.
  • The treaty even has serious loopholes which can be exploited by other nations in order to have their own nuclear weapons program.
  • Regardless, it’s clear that the world is a better place because of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It was predicted that about 25 nations will possess nuclear weapons. But the mere presence of it has reduced it to 9.
  • The NPT was not the only reason for this, but the mere presence of the safeguard can at least promise an era of peace, and if the current loopholes are fixed, it will fulfil such a promise

 

Peaceful Nuclear Explosions:

  • Peaceful nuclear explosions (PNEs) are nuclear explosions conducted for non-military purposes.
  • The US proposed to prohibit PNE rights and instead offered to provide the technology on a commercial basis.
  • The Indian representatives consistently termed the offer as ‘atomic apartheid’ and ‘commercial super-monopoly,’ and insisted that PNE rights need to be integral to all peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
  • India conducted its first PNE in 1974 in opposition to this discriminatory principle.

 

Post-Cold War Challenges:

  • The treaty’s existential challenges began in the post-Cold War setting when the attempts by a few State Parties to break-out or gain nuclear latency led to numerous instances of non-compliance, violations and defiance.
  • The NPT’s indefinite extension in 1995, while invoking its irreplaceability, also underlined the inability of states to formulate a stand-alone instrument towards the objective of disarmament, as enshrined in the NPT.
  • The emergence of non-state actors with declared intent to access weapons of mass destruction and the detection of a global nuclear black-market, has raised concerns on the limitations of the treaty to address the challenges thrown up by the new strategic milieu.

 

Way Forward:

  • Rising energy demands have led to a growing number of countries pursuing nuclear energy, and many countries wish to be energy-independent, in order to ensure a sustainable and dependable domestic energy supply. As clean energy, development, and peaceful coexistence are essential for every country.
  • Thus, the challenge for the international community will be to reconcile states’ desire for energy independence with their desire to both reduce the intrusiveness of IAEAsafeguards and diminish the possibility of proliferation.
  • Also, NNWS welcomes New START and other initiatives, but is anxious to see more concrete actions on reducing the role of nuclear weapons in national security doctrines, reducing alert levels, increasing transparency, and other steps.
  • More regions in the world (preferably comprising NWS) should enter into an arrangement of establishing Nuclear-weapon-free zones.
  • Further, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a step in the right direction for nuclear disarmament.