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Sixth NPT Review Conference

The single most important gain of the NPT review conference was not really contained in the consensus document, significant though that was. It was the emergence of the New Agenda Coalition as the single most important negotiating and pressurising force.

The sixth NPT Review Conference held in May at New York was effectively dismissed as of no consequence in India. This is hardly surprising given the attitudes of both the pro-nuclearists and most anti-nuclearists in this country. The former rant against the iniquity and worthlessness of the NPT and therefore of its review conferences but would be delighted to have India join it as a nuclear weapons state member if it could. But it can’t. Their attitude is summed up in the official ministry of external affairs (MEA) response of Jaswant Singh of May 9, when the review conference was less than midway through its deliberations. The Indian government both criticised the NPT for its uselessness and simultaneously emphasised that as a ‘responsible nuclear power’ India was de facto abiding by NPT Article VI to pursue global disarmament, and Articles I and III not to promote further proliferation through supply of nuclear-related materials to other countries.

The latter reject the NPT as a pillar of the non-proliferation regime (which it is) but draw from this quite unwarranted conclusions and so dismiss the NPT and its review conferences as of no, or of negative, worth. The existence of a non-proliferation regime is taken as tantamount to the existence of ‘nuclear imperialism’ or ‘nuclear hegemony’ which it isn’t. To treat the first as equivalent to the second or third is to make a fundamental error of logic. A non-proliferation regime simply means some countries have nuclear weapons and others don’t and that there exist mechanisms (such as the NPT) aimed at preserving this state of affairs. To claim that, therefore and thereby, there exists a regime of hegemony or imperialism is to claim either that this state of affairs benefits the nuclear weapons states (NWSs) at the expense of the non-nuclear weapons states (NNWSs) (‘nuclear imperialism’), or, enables the NWSs to successfully dominate the NNWSs (‘nuclear hegemony’).

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