The Hiroshima Report-Evaluation of Achievement in Nuclear Disarmament, Non-Proliferation and Nuclear Security: 2012-2012 is a laudable narrative of the global nuclear status and international security. The Report published by Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation at the Japan Institute of International Affairs, Tokyo, Japan, has two principal parts: one details the facts on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear security initiatives and the second, an evaluation of 19 countries on 11 criteria in 6 categories or ‘aspects’ of the nuclear issues. The factual account is intended to justify the evaluation or the points assigned to each country.
Although the Report does not explicitly advocate nuclear disarmament or non-proliferation, yet the tone and tenor of the Report clearly indicates that underlying objective of the Report is to see a world without nuclear weapons, and till such a goal is realized to attain a secure and stable world through nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear security. Even if the objective is implicit, it is an admirable and worth doing so. However, the Report needs to do more work in terms of compiling objective data in the first part and assigning points to different criteria in the second to have objectivity.
What is the biggest hurdle of global nuclear disarmament? The answer to it is simple and straightforward: the lack of credible movement towards nuclear disarmament by the countries which are possessing more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenals. However, in the evaluation criteria, a country possessing 1001-2000 nuclear weapons may score minus 14 points, a country possessing 6001-8000 nuclear weapons may score minus 19 and a country possessing more than 8000 minus 20 points.
Thus, a country just loses 5-6 points for keeping a huge arsenal. However, it may gain more points by still maintaining a huge stockpile but reducing a small amount every year for 5 years under a ‘certain legal framework.’ A mere announcement for reduction helps it garner more points. Worse, a country gains 3 points for modernization of nuclear weapons without increasing the number and 4 points for not modernizing. It means the difference is of only 1 point for not modernizing. Currently, all the old nuclear weapons countries are discarding their redundant cold war nuclear weapons and modernizing their nuclear weapons and the delivery systems. According to the logic of the document, therefore, the old nuclear weapons countries which are the signatories of the NPT score more points than new nuclear weapons countries who are not.
The current global trend is to keep small, lean but enough nuclear weapons for a quick strike. The move away from overkill to mass kill is not by itself a laudable goal. It may be better if there is some concrete plan of action toward nuclear zero. Without a time-bound plan for a complete elimination of nuclear weapons, the idea and argument for their reduction is meaningless, could even be dangerous. It is meaningless because it is still possible to destroy a large section of civil population and troops with very few weapons. It is dangerous because it still makes it legitimate to possess fewer nuclear weapons according to this logic, and may tempt others to go for these to address their own threat perception notwithstanding the resolution that the new nuclear countries may have to return their nuclear materials. Even the return of materials and goods advocated by the doucment could be difficult and complicated.
Another group of non-NPT nuclear weapon countries such as India and Israel will find it difficult to live under the guidelines imposed by the NPT. This set of countries may have to resolve issues arising from their membership of the NPT, to maintain safety of nuclear arsenals and fissile material production. India is facing difficulties becoming a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and a couple of other regimes because of the NPT adherence/membership criteria. Similarly, it is facing challenges in procuring uranium for its expanding civil nuclear energy plan at some places because of the same criteria. Moreover, the Report is not giving points to these countries for staying away from the NPT.
The Report, in its first part, mentions sub-critical tests. The countries with old nuclear history are in possession of data procured through countless tests; apparently, the data may be used for refining warheads of most of the old nuclear weapons countries. A country like the US has confirmed it; others are quietly pursuing the path. The new countries with a few tests or no test may struggle to keep their arsenals safe and secure. As for fissile materials, the same story continues. Older countries except China are trying to get rid of excess fissile materials, and may go for a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Newer countries may find their stocks inadequate for even minimum deterrence.
In fact, the Report’s separate and detailed treatment on non-proliferation has some problems as well. Allotment of points for criteria like IAEA Safeguards should have been done in a different way for a country like India. What is the objective of a safeguards system? The objective is seemingly to ensure the prevention of diversion of nuclear goods. The points should have been structured with this factor in mind. Different points allotted for nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear security seem highly subjective and at places incomprehensible. Please give examples.
The Report needs to pay attention to some other issues. Quite puzzlingly, the Report does not pay much attention to the proliferation network. The Proliferation Security Initiative has its own weaknesses and complications. The allotment of points to an initiative like this may easily enable critics to dub the Report as one that promotes a Western perspective. In the nuclear security section, too, initiatives such as Cooperative Threat Reduction and G8 Global Partnership have found place. A report that evaluates countries’ commitment to universal or near universal initiatives should avoid incorporating Western initiatives. The countries holding nuclear umbrella have scored good points. This is not fair because even in their security schemes nuclear weapons are playing a greater role.
In sum, the Report is a good exercise to remind the world about the disarmament, non-proliferation and nuclear security commitments of the key countries. It is much better than many other reports circulating on this topic. However, it may have to remove some of the methodological fallacies to improve its conclusions. Somehow, any such report may have to keep certain security parameters in mind. The P-5 countries are not willing to give up their nuclear weapons, and a country like India, which has security issues with one of the nuclear weapon countries, may be forced to take remedial action. Because of the NPT cut-off date for determining a country nuclear or non-nuclear, it may not join it. In such a situation, the indexing brings its ranking down.
In reality, a Nuclear Weapons Convention should be signed, and all the non-proliferation measures need to be linked to its progress. If any country is found defaulting in its commitment, the country should be held guilty. The current ranking indicated in the Report on an “ad hoc” basis may not be fair. In fact, the criteria should have put heavy negative points for the NPT nuclear weapon countries for not complying with the Article 6 or proliferating even after joining the treaty. To give an example, even after joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group China is undermining the institution by continuously supplying nuclear reactors to Pakistan under its 1986 nuclear agreement, and several non-proliferation writers and Pakistan put blame on the India-specific exemptions for it. It is bizarre. A stable and peaceful world order cannot be achieved on unequal nuclear order.
Dr. Rajiv Nayan is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.