India and International Treaties

Non-Proliferation Treaty – NPT

The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. A total of 187 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States. More countries have ratified the NPT than any other arms limitation and disarmament agreement, a testament to the Treaty’s significance. 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 co-operation 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, paragraph 3, 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. The 2000 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) met at the United Nations in New York from 24 April to 19 May 2000. The Conference was the first to meet following the Treaty’s indefinite extension at the 1995 Conference. States parties examined the implementation of the Treaty’s provisions since 1995, taking into account the decisions on the principles and objectives for nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament and the strengthening of the review process for the Treaty as well as the resolution on the Middle East adopted at the 1995 Conference.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is one of the great success stories of arms control. It has made major contributions to global security and economic well being. It has been remarkably successful in achieving its main goals and — with nearly 190 parties -has become the most widely-adhered to arms control treaty in history. The NPT is an indispensable tool in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.


The need to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons was evident from the first days of the nuclear era. By 1964, there were five declared nuclear weapon states — the United States, the former Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France and China. Many predicted that the nuclear club could grow to 20-30 countries within two decades. It rapidly became clear that if the many peaceful uses of nuclear technology were to be developed, states needed credible assurances that nuclear programs would not be diverted to military applications. In 1961, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution sponsored by Ireland calling on all states to conclude an international agreement that would ban the acquisition and transfer of nuclear weapons. In 1965, the Geneva disarmament conference began consideration of a draft nonproliferation treaty. Negotiations were completed in 1968 and, on July 1 of that year, the NPT was opened for signature. On March 5, 1970, the NPT entered into force. The United States, United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union were among the 43 original parties. Important members of the international community did not embrace the NPT in 1970. There were many questions. Would its terms be honored? Would the inspections of civil nuclear facilities lead to commercial espionage? Would others join the Treaty? Would it provide real benefits? Over time, the many benefits of the NPT became clear. The NPT establishes a political and legal barrier to the spread of nuclear weapons. That fact alone offered to many states a compelling rationale for joining. The growth in Treaty membership toward universality has been steady over the years. From 43 original parties in 1970 the number grew to 96 in 1975, 132 in 1985, 177 in 1995, and stands at nearly 190 today. Israel, India and Pakistan remain outside the Treaty. North Korea joined the NPT in 1985, but in January 2003 announced its intention to withdraw from the Treaty. In 1995, the parties faced the critical decision of whether to extend the NPT indefinitely or for a fixed period or periods. A majority decision was necessary. There was some speculation that the international community was not ready to make the NPT a permanent fixture of global security.However, at the Conference called to consider this issue, it was decided by consensus on May 11, 1995, that a majority of parties supported the indefinite extension of the Treaty.

Direct Security Benefits

There is a strong international consensus that the further spread of nuclear weapons would endanger the security of all countries, threaten global and regional stability, and undermine efforts to achieve peaceful solutions to existing problems among states. The NPT, and the norm of nonproliferation that it supports, are the primary reasons why the proliferation of nuclear weapons has been far slower than predicted in the 1960s. The security benefits of the NPT are evident in every region of the world. South Africa’s accession to the NPT in 1991 enhanced the security of all African states and opened the way for the negotiation of a treaty to make Africa a nuclear-weapon-free zone. Widespread acceptance of the NPT in Latin America and Southeast Asia has reinforced the desire of nations in these regions to ensure that nuclear weapons do not undermine their security. There have been challenges to the NPT. Iraq was found to be in violation of the NPT in 1991. Its nuclear program was neutralized through action by coalition military forces in the spring of 2003 following 12 years of Iraqi noncompliance. In Asia, North Korea’s failure to meet its NPT obligations, and its action to withdraw from the Treaty, undermine regional and global security. Iran failed to fulfill its obligations under Iran’s NPT safeguards agreement according to reports issued in 2003 by the International Atomic Energy Agency. In November 2003, the IAEA Board of Governors deplored Iran’s breaches of its obligations and urged compliance. In the last days of 2003, Libya announced its intention to abandon its efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Carrying out this pledge will require Libya to demonstrate full compliance with the NPT and Libya’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA. In all four cases, the international community responded strongly, insisting on full compliance with the NPT. The NPT is a critical tool in efforts to restrain the nuclear programs of these countries. Nuclear proliferation in South Asia in 1998 poses a continuing challenge. But the tests by India and Pakistan that year also reinforced the NPT, as nations around the world condemned these actions and reaffirmed the critical importance of the Treaty. In Europe and Central Asia, great political and economic changes have occurred over the last 15 years as a result of the dissolution of the former Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. In the midst of these massive changes, the NPT has provided stability. All of the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union transferred nuclear weapons deployed on their territories to Russia and joined the NPT as non-nuclear-weapon states.

