Nuclear Risks in India

25 Mar

By Sarah Khan

The policies of major powers, including United States seem to downplay the standards of nuclear safety and security and India’s flawed nonproliferation record. As the World moves towards hosting fourth Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC on 31st March the Harvard Kennedy School has published a report, “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?” The report says it is difficult to judge whether India’s nuclear security is capable of protecting against the threat. A report examining nuclear security worldwide suggests India’s “nuclear security measures may be weaker than those of Pakistan. It is difficult to judge whether or not India’s nuclear security measures are competent enough to protect India from the threats it faces.

The report further illustrates that “Pakistan has substantially strengthened its nuclear security in the past two decades”. , citing changes in organizations governing nuclear security, training, equipment and approaches to screening personnel, requirements for nuclear material accounting and control, approaches to strengthening security culture and “substantial changes in every other aspect of nuclear security covered in the survey” as reasons for the improved nuclear security.

Measures taken to secure Pakistan’s nuclear weapons highlighted in the report include: – Allotment of 25,000 troops to guard Pakistan’s nuclear stocks and facilities by the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) – Equipment of sites with extensive barriers and detection systems – Separate storage of nuclear weapons components ─ although this may change as Pakistan shifts towards tactical nuclear weapons intended for rapid deployment – Equipment of weapons with locks to prevent unauthorized use – Extensive cooperation with the United States to improve nuclear security. US officials from President Obama to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have repeatedly expressed confidence in Pakistani nuclear security arrangements”. US Defense Intelligence Agency Director “testified in February 2015 that improvements were continuing”.

On the other hand, a thorough examination of India’s nuclear proliferation record gives a not-so-impeccable picture. India introduced nuclear weapons in South Asia by illegally siphoning off nuclear material provided by Canada and the US for peaceful purposes only. India used Canadian provided technical expertise and financing to make nuclear weapons. This was the first proliferation done by any country in South Asia and about ten NPT signatories were involved in it. The US provided heavy water for CIRUS reactor from which India stole material for making plutonium to test its first nuclear bomb in 1974.

As the report highlights, Indian nuclear security and safety standards are pathetic. According to NTI index India as ranked 23rd out of 25 countries in terms of nuclear safety and security. Instead of improving the safety and security mechanism of existing facilities, India is expanding its nuclear facilities assisted by US and West by building a nuclear city. India is a country which has World’s second largest population and most of the population lives below poverty line devoid of even basic human needs. In such a situation a nuclear disaster or accident in India would prove to be more fatal not only for India but for entire region due to release of lethal radioactive radiations. This is the aspect ignored by International community especially US and West who are investing in building Indian nuclear capabilities without taking into consideration the fallout of nuclear accident. Hence, the timely release of the report by Harvard Kennedy School at the dawn of fourth Nuclear Security Summit can prove to be constructive if international community urge India to restrict its nuclear development and lay emphasis on improving the standard of nuclear safety and security.

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