I F WE SAY IT DIDN'T happen, it didn't happen. Right?

Wrong.But that seems to be the attitude of the world's five major nuclear powers - Russia, China, the United States, Britain and France - who have decreed that India and Pakistan are not eligible to join their club because they "do not have the status of nuclear weapons states."

This ignores the fact that India conducted five nuclear tests May 11 and 13, Pakistan responded with six tests of its own May 28 and 30 and both nations have announced their intention to put nuclear warheads on their missiles.

As Pakistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Ahmad Kamal, pointed out: "Non-proliferation is no longer an issue in South Asia. There is a real danger of nuclear conflict (and) no amount of sermonizing and lamentations can rectify or reverse this unfortunate development."

What makes this all the more farcical is that the only five nations permitted to have nuclear weapons under the 28-year-old Non-Proliferation Treaty - who also happen to be the only permanent members of the U.N. Security Council - somehow persuaded the council's 10 non-permanent members, who occupy rotating seats, to go along with it.

Thus the U.N. resolution telling India and Pakistan they cannot have nuclear weapons - when it is clear that they already do - was co-sponored by Japan, Slovenia, Sweden and Costa Rica, none of them nuclear powers.

To their credit, some of the non-nuclear states aren't comfortable at singling out India and Pakistan for sins that others have committed without censure. Led by Canada and Kenya, they reminded the P-5 that they cannot expect the rest of the world to take non-proliferation seriously unless the nuclear powers honor previous commitments to reduce their own arsenals.

This brings up the glaring hypocrisy of the entire non-proliferation regime.

When the NPT came into force in 1970 there truly were only five nuclear powers. Some nations like India, Pakistan and Israel never signed, and thus are not bound by the treaty. Others like North Korea, Iran and Iraq signed, then violated the treaty by going ahead with their own nuclear weapons programs. And where could any of them, signers and non-signers alike, get nuclear technology and fissionable materials except from the existing nuclear powers?

The United States gave India a head start in South Asia's nuclear race, and the Soviet Union took over in later years. China sold Pakistan nuclear technology, enriched uranium and missile delivery systems. And Russia and China have both been helping Iran and other "rogue" states develop their nuclear capabilities.

By the same token, the United States has probably helped Israel. And the Israelis have cooperated with Germany, South Africa and, perhaps, India. Which is why Israeli chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak canceled a trip to India after that country's nuclear tests, saying he did not want it to be "misinterpreted."

Bluntly put, the nuclear powers were the first proliferators, and some of them still are. So let's not get holier than thou. It says something when India and Pakistan, bitter enemies who disagree on just about everything, can agree that the P-5 use nuclear treaties to legitimize their own possession of nuclear weapons while denying them to others.