Safeguards and Security

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), founded in 1957, is the primary mechanism for verifying that parties to the NPT are complying with its terms. The implementation of IAEA safeguards is further evidence of the way in which the NPT strengthens international security. Safeguards under the Treaty, including international inspections, help to deter the use of nuclear material for nuclear explosive purposes, and thus are an important confidence-building measure. In light of the lessons learned from Iraq in the early 1990s, the members of the IAEA have taken measures to strengthen the Agency’s safeguards system. These include a reaffirmation of the IAEA’s right to conduct special inspections and the use of new tools for the detection of clandestine nuclear facilities. In 1997, the IAEA adopted a model protocol for existing safeguards agreements under the NPT that is designed to give the IAEA a stronger role and more effective tools for conducting worldwide inspections.

Nuclear Arms Control and Reductions

The NPT’s role in checking nuclear proliferation also is critical to reducing existing nuclear arsenals. A vast array of actions has been taken in recent years that meet the objectives of NPT Article VI, which calls for effective measures relating to nuclear disarmament. Since the fall of the Berlin wall, the United States and the former Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation) have taken many dramatic steps to reduce Cold War stockpiles of nuclear weapons. The U.S. alone has dismantled approximately 13,000 nuclear weapons over this period. Today, the nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia is over. They have agreed on further reductions in nuclear weapons and their delivery systems, and on taking other steps to reduce their nuclear weapon infrastructures. The START I Treaty has significantly cut the number of strategic nuclear warheads deployed by the United States and the former Soviet Union. The U.S.-Russia Moscow Treaty, which entered into force in 2003, calls for reductions in the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to the lowest levels in decades. The NPT is vital for security, arms control and disarmament, and economic and social development throughout the world. By rededicating themselves to the NPT, its parties can ensure that this Treaty will play an even more vital role in the new millenium.

NPT Round-Up

Signed On 1 July 1968 at New York, United States
Became effective from : 5 March 1970
Ratification by The United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, the United States, and 40 other signatory states
Parties 189
Major countries not signatory India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea
Three Pillars of NPT :
  • Non-Proliferation
  • Disarmament
  • Peaceful use of nuclear energy

Key Provisions of the NPT

Under Article I, the nuclear weapon states undertake not to transfer to any recipient whatsoever nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and not to assist encourage or induce any non-nuclear-weapon state to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Under Article II, each non-nuclear-weapon state pledges not to receive, manufacture, or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices; and not to seek or receive assistance in their manufacture. Article III obliges each non-nuclear-weapon state to accept comprehensive international safeguards through agreements negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The intent of these safeguards is to deter and detect the diversion of nuclear material for nuclear explosive purposes. Under Article IV, parties may engage in peaceful nuclear programs in a manner consistent with Articles I and II and are expected to assist the nuclear programs of other parties, with special attention to the needs of developing countries. Article VI obligates all parties to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to ending the nuclear arms race at an early date, to nuclear disarmament, and to achieving a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. Article VII recognizes the right of any group of states to conclude regional treaties ensuring the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories. Considering the devastation that would be visited upon all mankind by a nuclear war and the consequent need to make every effort to avert the danger of such a war and to take measures to safeguard the security of peoples, Believing that the proliferation of nuclear weapons would seriously enhance the danger of nuclear war, In conformity with resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly calling for the conclusion of an agreement on the prevention of wider dissemination of nuclear weapons, Undertaking to cooperate in facilitating the application of International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on peaceful nuclear activities, Expressing their support for research, development and other efforts to further the application, within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards system, of the principle of safeguarding effectively the flow of source and special fissionable materials by use of instruments and other techniques at certain strategic points, Affirming the principle that the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology, including any technological by-products which may be derived by nuclear-weapon States from the development of nuclear explosive devices, should be available for peaceful purposes to all Parties of the Treaty, whether nuclear-weapon or non-nuclear weapon States, Convinced that, in furtherance of this principle, all Parties to the Treaty are entitled to participate in the fullest possible exchange of scientific information for, and to contribute alone or in cooperation with other States to, the further development of the applications of atomic energy for peaceful purposes, Declaring their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament, Urging the cooperation of all States in the attainment of this objective, Recalling the determination expressed by the Parties to the 1963 Treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water in its Preamble to seek to achieve the discontinuance of all test explosions of nuclear weapons for all time and to continue negotiations to this end, Desiring to further the easing of international tension and the strengthening of trust between States in order to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery pursuant to a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Reaction to Treaty

