India and the NPT After 50 Years

Opinion
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The Diplomat

India and the NPT After 50 Years

As the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) turns 50 this summer, so will India’s refusal to accede to the Treaty on grounds that it is a biased legal instrument that divided the world into “nuclear haves” and “nuclear have-nots.” The year 2018 also commemorates 20 years since India’s five nuclear tests in May 1998, and 10 years since the 2008 congressional approval of the U.S.-India 123 agreement, also called the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement.

Much has been written on whether India “had it easy,” unlike other countries that developed nuclear weapons outside the five nuclear weapon states under the NPT. For those who remember, such arguments were plentiful and pervasive in the United States in 2008 when the U.S.-India 123 agreement needed congressional approval, and more recently, in opposition to the India’s membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It is an opportune moment, therefore, to understand the significance of this Treaty in terms of India’s supposed “special relationship” with it. Why did India not sign the NPT in 1968? What immediate and subsequent impact did that have on the NPT? What role did security interests, domestic politics and prestige play in India’s decision?

First, India’s decision to not join the NPT needs to be understood in the context of decisions taken by countries that chose to sign and ratify the NPT. Today, India is one of the only five countries that either did not sign the NPT or signed but withdrew, thus becoming part of a list that includes Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and South Sudan. This might make New Delhi seem like an outlier but persuading and/or coercing sovereign states to be part of the NPT was a Herculean effort for U.S. policymakers with no clear guarantee of success. This is because the “grand bargain” of the treaty — enshrined in Articles II and IV — requires countries to give up any present or future plans to build nuclear weapons in return for access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The aticle was originally published with Sumit Ganguly in The Diplomat. Read the full article here