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Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Under International Law

The following research paper substantiates the historical and legal factors pertaining to nuclear weapons and international treaties. The Nuclear non-proliferation treaty is one of the most important landmarks in the history of international law. The three pillars which it focuses on are- disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful usage of nuclear power. It further explains the formation of IAEA and its objectives, followed by, various articles of the treaty and the way in which it has provided equal importance to both the halves of the treaty- the nuclear and non-nuclear states. In conclusion, the research paper briefly deals with the current affairs related to nuclear treaties.

A nuclear weapon is a device that was specifically made to emit such emissions which would ultimately lead to a huge explosion. This usually works by the process of nuclear fusion and is profoundly also known as thermonuclear or hydrogen bombs. The energy and explosion caused by nuclear weapons are singlehandedly enough to wipe out the whole area where it is dropped or planted. It is palpable that such weapons are capable of causing inconceivable destruction which is why they are mostly designated as 'weapons of mass destruction.

Proper guidelines, rules, and regulations are imperative to make sure that these weapons of mass destruction are not handled negligently and foolishly. Nuclear weapons and their proper usage in addition to the various treaties signed by international organizations form an important part of Public International law.

Public international law/ International law/ the law of nations primarily works for the formation of universal guidelines, rules, and regulations. They are universal in the sense that the pronouncements and mandates formulated are mostly followed by all the nations of the world.

The main agenda behind these mandates and pronouncements is the promotion of peace, mutual acknowledgment between various nations. This would ultimately lead to the formation of better relations between countries of the world. It is coherent that nuclear weapons can play a major role in making or breaking international relations and peace and are capable of initiating a situation of war with genocide; therefore, it became an important subject for international law.

Advent Of Nuclear Weapons

The birth of nuclear weapons started roughly during the late 1930s. The intention behind their formulation was that the USA was apprehending that it would be left behind and its foes would develop nuclear weapons first. this was the first time that nuclear weapons which were till then not considered to be something that can be formulated in real life could be seen coming to life. In 1942, under the confidential Manhattan project, the US formulated nuclear weapons.

The world was under a huge threat of nuclear war because of the growing antagonism between the two superpowers of the world, both equipped with nuclear weapons. It was in the year 1945 that the world saw the first-ever usage of Nuclear weapons. America during the Second World War bombarded Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on 6th and 9th August 1945 respectively. With nuclear bombs, killing more than 170,000 people and leaving severe impairments in the area. The bombs caused so much destruction that Japan had to surrender. This was the first and the only time that nuclear weapon was used by a country in the course of a war.

International Atomic Energy Agency

After the unimaginable and disastrous implications of using atomic bombs to bombard Japan, every country of the whole world was scared. It was felt by every state that there should be proper and judicious usage of nuclear weapons. The USA ratified the enactment of 1953 by President Eisenhower, named 'Atoms for peace' in the year 1957.

Eisenhower gave a speech in the UN General Assembly addressing the elephant in the room, nuclear weapons, and suggested that military usage of nuclear weapons should be prohibited and no country should be further allowed to develop weapons. However, it gave the leverage of using the technology for the benefit of people. Once the program was ratified by the United States, it led to the birth of the IAEA.

The present Director-General of IAEA is General Rafael, Mariano Grossi. The IAEA has its headquarters in Vienna, Australia. The mandate of the organization, since its inception, is the safe and peaceful usage of nuclear weapons. It has a total of 171 member states with India being one of them. The mandate of the organization not only helps in the promotion of peace and harmony but also makes it an important aspect towards sustainable development goals.

This organization aims at developing and researching various new ways of judiciously and peacefully using nuclear technologies. Furthermore, while giving the 'atoms for peace' speech in the UN General Assembly, president Eisenhower mentioned that a special body has to be formulated that would aspire to prevent the spread and proliferation of nuclear technologies and the harm that they can cause to the people of the world if the usage of it remains unbounded.

despite the formation of IAEA and addressing the biggest threat to the world i.e. nuclear weapons, two subsequent events were enough to give a clear and loud message that the body could not make a difference because it gave greater emphasis on states not using nuclear weapons negligently, another possibility i.e. Accident, was kept completely out of focus. In 1957, The Kystym incident took place in the Soviet Union. This incident was not in the course of a war or any proliferation.

