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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
- 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
NPT And Its Recent Advancements (2015-2020)
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- www.un.org, www.iaea.org, www.dhristiias.com, www.thenucleartimes.wordpress.com
, 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 -