Pakistan – mostly remaining in headlines on issues such as terrorism, militancy, corruption and insecurity – has moved away from traditional media focus. The country recently made headlines involving Sartaj Aziz, who was in the middle of giving keynote addresses and meeting his Afghan counterpart to resolve cross border tensions.
Aziz, who advises Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on matters relating to foreign affairs, on March 14th reaffirmed his country’s commitment and responsibility towards ensuring non-transfer of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons into the hands of non-state actors.
He was speaking at a two day seminar organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with the United Nations office for the disarmament, which brought together countries from South and Central Asia along with Russia, China and representatives from the 1540 Committee Group of Experts, IAEA, OPCW and Interpol.
The U.N. Security Council, on April 28, 2004, adopted the resolution 1540 under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which obliges all states to ensure non-proliferation of nuclear arms. The resolution also acknowledges that nuclear proliferation constitutes a threat to global peace and security.
Aziz assured the international community that Pakistan, as a responsible nuclear state, would work with the International community and its partners to ensure that the nuclear weapons don’t get in the wrong hands of hostile non-state actors.
The current ‘1540’ meeting could also pave way for Pakistan’s long road ahead for an entry into the Nuclear Supplier’s Group (NSG). Yet, Pakistan’s non-signatory status of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is currently the biggest roadblock in its membership of the NSG.
India, also on the cusp of joining the NSG, is also a non-signatory of the NPT. To India’s advantage, its civil nuclear agreement with the US in 2008 has helped it gain a strong supporter in Washington for its potential membership, who has created a special wavier for India.
Having said that, entering effective international coalitions and signing non-proliferation treaties – and not the NSG – should be Pakistan’s top priority at the moment. If Pakistan joins the Missile Technology Control Regime, Proliferation Security Initiative and Hague Code of Conduct, along with undertaking some additional obligations for the IAEA, it will considerably strengthen the reputation of Pakistan as a responsible nuclear state.
Not only will the international community welcome such steps, but will also improve faith in the country from major world and regional powers. Islamabad is also closer to getting a status of full SCO member and such steps can help Pakistan improve its own position in organizing and developing business ties with other members.
Also, it helps Islamabad not to let India get an advantage on this issue. If Pakistan develops its own role in non-proliferation mechanisms, it will help improve relations with Beijing and Moscow as well. It might then additionally resolve the problem of Pakistan’s access to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Pakistan might also need to change its position on the Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty if it wishes to join the “elite nuclear club”.
Working on prestigious international non-proliferation mechanisms makes Pakistan’s status equal to India’s. It will ruin all Indian attempts to isolate Islamabad on International and regional platforms. Though, it is highly unlikely that the US will support Pakistan on this matter, therefore it is important to get support from other influential members such as China and Russia.
Pakistan is now required to plead its case for joining international fora on a full membership basis. The idea for Pakistan is to reinforce national economy and improve its political image by acting side by side with major regional countries such as China, Russia, Turkey and Iran. By doing so, Pakistan could possibly find good advice on dealing with many of its domestic terror, extremism and economic issues, and also will be looked at positively by the international community.
Pakistan is standing at an interesting juncture in time. Its economy showed an unprecedented growth in 2016, with the Karachi Stock Exchange improving more than 50% compared to the previous year. Hence, even with the current political uncertainty, the country could still do some good by entering into transitional partnerships and alliances, which could further aid in accelerating economic growth, and improving the country’s global image.