Use Incentives, Not Sanctions, To Head Off an Arms Race

08 Jun, 1998    ·   108

Francois Heisbourg argues that as sanctions are not very effective, it is better to reward countries like Germany, Brazil, Japan, South Africa and Egypt which have showed restraint in going nuclear

In order to avoid a slide into nuclear anarchy after India and Pakistan 's nuclear tests, major policy initiatives are called for. These must involve the five ''official'' nuclear powers as well as the vast majority of states that have, until now, renounced the possession of nuclear weapons.



Such measures are required both at the global and the regional levels. They should emphasize incentives rather than sanctions: Rewarding the virtuous many will be more effective than sanctioning the wayward few.



Global initiatives should build on two realities that the India-Pakistan tests have underscored.



First, it is necessary to recognize that it is unhealthy for the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to also be the five declared nuclear powers.



This was not always the case. Indeed, none of the ''permanent five'' - including the United States - were nuclear powers when the Security Council was created in June 1945, and it is therefore wrong to establish a causal link between the possession of nuclear weapons and membership.



The political fact, though, is that the two categories have become identical. Precisely because of India and Pakistan 's nuclear gate-crashing, this would be a good time to proceed with the long-delayed broadening of the permanent membership of the Security Council.



Such an extension should not benefit that handful of states - including India and Pakistan - that have refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and subsequent agreements.



Conversely, major nonnuclear regional powers that exercise international responsibilities, such as Germany , Japan , Brazil , South Africa or Egypt , should be counted in.



Second, the declared nuclear powers should set an example by engaging in vigorous arms control measures: deeper cuts in the still overabundant American and Russian nuclear arsenals along with an international attempt to stop the production of all nuclear material destined for military use.



India appears to have expressed an interest in such a ''cutoff convention,'' which would have the political virtue of not discriminating among the five official nuclear powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) and those three states that have military nuclear programs (India, Pakistan and Israel).



At the regional level, it is a matter of absolute urgency that the Indian and Pakistani tests not lead to similar moves in East Asia and the Middle East .



If, for instance, North Korea were to proceed with nuclear testing, both South Korea and Japan could engage in destabilizing countermoves that would in turn be seen as threatening by China and the United States . Beijing and Washington, whatever disagreements they may have on other issues, have a common interest in preventing such a chain reaction.



President Bill Clinton's visit to China at the end of the month offers an opportunity to achieve a new consensus on the need to limit nuclear proliferation. This would imply a quid pro quo: China would have to renounce in a verifiable fashion its technology transfers to Pakistan; and the United States should contemplate the easing, if not the lifting, of economic sanctions imposed after the Tiananmen massacre.



It remains to be seen whether the American president will sort out his priorities. Nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, respect of international property rights, reduction of the U.S. trade deficit with China, self-determination for Tibet - all are important, but it would be irresponsible to pretend that they can all be pursued without any trade-offs.



The United States imposes sanctions on Pakistan and India , but nothing similar applies to Israel . It must be added that the Israeli government displays little gratitude to the United States for applying this double standard.



After the Pakistani tests, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as stating that the East Asian arms race ''has been caused by the weakness of the five nuclear powers' political will because they have failed to agree to the international community's wish for complete nuclear disarmament.''



Last but not least, the U.S. administration needs to convince Congress not to tie the president's arms with automatic sanctions.



India and Pakistan have not been deterred from testing by such sanctions, and the newly imposed sanctions will definitely not lead Islamabad and New Delhi to abandon their nuclear prize. The sanctions will simply impede the opening of these countries to economic liberalization and privatization.



An extract from International Herald Tribune, Paris , June 4, 1998