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Nuclear Security: Challenges and Way Forward

(Zayane Bibi) 

Nuclear security has always been a serious concern of comity of nations. NPT makes all parties to the treaty responsible for implementing nuclear security related regimes. IAEA is the body with a legal mandate to monitor the implementation of various security related regimes. In addition, there are a number of institutionalized as well as informal mechanisms which oversee the nuclear security from various aspects, however, membership of all these entities is voluntary and their decisions have only recommendatory value. Hence, there is a void in the context of an assured foolproof nuclear security.

After 9/11 hype was created to propagate a perception about dooms day scenario in case a terrorist entity acquires the capability of delivering a nuclear weapon. This led to adoption of UNSC resolution 1540. Though there is no denying the fact that state level lapses could lead to access by a no-state entity to a ‘dirty bomb’ level expertise, the fear has been overplayed to the using it as a political tool for selective application.Concerns of nuclear security are based on chances of theft of material, sabotage, unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, insider-outsider collaboration etc. The problem arises when a narrative is built that such materials are safe only when kept under the physical control of NWS; hence all countries must handover their fissile material to America for safe keeping. The concept tends to give strength to freezing of strategic asymmetries and perpetualizing the clubs of nuclear haves and have nots.

Despite the fact that Pakistan’s nuclear security measures have been acknowledged as robust, duly backed by legal instruments for their effective implementation, periodic media campaigns are launched to portray Pakistan’s nuclear programme as a nuclear security hazard. Such media campaigns are timed to coincide with important nuclear technology related events to pressurize Pakistan to cede space like in FMCT /FMT or to hinder/ deny legitimate nuclear rights to Pakistan, like acquisition of Chashma 3&4 power plants, even though these are under comprehensive IAEA safeguards.

Credit goes to the national Command authority, Pakistan Nuclear Regularly Authority (PNRA) and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) that at professional level even the worst enemies of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon acknowledge its impeccable security and high standards of safety.

President Obama convened the first nuclear security summit on 12-13, April 2010 in Washington; 47 countries participated; out of them 38 were the heads of the states including Prime minister of Pakistan, second was held in Seoul in 2012.The motive is as much political as it could be professional; fringe benefit would be to pressurize North Korea over its nuclear programme. It was the first summit of its kind to broadly address nuclear security. A futuristic approach was taken to minimize dependence of nuclear applications on weapon grade fissile materials and to convert them to low enriched nuclear fuels in a phased programme. Another good step was an agreement over destruction of surplus Plutonium stocks held by the US and Russia. Beside security related issues, the overriding political objective was to ridicule Iran for its nuclear programme. Iran responded by holding a nuclear security summit in Tehran under the banner: “Nuclear Weapons for none; Nuclear power for all”. Hence Iran presented an alternative narrative for total nuclear disarmament as envisaged by Article VI of the NPT. Now the selected venue for third NSS is huge and decided date is March 24 and 25.
Unfortunately, we are living in an era of nuclear proliferation. The export control regimes like NSG, Australia group, MTCR and Wenesaar group have not been able to evolve a foolproof multilateral and universally acceptable export control regimes. Generally speaking commercial interests of the member states of these regimes override no-proliferation considerations. Vast inventory of dual usage technologies, materials and machines make the foolproof control over strategic technologies a pipe dream. Under these circumstances, the responsibility shifts on nuclear capable states to exercise effective control over illicit trade.

Pakistan is whole heartedly participating in the forthcoming Seoul summit and in this backdrop, it is important to discuss the upcoming nuclear security summit and formulate options for Pakistan in the context of global and regional concerns on the issue of nuclear security.

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