The declaration of the prime minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, that India is a responsible nuclear power is an attempt by New Delhi to find accommodation with the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Mr Singh indicated that India was willing to share international obligations as a partner against nuclear proliferation. It remains to be seen if the main stakeholders of the regime are willing to accept New Delhi as a partner rather than as a violator. Mr Singh's remarks are significant because of the ongoing review conference of the members of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The NPT recognizes only five nuclear weapon states ' those who acquired these weapons before 1970. Thus India, Pakistan and Israel, which acquired nuclear weapons after this date, do not find place within the NPT system. It is now recognized that the NPT system is deeply flawed. The NPT has not even been able to prevent party states, which pledged not to acquire nuclear weapons, from acquiring nuclear capability.
The examples of North Korea and Iran demonstrate that the NPT may increasingly become irrelevant. There are two ways to prevent proliferation: by containing the demand for such weapons or by preventing the supply of nuclear technology. As long as nuclear weapons are seen as the instrument of power, the demand for them is likely to remain. The supply-side strategy relies on compliance by all those who have nuclear technology and commit themselves not to proliferate. A more pro-active strategy would be to take punitive measures against those states which are about to acquire nuclear weapons. For both, the non-proliferation regime needs India's support. The United States of America and India have been cooperating on developing a common approach to nonproliferation. But the larger regime must be willing to adapt its norms to include India. And India would get access to nuclear and other dual-use technologies. It would also become a real player on issues of international security. This must have been the thinking behind Mr Singh's statement that India was prepared for the broadest engagement with the international non-proliferation regime. Mr Singh also asserted that India will not be a source of proliferation of sensitive technologies. It is now for the established nuclear weapon powers to respond to India's latest initiative.