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Last Thursday, India announced the successful launch of a missile capable of reaching China, with scarcely a murmur from other major world capitals. It was in stark contrast to the missile test carried out by North Korea less than a week before. Last month, when North Korea went public with its intention to conduct a missile test, the news was met with stern warnings from the United States, and then with derision as the missile disintegrated soon after lift-off and fell into the ocean. While there may indeed be a world of difference in the leadership of India and North Korea, it is impossible to dismiss the hypocrisy in the reaction to the two tests, both of which are clearly against the stipulations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which came into force in 1970. The NPT allows only five nations – the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China – to possess nuclear weapons. India has had nuclear arms since 1974 and has refused to sign the NPT because it would have to do so as a non-nuclear weapon state. However, India’s status as a nuclear weapons state has been “legitimized”. In 2008, the United States and India entered into a Civilian Nuclear Agreement, which symbolized a tacit acceptance of India’s nuclear weapons capabilities. It is important for us to remember that the original purpose of the NPT was to compel nuclear weapons states to “pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals”. The status of Pakistan, which carried out its first nuclear weapons tests in 1998, has also been more or less unofficially accepted by other nuclear powers even though it too, is prohibited under the NPT from having nuclear weapons. Israel has also reportedly joined the nuclear club, though that fact is usually ignored by the nuclear weapons countries. It’s no small wonder that North Korea and Iran – considered rogue states – would like to develop nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them over a wide range, even though Iran steadfastly denies this. So where do we go from here? It must be remembered that the original purpose of the NPT was not only to limit the number of nuclear weapons states, but also to compel nuclear weapons states to “pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals”. There has been some progress so far, mainly from the United States and Russia, the two chief nuclear powers. However, there is no sign that any nuclear weapons country is willing to give up its arsenal completely. The fact is there are few alternatives to allowing a country join the nuclear club once it has already developed the weapons. The paradox is that possession of nuclear weapons seems to lessen tensions among nations. India’s recent launch was stark proof that non-proliferation is still a distant dream.