- Multilateral treaty aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons including three elements:
- Peaceful use of nuclear energy
- These elements constitute a “grand bargain” between the five nuclear weapon states and the non-nuclear weapon states.
- Signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970.
- Presently, it has 190 member states.
- States without nuclear weapons will not acquire them.
- States with nuclear weapons will pursue disarmament.
- All states can access nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, under safeguards.
- Defines nuclear weapon states (NWS) as those that had manufactured and detonated a nuclear explosive device prior to 1 January 1967. All the other states are therefore considered non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS).
- The five nuclear weapon states are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- The Treaty does not affect the right of state parties to develop, produce, and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
WHAT IS HAPPENING NOW
- Hegemonic rise of China has led other countries within its immediate sphere of geographical influence to wonder if they need to develop strategic capabilities to safeguard their sovereignty
- The current situation with regard to Ukraine and Russia is also very tense.
- Australia, through AUKUS, seems to be on a path to acquire nuclear capabilities for its naval fleet, to counter China.
- The P5’s joint statement, ‘Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races’, affirms to non-offensive uses of nuclear weapons and committing to the NPT agreement. The impetus is on the major powers to signal commitment through its actions towards putting an end to the nuclear arms race.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER TREATIES AND AGREEMENTS ON NUCLEAR BANS
Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT), the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I), which had the Interim Agreement and Protocol on Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons Offensive Arms, the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT II), the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties (I and II), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) among others.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
- With Australia already on the road to acquire nuclear capabilities, it stands to reason that other nations would work towards developing or acquiring nuclear weapons. This could, in principle, also re-ignite another arms race.
- The P5’s joint statement, ‘Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races’, affirms to non-offensive uses of nuclear weapons and committing to the NPT agreement but the wording of this statement and previous statements on arms reduction could be understood in a different light as well—to use nuclear weapons against conventional weapons if the nation feels its security to be threatened so as to merit the use of nuclear weaponry.
- The impetus is on the major powers to stay on the path which the NPT has paved (even if a winding one) and signal commitment through its actions towards putting an end to the arms race and hopefully complete disarmament.