The non-proliferation treaty (NPT) produced a mixed reaction. While some considered it is a great landmark which could prove to be turning point in human history, the others looked in the treaty an attempt on the part of the United States and Soviet Union to establish their nuclear hegemony over the entire world. For example, President Johnson of USA described the treaty as “the most important international agreement in the field of disarmament since the nuclear Age began.” He described it as the first step towards the ending of the peril of nuclear war. Similarly Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko said that the treaty constituted “one of the most important steps ever undertaken to restrain the nuclear arms race in the name of the lasting interests of peace. On the other hand the Chinese Government strongly denounced the NPT. It described the treaty as “a big plot and a big fraud of the US imperialists and Soviet revisionists.” They alleged that through this treaty the United States and the Soviet Union wished to deprive the non-nuclear nations under US – Soviet Nuclear threat. It bound the non nuclear states and deprived them of their right to develop nuclear nations’ weapons for self-defence and even restricted their freedom to use the atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Similarly India also highlighted numerous loopholes in the treaty. It found the treaty discriminatory in so far it avoided equal and mutual obligations of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states. The treaty while denying nuclear weapons to the non-nuclear weapon states, did not prohibit the nuclear weapon states to proliferate their nuclear weapons. The other shortcomings of the proliferate their nuclear weapons. The other shortcomings of the treaty which were highlighted by India included absence of equal rights to all the countries to tame the atom to solve their socio-economic problems and failure to guarantee security to all the states. The Indian attitude towards the treaty was best summed up by K. Subramanyam. “The Indian objection was mainly against the unequal nature of the treaty and the misuse of international public opinion to observe a policy of vertical proliferation by a few powers and the dangers of first nuclear use. In India’s view this was not a non-proliferation treaty but a measured design to disarm the unarmed.” The nuclear powers were interested in freezing the status quo in regard to the current international powers distribution than in nuclear disarmament. No wonder, on account of its opposition to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, India refused to accede to it on the ground that the NPT in its present form was designed mainly as a political instrument of the two superpowers to divide nations into the nuclear have and the nuclear have-nots. It asserted that a non-proliferation agreement which ignores the present proliferation and preoccupies itself with the future proliferation is naturally unrealistic and ineffective. It confers all the benefits on the nuclear weapon powers and the burdens on the non-nuclear nations. India not only refused to join the NPT but also conducted a nuclear explosion. It declined to submit its nuclear activities to comprehensive international safeguards and consistently rejected the proposals for the setting up of a nuclear weapon free zone in South Asia. It may be noted that India is not the only country which has refused to ratify the NPT. A number of other countries also refused to do so. These include Pakistan, Israel, Egypt (which signed the treaty but announced that it would ratify the same only if Israel did), South Africa, Spain, Argentina, Brazil etc. Even the then two nuclear powers China and France refused to sign the treaty. The main ground on which most of these states refused to sign the treaty was that it was discriminatory in nature and sought to perpetuate a discriminatory nuclear world order for the benefit of the nuclear states. Further they demanded that the advantages of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology should not be denied to the developing nations. India went to the extent of proposing at the UN that since the existing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was discriminatory and places the developing countries at a disadvantage a new Treaty.

Indefinite Extension of NPT

In May 1995 Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty Review and Extension Conference was held at New York which decided to extend the treaty indefinitely. It may be noted that USA and her Western allies were in favour of unlimited extension of the treaty, while the non-nuclear weapons states opposed its indefinite extension. The decision of the Conference to extend it indefinitely was diplomatic victory for United States. The permanent extension of the NPT means that only five countries – The United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China and France – can now legally possess nuclear weapons capability. In short, the NPT in its present form has put the ‘nuclear haves’ in a privileged position by permitting them to keep nuclear weapons, while the other states shall not be permitted to acquire them. To placate the non-weapon states, a list of disarmament goals was attached to the extension decision. One of the objectives outlined in the goals is completion of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty by next year. India opposed the permanent extension of the treaty on the two places. First, it does not adequately reflect India’s place for equitable, global nuclear disarmament and divides the world into nuclear haves and have-nots. Secondly, the signing of the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state is not warranted due to consideration of security of India because the country is flanked by a declared nuclear power.


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