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|December 18, 1998||
FMCT aimed at India more than at Pakistan, Israel, says expert
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The proposed fissile material cut-off treaty, aimed particularly at the three undeclared nuclear powers, India, Pakistan and Israel, seeks to target New Delhi more than Islamabad and Tel Aviv, according to Savita Pande of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
Pande, a leading authority on FMCT, said the focus was on India because it already has in place an elaborate indigenous civilian nuclear infrastructure unlike the other two countries.
She said the three undeclared nuclear powers were unlikely to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and that the FMCT offered a new way to place the sensitive facilities and material of these three countries under international safeguards.
She said both Pakistan and Israel had credible nuclear deterrents but had no civilian nuclear programme. In times of need, they could depend on external nuclear powers for material and expertise. Therefore, even if Pakistan and Israel signed the FMCT, they would be able to wriggle out of a tight situation unlike India, Pande said.
She referred to the recent report of the Rand Corporation of the USA that had asserted that the purpose of the FMCT was not to stop production of fissile material but to sensitive facilities and material under watch.
She underlined that considering India's main concern -- the Chinese inventory -- was shrouded in secrecy, New Delhi's security angle needs to be not only kept in mind but also asserted.
Pande said if India ever signed the FMCT with New Delhi's security interests taken care of, the treaty should be made a bargaining chip -- accession to it should call for the removal of export control restrictions.
She felt that the FMCT posed a far greater challenge to the Indian nuclear policy than the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or any other comparable issue. According to her the FMCT directly attacked the weaponisation option since it would freeze the amount of plutonium available for making weapons. She said this made it imperative on the government to ensure there was a minimal deterrent.
According to Pande, it would be worthwhile to weigh the pros and cons of assembling the production material into weapons after the treaty comes into force. She underscored that weaponising followed by a policy dealing with fissile materials seemed more logical than the other way around.
She said if the government accepted the principle of deterrence as valid, as the prime minister had stated in the context of chemical weapons, such a decision should not be too far-fetched.
"After all, deterrence is traditionally achieved once the capability to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary is reached," she said, adding that "nothing could be more unacceptable to the adversary than assembled deliverable bombs".
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