This was a radioactive contamination accident causing widespread damage and is regarded as the second-worst nuclear accident in the world (Chernobyl disaster comes at number one). The other important milestone in the formulation of a global network between countries for addressing nuclear technologies proliferation as a serious threat and the closest the world came to face a nuclear war was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

The United States of America found the construction of missiles and nuclear weapons in Cuba which was approximately 100miles from the coast of Florida and if the intention of the Soviet was so, it could reach the American coast in no time. Contemporary to this, America had its base established missile base in Turkey.

Cuba was an ally of the Soviet Union. John F. Kennedy was the US president at that time and in front of him was the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. After several negotiations and talks, The Soviet Union decided to dismantle its base from Cuba on a demand that America would dismantle its base from Turkey and would not attack Cuba. This is how the world just saved itself from a huge nuclear attack and it is believed that if this war would have taken place, half of the world would have been finished.

Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty

Under all circumstances, it was the need of the hour that awareness about nuclear technologies, to nuclear and non-nuclear states, was imparted and proper guidelines were set up. Moreover, to make these regulations binding globally, treaties had to be signed. A treaty is A formally concluded and ratified agreement between states.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty stringently focused on 3 major aspects, namely, non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, amicable use of nuclear weapons, and nuclear disarmament. It is a multifarious treaty that primarily aimed at judicious usage of nuclear technology. Under this treaty, there were set norms concerning two different types of states. One, which held nuclear weapons and the other which did not.

It laid down that those states which did not have any nuclear power, will not be allowed to acquire one after the treaty is ratified, it also states that the countries acquiring nuclear weapons already will follow rules of disarmament. however, if only these two principles had to be abided by, it would be unfair for the states, therefore, the treaty further stated that every state would be allowed to use nuclear technology but only for peaceful purposes and there will be a system of checks and balances on these purposes.

International Law And NPT

International law primarily aims at building a trustworthy environment in the world amongst the various countries which formulate it. It glorifies the peaceful and humanitarian growth of the world which is only possible if all the nations live in harmony and help each other in growing. Nuclear weapons/energy/technology is straight away a threat to this harmony and peace. Nuclear energy is so treacherous that it can wipe out half of the world.

If such a dangerous weapon is possessed by countries without a system of checks and regulations, human rights, which is another aspect of international law will be hindered. Moreover, the international humanitarian law will also be obstructed as it deals with armed conflict and has one basic motive, i.e. no individual shall be subject to discrimination or deprived of his/her rights. therefore, the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty forms an important subject matter of international law as it also aims at promoting harmony and peace in the world. Moreover, this treaty, under Article 10 has been registered and added under the UN charter.

Articles Of NPT

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty came into existence and force in the year 1970. Under article 9 of the treaty, nuclear states are those which have manufactured nuclear weapons or other explosives before 1st January 1967. The aspect which made this treaty different was that it had the highest number of attendees in the history of an arms agreement. As per the 2016 analysis, 191 states have ratified the treaty. The treaty consists of a total of 11 articles which lay down the detailed perspectives and objectives of the treaty:

Article 1:
The first article of the NPT prohibits the member states from indirectly or directly transferring nuclear weapons to any other state and encouraging non-nuclear states to participate or formulate nuclear weapons or technology.

Article 2:
The second article of NPT makes sure that the only member states are not burdened and are not held responsible in case a non-nuclear state acquires nuclear weapons. Therefore, it prohibits non-nuclear states from acquiring any nuclear weapons from nuclear states and developing nuclear weapons of their own.

