13/06/2016 3:10 PM IST | Updated 18/07/2016 9:07 PM IST

Matching India's NSG Bid: Pakistan's Threat Is Not India, But Its Own Foolery

Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (L) arrives for his bilateral meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi May 27, 2014. Modi was sworn in as India's prime minister in an elaborate ceremony at New Delhi's resplendent presidential palace on Monday, after a sweeping election victory that ended two terms of rule by the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS)

Every time India makes a bid for international prominence, there's a copycat lurking in the dark—its neighbour Pakistan.

India is big, teeming with the largest number of people operating the biggest democracy in the world, and is the pivot that keeps South Asia stable. Hence, its calls for political recognition make impact, but Pakistan purring in the background sounds desperate and silly.

The latest is its bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG), a club of 48 countries that control the export of materials and equipment that could be used for making nuclear weapons. Countries with nuclear energy capability also might be able to produce weapons (like India and Pakistan did) and hence the NSG wants to control the materials and technology they have access to. Therefore, the uncompromisable condition for entry into the group is commitment not to proliferate nuclear technology.

The instrument for that is the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that India hasn't signed. Neither has Pakistan.

India's call for political recognition make impact, but Pakistan purring in the background sounds desperate and silly.

As India is pressing ahead with its demand for an entry into the elite group, despite its noncompliance with NPT, with support from countries such as the US, Mexico, Russia, England, France and Switzerland, Pakistan has begun its copycat behaviour by claiming that it's more qualified to be a non-proliferator and stickler to rules than India. Pakistan's foreign affairs advisor Sartaj Aziz said on Sunday that for non-NPT countries, Pakistan was a better choice than India. But nobody, except China, seems to be interested.

Aziz also didn't hide the fact that his country was indeed imitating India. He said Pakistan was waiting for India to apply so that it can follow suit. "Our strategy was to apply after India did, after which we would have immediately followed. We have had our application in an advance state of readiness for the past three months for this purpose," Mr. Aziz reportedly said.

File photo of Pakistani Prime Minister's Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.

In fact, Pakistan's catch up game on India's NSG bid began in 2008 when the 48-country group, which ironically came into existence because of the latter's 1974 nuclear test, agreed for a "clean waiver" (to India) of its rules for the Indo-US nuclear deal to work. Of course, India gave a formal pledge that it wouldn't share nuclear technology with others and that it would retain its voluntary moratorium on tests. But what worked in India's favour was the deal with the US and the latter's diplomatic muscle.

In fact, the deal with the US was as good as an entry into the NSG because without signing the NPT and not being a member of the group, India found a powerful partner on nuclear technology. The deal with the US short-circuited the NSG conditions and made India a beneficiary without a formal entry.

File photo of U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Pakistan certainly couldn't gulp it and wanted the US to cut a similar deal for them and a "criteria-based" exemption from the NSG. Its argument was that it complied with all the conditions of the NSG despite being a non-NPT country.

Both didn't work and hence it fell back to its "illegal" deals with China. Four Chinese reactors (two of which went operational in 2000 and 2011) at Khushab in Pakistan, can now produce a lot of weapon-grade plutonium. China didn't care that being a member of the NSG, it couldn't transfer materials and technology to Pakistan. The NSG couldn't block it either although it was open, defiant proliferation.

Interesting enough, India's present attempt to gain a formal entry to NSG doesn't make much difference to the country except gaining some national pride. However, Pakistan is worried that India's presence in the group will prevent its future entry. That's precisely why it's also clamouring "me too". Anyway, the issue wasn't discussed at a meeting in Vienna last week and India will have to wait for the group's plenary in Seoul later this month, where again, it's not expected to progress much because of China's dogged resistance. China's problem is not just India, but also its proliferation-partner Pakistan, whose interests it has committed to protect.

Pakistan's anxiety to be equated with India betrays the jealousy of a sibling who has fallen into bad times since birth. It had been evident in the latter's historical claim for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council (UNSC) as well. India's UNSC demand had been based on the global calls for membership reforms which have been backed by of its bonafide credentials as a G4 country (along with Brazil, Germany and Japan). Pakistan is nowhere in the geo-political picture or prominence, but it still wants to sit on the UNSC because it wants parity with India.

Pakistan's petty hankering to be equated with India is not restricted to high-brow diplomacy and global prominence, but also in other fields as well. References to an upper hand over India is unavoidable on the entertainment industry (nobody can miss the popular discussion on social media on how top Bollywood chart-busters are copies of Pakistani songs), literature, software industry and overall socio-economic development. Pakistan is not only a source of anti-India terror, but also counterfeit currency and piracy of Indian entertainment products.

Pakistan's petty hankering to be equated with India is not restricted to high-brow diplomacy and global prominence, but also in other fields as well.

Nothing amplified the instinctive competitiveness of Pakistan more clearly than the words of former President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who said in 1965 that "if India builds the bomb, we will eat grass or leaves, even go hungry, but we will get one of our own." Unfortunately the self-destructive zest continues even after half a century. Frankly, Pakistan's perception of vulnerability arises mostly from its "inability to develop a viable political system that failed to bring harmony and nationalism to a religiously homogenous but ethnically diverse people" as noted by author Feroz Khan in his curiously titled "Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb".

The country doesn't seem to have learned its lessons from waging four futile wars, sleeping with Islamic terrorists to destroy India and its friend Afghanistan and thereby destabilising itself, and fostering the Khan network that reportedly transferred nuclear technology to rogue nations such as Libya, Iran and North Korea. All that its irrational quest to match, and perhaps even dominate India, has done has been to ignite its own meltdown. Instead of peeping across the border and making noises that nobody except China or the Saudi Salafis care for, Pakistan should see how best to reverse its withering away. Its national threat is not India, but its own foolery.