Pakistan & Nuclear Security Summit 2016

29 Mar

By Sajjad Shaukat

From 31 March to 1 April, 2016, heads of more than 50 countries and the leaders of four international organizations will negotiate and finalize new commitments to improve nuclear security protocols around the world at the fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington, D.C. Two years ago, in Berlin, the US President Barrack Obama had formally announced his plan to host a fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit in 2016.

The NSS process has been President Obama’s flagship initiative since his first term when he underlined security of nuclear materials as a priority of his administration in Prague speech of April 5, 2009. He initiated an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the globe within four years. This ambitious goal was not fully achieved by March 2014; however, the process has observed few successes. Since Prague speech, three nuclear security summits have taken place so far—Washington in 2010, Seoul 2012 and Hague in 2014. So, this will be concluding summit, as President Obama completes his final term this year. The NSS process has survived two presidential terms and will become part of President Obama’s legacy.

The United States seeks a strengthened global nuclear security architecture which is comprehensive, is based on international standards, builds confidence in nations’ nuclear security implementation, and results in declining global stocks of nuclear weapons-usable materials. We cannot afford to wait for an act of nuclear terrorism before working together to collectively raise our standards for nuclear security.

However, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will represent Pakistan at the forthcoming nuclear security summit. The conference will discuss the future of nuclear security summit process and will determine pathways to secure and build on the achievements of the whole process. In this regard, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani has said such high-level participation by Pakistan reflects its strong commitment to nuclear security. He elaborated that The US has been very appreciative of Pakistan’s participation in these meetings. It has periodically recognised Pakistan’s active engagements with global community on the issue of nuclear security.

Meanwhile, in a policy statement on Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the US State Department admitted that Islamabad is well aware of its responsibilities with respect to nuclear security and has secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.

Nevertheless, the forthcoming summit meeting will discuss future of nuclear security summit process and will determine pathways to secure and build on achievements of whole process. It will continue discussions on the evolving (nuclear terrorism) threats and highlight steps which can be taken together to minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium, secure vulnerable materials, counter nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism.

In fact, terrorism is an international phenomenon and the prevailing global security landscape is characterized by instability, volatility, and the reshaping of geopolitical and geo-strategic order due to both traditional and other emerging challenges and threats. Terrorism which has long been evolved and recognized as a serious domestic and international security threat is capable of instigating a systematic crisis at the global level. The contemporary trend in terrorism is towards loosely organized, self-financed, international networks of terrorists who are usually religiously or ideologically motivated. Notwithstanding several threats to international security, looming over the entire issue of international terrorism is the specter of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

In this respect, the concluding Nuclear Security Summit is likely to take place in a differently characterized international strategic environment. The emergent global nuclear order being shaped is focusing on a greater role for India’s nuclear weapon status, transfer of nuclear technology and materials especially uranium, and behind the door hectic diplomatic pressure by America to convert India’s Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) waiver into a full-fledged membership. And Government of Pakistan is being subjected to the renewed pressure to freeze its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities in an internationally shifting political and geo-strategic alignment, dividing the West and India on one side of the global polarization, while Russia and China on the other. The unstated rationale for Pakistan’s discrimination is due to its unique position in the Muslim world, facing the increasing specter of terrorism. In these terms double standard of the US-led West is quite obvious.

It is notable that Indian nuclear weapons and their related-material are unprotected, as various cases of smuggling and theft have verified.

In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation seized eight kg. of nuclear material from Arun, an engineer in Chennai, including two other engineers. It was reported that the uranium was stolen from an atomic research center. On November 7, 2000, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA said that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts. On January 26, 2003, CNN disclosed that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipment including titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps. Indian investigators acknowledged that the company falsified customs documents to get its shipments out of India.

On June 12, 2004, Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation, an American company was fined US $ 300,000 for exporting a nuclear component to the Bhaba Atomic Research Center in India.
In December 2005, United States imposed sanctions on two Indian firms for selling missile goods and chemical arms material to a Muslim country in violation of India’s commitment to prevent proliferation. In the same year, Indian scientists, Dr. Surendar and Y S R Prasad had been blacklisted by the US due to their involvement in nuclear theft. In December, 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.

It is mentionable that correspondingly, in the recent Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) report, Pakistan has been placed at the bottom in ranking for nuclear weapon usable material. To put the records straight, this criterion ignores Islamabad’s stellar role in on-site physical protection, control and accounting procedure, and physical security during transportation. Interestingly, it is difficult to empirically measure how effective nuclear-related material control is unless theft, pilferage or sabotage is reported. Not a single such incident has ever been reported in Pakistan. Contrary, by setting aside Indian poor records as already mentioned, Indian regulations for nuclear sites are written as guidance rather than as binding requirements.

Additionally, India lacks an independent regulatory agency even if it has vowed to establish one. Thus the said report has clearly shown biases against Pakistan, while India has been taken softly.

Conversely, Pakistan has played an active role in international nuclear security summits. Islamabad has accepted President Obama’s proposal for securing all vulnerable materials within four years (i.e. by 2014). Several safety and security measures have been put in place as part of this commitment. Pakistan acceded to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. But, it has refused to endorse the Convention’s 2005 amendments, because the original articles covered nuclear material in international transport; the amendments sought to extend it to nuclear facilities and to material in peaceful domestic use and storage.

Notably, the recent statement of Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) which carried a reference of deep satisfaction to country’s national nuclear safety and security measures, and another regarding the NSS process for which NCA members were briefed, hints toward Islamabad’s commitment to nuclear security. The statement reads; “NCA noted with satisfaction that Pakistan has the requisite credentials which entitle it to become part of all multi-lateral export control regimes, including the NSG, for which Islamabad seeks adoption of a non-discriminatory approach. Pakistan was considering ratification of the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (Amended), for which NCA gave approval in principle for its ratification’. That is a pitch repeated in 2014 and has echoed in the NCA most recent meeting.

In the same vein, Islamabad has repeatedly reiterated its stance that we have revisited our safety parameters, emergency preparedness and response, and operators’ training and yet again these measures should be recounted in the upcoming international platforms.

As a matter of fact, Pakistan maintains that nuclear security within a state is a national responsibility because then the fundamental responsibility lies at the state. It is difficult that third party can be asked to come and access them, irrespective of their national or international obligations.

Nonetheless Pakistan has lost nothing by joining these summits, but gained, and thus as a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan will continue to contribute meaningfully towards the global efforts to improve nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation measures. While, internationally, there is an urgent need to develop a mechanism which can provide a process for sustained review and improvement of the nuclear security regime beyond 2016. This is crucial in an environment where an increasing amount of nuclear material and the terrorism threat is escalating.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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