NEW DELHI/KARACHI: Despite possessing nuclear arsenals of comparable size, there are slim chances for India and Pakistan to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in the near future.

Security experts in both countries believe that the treaty was "discriminatory".

On the eve of the anniversary signing of the NPT – a landmark international treaty whose aim is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology – which is being observed on Friday, experts say the security environment in South Asia will not allow both countries to sign the treaty.

The treaty which opened for signature on July 1, 1968, entered into force in 1970.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency Samar Mubarakmand, former chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and head of a team of scientists that conducted six nuclear tests in 1998, said that nuclear disarmament is only possible if it is universal.

"If it is essential to de-nuclearize the world then all the 7/8 nuclear countries should sign NPT and disarm all their nuclear weapons transparently," he said.

Lt. Gen. Talat Masood (Retd), an Islamabad-based security analyst, said both the countries see the treaty as "discriminatory."

Masood, who served in the Pakistan army from 1952-1990, said besides the "discriminatory" nature of the treaty, the given political and security environment in the region, will also not allow nuclear-powered India and Pakistan to commit to the treaty.

"Signing NPT simply means they (India and Pakistan) cannot pursue their nuclear programs, which in given circumstances is not possible for them," he said.

Pakistani strategists see their nuclear arsenal as deterrence against India, which has superiority over conventional forces. India, on the other hand, looks it a counter against one of the five recognised nuclear states, that is China.

Masood, however, said that Pakistan may follow suit if India signs the NPT.

"But, New Delhi will never sign the NPT because of China," he said.

Signing Will Bar Further Tests

Sharing almost similar views, J Jeganaathan, who heads the department of national security studies at the Central University of Jammu in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), said the signing of the treaty means that India will not be able to conduct further nuclear tests.

He said given the 1962 India-China war, India realised that "China will be the potential enemy as long as the border disputes are resolved so it took a pragmatic approach to not to sign the treaty until it includes universal total disarmament of nuclear weapons."

Sameer Patil, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation think tank, told Anadolu Agency that India is unlikely to sign the NPT in the future, despite being a strong votary of universal nuclear disarmament.

"The reason is that it does not contain any firmer disarmament commitments from the nuclear powers," he said. "India also tried to secure security guarantees from the nuclear powers, but it failed. This also contributed to India’s rejection of the NPT,” he said.

He said the 2008 India-US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement substantively demonstrated Washington's intention to "overturn its obdurate non-proliferation policy and accept India’s nuclear weapons state status."

In October 2008, India and US signed a nuclear cooperation deal, which gave New Delhi some access to nuclear materials and technology.

"The agreement allowed India to have a nuclear weapons program as well as international cooperation in civilian nuclear energy, a dramatic reversal of the decades-long US policy," said Patil.

India, which India boasts the world's third-largest army after the US and China, conducted its first nuclear test in 1974 in the Pokhran range of Rajasthan state, propelling Pakistan to build its nuclear program.

Some 24 years later, India conducted five nuclear tests on May 11 and 13, 1998 triggering a new arms race in the already tense region.

In a tit-for-tat reaction, only two weeks later, Pakistan conducted six successful nuclear tests in the remote Chaghi district of Baluchistan province on May 28, 1998.

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Pakistan holds about 100–120 nuclear weapons, while India's nuclear arsenal is around 90-110 nuclear weapons.

The two hostile neighbours have already fought three full-fledged wars – in 1948, 1965, and 1971 – and a three-week-long limited war in the Kargil mountains in 1999.