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March 29, 2016

Nuclear Security Summit and Pakistan


March 29, 2016

The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit is scheduled on March 31 in Washington D.C. Like the Salmonid life cycle, NSS is returning to the rivers where it hatched. But unlike a salmon it would only lay some eggs that would not breed as the fish do. This article offers an assessment of the NSS process, its outcomes and Pakistan’s participation in the initiative Mr. Obama took on the heels of becoming president of the U.S.

On 5 April 2009 at Prague, he announced hosting a global summit on nuclear security to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the globe within four years and work towards global nuclear disarmament.

Fifty-three States and four international organizations like the IAEA have responded to this call so far and Russia dropped out of the process in 2014, stating that the process is discriminatory and that most of the pledged commitments were met and the agenda has been exhausted.

Securing some of the unsecured nuclear material across the globe is a half-measure because President Obama made no headway on his pledge at Prague that he would work for Nuclear Zero.  NSS process has survived two presidential terms and will become part of President Obama’s legacy. Three Summits have been held so far at Washington (2010), Seoul (2012) and The Hague (2014).

Although ambitious goal of NSS have not been fully achieved but by March 2014 four major achievements under its belt. Russia gave some 20,000 warheads’ worth of highly enriched uranium out of its nuclear arsenal to America, which was down-blended for electricity generation. Twelve countries had completely eliminated HEU or separated plutonium from within their borders. Twenty-seven countries removed or disposed of nearly 3000 KGs or HEU and separated plutonium. Twenty-four HEU nuclear reactors in fourteen countries were successfully converted to low-enriched fuel use or verified as shut down.

The focus of the first 2010 summit held at Washington D.C. was to secure nuclear materials and radiological substances in order to prevent these from falling into the hands of terrorists. The summit adopted a Communiqué and a Work Plan. Subsequent Summits only adopted communiqués in 2012 and 2014. A communiqué is a consensus document and a work plan is a guidance document explicating future steps.

The second summit, held in Seoul in 2012 in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear incident, carried forward the process initiated in 2010. It also focused on the need for tackling nuclear security and nuclear safety in a coherent manner thus blurring the distinction between the two.

A great deal of attention was paid to securing HEU and separated plutonium. During Seoul Summit, gift basket diplomacy was introduced. In this plurilateral initiative usually a small group of States voluntarily collaborates on those issues that lack general consensus. Joint statements also pronounce gift baskets. Thirteen gift baskets were adopted in 2012.

The third summit held at The Hague dealt with topics like strengthening of the international nuclear security architecture, enhancing the role of the IAEA, safety of nuclear materials and several other areas. During The Hague Summit, a Scenario-based Policy Discussion was held at the leadership level. Fourteen Gift Baskets were adopted in 2014.

The agenda of the concluding NSS is to assess the progress made on the goals identified in the previous three summits. This time around apart from a communiqué, the final documents of the NSS 2016 will also include some additional papers.

Being a responsible partner in the global nuclear order, Pakistan has joined a gift basket initiative on Nuclear Security Training and Support Centers and offered Pakistan Centre of Excellence on Nuclear Security as the regional and international training hub.

In a unique development PCENS recently hosted IAEA’s first-ever annual meeting of International Network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centers. This clearly indicates Pakistan’s leading role in global safety and security regime.

Pakistan’s exemplary nuclear security regime has a well-defined nuclear command and control system; multi-layered defence; a rigorous regulatory regime instituted by completely independent PNRA; comprehensive export control regime that is at par with international standards; a comprehensive Nuclear Security Action Plan in cooperation with IAEA; and its commitments to UN Security Council resolution-1540 and Global Initiative on Countering Nuclear Terrorism.

Pakistan offered to provide nuclear fuel cycle services under IAEA safeguards. In 2010, Islamabad expressed its readiness to participate in any non-discriminatory nuclear fuel cycle assurance mechanism. In 2012, Pakistan announced that it was deploying radiation portal monitors at border points to ensure no materials are transported illegally. In 2014, Islamabad established Nuclear Emergency Management System at national level to handle nuclear/ radiological emergencies.

Pakistan has often flagged the global threat of nuclear terrorism, calling for national action by all States and stressing that overly alarmist approach should be replaced with realistic assessment of the threat.

Islamabad maintains that nuclear security of a State is entirely national responsibility and calls for reinforcement of existing arrangements rather than creating new or parallel mechanisms.

Pakistan has reiterated that the NSS that it qualifies becoming member of export control arrangements, such as Nuclear Suppliers Group that emerged after India secretly diverted safeguarded technology and materials for testing first nuclear bomb in 1974.

During The Hague summit, PM Nawaz Sharif made a promise and delivering on it by submitting its instrument of ratification of the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (Amended) to the IAEA on March 24, 2016.

NSS is a win-win story. It does not seek any parallel or new initiatives and the commitments remain political and voluntary in nature. IAEA plays central and leading role in taking forward these commitments. It seeks no formal reporting of progress on commitments. States indicate progress through national statements.

As a responsible nuclear State, Pakistan has contributed meaningfully towards the global nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation measures. For these credentials, Pakistan should be included as a participant in the export control arrangements like the NSG.


The writer is visiting faculty at NDU’s Strategic Studies Department and a former fellow of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

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