Pakistan joined China to object to talks over India's admission in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) since both of them fear that it could destroy the nuclear balance in South Asia. India is still to overcome the Chinese hurdle to become a member of the NSG but made it up by joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) earlier this week. [What is MTCR?]
China, which is not a member of this 35-member body, was left frustrated and its state-run media openly took on India as a country "spoilt" by the western world but Pakistan did not react to this episode as strongly. Is there any particular reason? [How will India gain from MTCR membership?]
Pakistan would benefit from an MTCR membership but still it hasn't shown keenness
Pakistan, despite harbouring a keen interest in regimes that control exports, did never express a wish to join the MTCR which is dominated by the West and controls exports in missile and UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology.
China's absence in MTCR has perhaps made Pakistan lose interest in MTCR
Pakistan has succeeded in developing a decent missile programme and various short- and medium-range missiles and a membership of the MTCR could have facilitated it to have access to high-end missile technology. But still it did not show much interest.
Pakistan has a lack of consensus over joining MTCR?
It is said that there is a lack of consensus in that country over joining the elite MTCR club. Pakistan's Foreign Office said recently that various stakeholders in the country have not reached an agreement over joining the group as it was already abiding by the MTCR guidelines "voluntarily".It is true that Pakistan meets the MTCR's criteria, unlike in case of the NSG. The country has applied for an NSG membership but it doesn't meet the criterion of signing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, just like India.
According to Pakistan's foreign office establishment, the country doesn't chalk out its foreign affairs on the basis of what India is doing. "We follow our own interests in terms of what suits us," it said. [While India has become a global darling, Pakistan is becoming irrelevant]
But is it really a lack of interest for Pak or a fear of more limitations getting imposed on it?
But is it really the indifference or limitations caused by unsaid factors like 'strategic' and 'geopolitical' that have held the Pakistani back? MTCR rules say application for membership are assessed on the basis of several considerations like the role of the prospective member in improving international non-proliferation efforts; commitment towards sustainable non-proliferation and adherence to a legally effective export control system which honours the MTCR's guidelines and rules.
Does Pakistan have the goodwill in the international world which can earn itself the faith over complying with these norms?
There are other opinions in Pakistan that joining the MTCR doesn't add any value and that it has an adequate capacity to ensure its own security and deterrence. Joining the MTCR could put Islamabad under more obligations even though the MTCR is a voluntary regime with no legal bindings and penalties for those who violate its norms.
Pak's biggest concern may be the absence of China in MTCR
But perhaps the biggest factor which influences Pakistan's decision to avoid the MTCR and instead eye the NSG to oppose India is the absence of China in it. Pakistan is not a country with abundant friends at the international stage and its intention to jeopardise India's plans in any union (as we have seen in Saarc) can only get a boost if the Chinese are present to back it.