Article 3:
Under clause 1 of article 3 states that the international atomic energy safeguards system consists of such safeguard provisions which are binding on states. The motive of this article is to make sure that the provisions of the atomic energy system are complied with and no such activities take place which in any manner promote usage of nuclear weapons for explosion and overrides the peaceful aspect to it. The points provided in the atomic energy safeguards have to be complied with under article 3 of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty are not very vague and ambiguous. Precise boundaries are defined under this section. It states that the sources or any other special fissionable material shall be included.

Para 2 states that no member state should provide any other state with ant material or source which might help in formulating nuclear weapons even for peaceful purposes. The exception to this is that only those transfers of sources and fissionable articles will be allowed which can be proved to be complying with the safeguards which need to be followed. Para 3 states that the safeguards shall be administered according to the provisions of article 4 of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Para 4 of the article states that all the states that do not acquire nuclear weapons shall take proper steps towards getting into agreements with the Atomic energy agency to make sure that they meet the requirements specified in the article. It further substantiates deadlines for negotiations. Negotiations shall start within the period of 180 days from the treaty coming into force.

Article 4: so far as the other articles are concerned, they only provide such norms which have to be followed to avoid any nuclear attack or chaos in the world. However, keeping into consideration, the developmental aspect of the picture, Article 4 of the NPT states that nothing in the articles of the treaty stops the states from making or developing any nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The only requisite is that the states shall adhere to articles 1 and 2 of the treaty. Moreover, it does not put a constraint on exchanging or transferring nuclear technologies between states provided that such transfer or exchange is for peaceful purposes and does not in any way endorse wars and nuclear attacks.

Article 5: this article gives an upper edge to the non-nuclear-weapon states. The benefits of nuclear explosions which are peaceful in nature and solely for welfare and development will also be given to non-nuclear-weapon states. These benefits will be nondiscriminatory and the cost for explosive devices will be set as low as possible so that the benefits can be derived by such states at minimum cost.

Article 6: This article focuses on the disarmament and cessation of nuclear weapons. The member states to the treaty shall negotiate with each other concerning these two aspects. This also includes full or partial disarmament.

Article 7: Even after repeated efforts by the treaty for the usage of nuclear energy for peaceful activities, this article aims at specifying that no member state needs to use nuclear energy mandatorily. Two or more states are free to conclude such agreements amongst each other that completely refrains them from using nuclear energy.

Article 8 and 9: The major reason for formulating this article is that no law, regulation, treaty, convention can be perfect; they are subject to changes and amendments in due course of time. Therefore, this article gives all the member states the power to amend the treaty for better usage, and the depository party, for such amendment shall pass the proposal to all the other member states.

It is mentioned under article 9 that depository parties include the United Kingdom, USSR, and the USA. If one-third or more of the total number of member states accept the amendment and give their votes, the amendment shall be brought into force by way of a conference which shall be attended by the member states. the majority of member states which shall ratify the amendment if they deem fit, includes, nuclear energy possessing states, the other states and all the governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency. it is however a must that there has to be a conference after 5 years of such ratification of the amendment and this conference shall be held in Geneva, Switzerland.

The sole purpose of the conference is the review of the working of the treaty after the amendment. After ratification by the states, such instruments shall be submitted to the depository states. Those states which do not ratify the treaty before it came into force, can accept it at any time.

These states shall deposit their instruments to the depository governments and will be regarded as member states to the treaty from the date of such ratification. Most importantly, Article 9 states that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty shall be recorded in accordance with article 102 of the UN charter. Article 102 of the charter directs the publishing and registration of all such agreements or treaties which come into force after the formulation of the charter, with the secretariat as soon as possible.

Article 10 and 11:
It would be precise to state that the last two articles of the treaty are the most important. Article 10 lays down that if, under any circumstances, a state thinks that the interest of the country is under threat or menace, then, it can seize to be a member of the treaty. For this, a state has to give a notice, in advance (3 months) and in the notice, it shall explain the reason for leaving the membership of the treaty.

The treaty under Article 11 shall be deposited under archives of depository governments in various authentic languages (English, French, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish). The article also states that there shall be a meeting/conference exactly 25 years after the treaty came into force to discuss whether it shall be extended for a particular period or indefinitely. In 1955, in fulfillment of this provision, the conference was conducted and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty was extended indefinitely.

