Pakistan blocks agenda at UN disarmament conference

GENEVA: Arms negotiators failed to start talks on Tuesday on cutting nuclear weapons when Pakistan blocked the adoption of the 2010 agenda for the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.

The conference, the world’s sole multinational negotiating forum for disarmament, spent much of 2009 stuck on procedural wrangles raised by Pakistan after breaking a 12-year deadlock to agree a programme of work.

The impasse on Tuesday suggested 2010 would be another year of halting progress.

Pakistan, which tested a nuclear weapon in 1998, is wary of the proposed focus in the programme on limiting the production of fissile material, which would put it at a disadvantage against longer-standing nuclear powers such as India.

It therefore has an interest in delaying the start of substantive talks, diplomats say.

“Even in the darkest days the agenda was adopted, because everything can be discussed under the agenda,” said one veteran official, unable to recall a similar delay in the past.

Adoption of the agenda at the start of the annual session is normally a formality, but Pakistan Ambassador Zamir Akram took the floor to call for the agenda to be broadened to cover two other issues.

Akram said the 65-member forum should consider conventional arms control at the regional and sub-regional level, in line with a United Nations General Assembly resolution sponsored by Pakistan and passed last year.

The conference should also negotiate a global regime on all aspects of missiles, he said.

“It is not our intention to create an obstacle but it’s also not our intention to create a situation which is oblivious to what is happening around us,” Akram said.

The move forced the conference president, Bangladesh ambassador Abdul Hannan, to adjourn the meeting for consultations to find a consensus. He said he hoped to resume on Jan. 21 with a renewed discussion of the agenda.

Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the former Russian diplomat who heads the UN in Geneva and is secretary of the conference, said failure to adopt the agenda would be a move backwards, arguing that it was flexible enough to include all topics of concern.

But Akram said Pakistan did not want to work with a programme that was “frozen in time”.

Reaching a consensus is likely to prove difficult, as India rejected a discussion of regional conventional arms control, arguing that the conference should focus on global issues.

Diplomats said Pakistan’s attempt to include regional arms control appeared directed at its bigger and better-armed neighbour.

The UN General Assembly also called on the conference last December to agree a 2010 work programme including immediate negotiations to ban the production of fissile material, in a resolution sponsored by Canada.

India wants N-power status to sign NPT

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday snubbed the UN Security Council’s unanimous resolution on nuclear disarmament, saying it would not sign the NPT unless it is given the status enjoyed by the five legal nuclear powers.

Indian envoy to the UN Hardeep Puri in his letter to his US counterpart Susan E. Rice, who is also the current president of the Security Council, said India could not accept foreign prescriptions on the issue since it would have implications for the country’s sovereign rights as a nuclear power, albeit outside the purview of the NPT.

‘India cannot accept externally prescribed norms or standards on matters within the jurisdiction of its Parliament or which are not consistent with India’s constitutional provisions and procedures, or are contrary to India’s national interests or infringe on its sovereignty,’ Mr Puri said.

‘India cannot comply with non-proliferation obligations to which it has not provided its sovereign consent.’

Mr Puri said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated in parliament inJuly this year that there was no question of India joining the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state.

‘Nuclear weapons are an integral part of India’s national security and will remain so, pending non-discriminatory and global nuclear disarmament.’

‘We remain committed to a voluntary, unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing,’ Mr Puri wrote.

‘We do not subscribe to any arms race, including a nuclear arms race. We have always tempered the exercise of our strategic autonomy with a sense of global responsibility. We affirm our policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons.’