  • The nuclear nonproliferation treaty, irrespective of being the most famous treaty about nuclear energy also has its fair share of criticisms.
  • The Non-Nuclear weapon states criticized the treaty on the pretext that it gave a lot of attention to the prevention of horizontal proliferation i.e. spread of nuclear energy or technology to new countries, little attention was paid towards the vertical proliferation which means stockpiling of nuclear weapons. The latter possesses a greater threat than the former.
  • It is criticized on the fact that the first two articles of the treaty which talk about the prohibition on possession of nuclear weapons were biased towards the ally territories of nuclear weapon states.
  • Under the protocols of IAEA, the nuclear-weapon states were given an upper hand and were believed to be self supervisory on the usage of nuclear weapons while on the other hand, it has put restrictions on other states.
  • These criticisms do not only show the loopholes or dark spots of the treaty but also, the constant tussle between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states.

NPT And Its Recent Advancements (2015-2020)

  1. November 16, 2015- On this date, India and Australia concluded a treaty for dispensing Uranium to India which is energy-starved. After this treaty was signed, India became the first-ever country to buy Uranium from Australia without being a member state or ratifying the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
  2.  July 8, 2017- this is a historic date because, on this day, United Nations adopted the first-ever global treaty demanding a ban on nuclear weapons. Out of all the members-only 1 country, Netherlands refused to sign the treaty, and the other country, Singapore abstained from voting. Apart from these 2, 122 members were in favor of the treaty. A total of 129 out of 193 member states on UN, showed their interest in taking part in the drafting of the treaty, which makes it 2/3rd of the total number of UN members. This treaty was formulated with the view that it would help in exerting more pressure on the various nuclear powers of the world and make them take nuclear disarmament more seriously. Some important members of the UN- USA, Russia, Britain, China, India, Pakistan, France, North Korea, and Israel neither participated in the negotiation nor did they cast their vote. The biggest shock was that Japan, a country that faced such severe consequences of nuclear attack did not take part in the negotiations.
  3. January 31, 2019- the P5 which consists of Russia, USA, China, Britain, and France? They had a meeting in which China took a dig at India and questioned the involvement of India in matters of nuclear importance without even being a part of the NPT. India aspires to be a member of the NSG or the nuclear suppliers group but China is against it because it thinks that India is showing double standards as far as NPT is concerned. An interesting fact is that out of the 5 members, it�s only China that has opposed. Rest all the members have seen India�s past records and endorsed its aspiration to become a part of NSG.
  4. July 22, 2019- the IAEA, as discussed earlier acts as a watchdog and promotes only peaceful usage of nuclear weapons. It was in the news because Yukiya Amano, the Director-General of IAEA died at the age of 72. He led the IAEA for a decade.
  5. March 17, 2020- This date marked the completion of 50 years of NPT.
In 2020, on 3rd April, NPT celebrated its 50 years. In today's scenario, things have changed and the demand for nuclear energy for purposes like development and sustainable energy supply has increased drastically. Therefore, the biggest challenge in front of international forums is stringent adherence to IAEA provisions and also more and more establishment of such geographic zones which are completed prohibited for nuclear usage.

These zones are called Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zones. In the long run, many more treaties like various disarmament treaties shall help in the betterment of the world and eradicating the usage of nuclear weapons for purposes other than peaceful. Out of all the other nations of the world, only 3 countries, namely, India, Israel, and Pakistan have not ratified the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Palestine is the newest state to join the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. North Korea is the only state to leave the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 2003

Sources And References:
Written By: Ashna Sharma, BA LLB (H), Public International Law, Amity Law School, Noida

I, hereby declare that the dissertation entitled �Non Proliferation Treaty under International Law� is an original work submitted by me and has not been submitted in any university for any degree or diploma.
Place: New Delhi - Date: 12/02/2021
Ashna Sharma

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