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March 31, 2016

The nuclear summit


March 31, 2016

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi will attend a two-day Nuclear Security Summit being held in Washington D C at the end of this week. This is the last session in the series of such summits. President Barack Obama took the initiative to launch the NSS process in 2009, following his historic speech in Prague, where he promised that the United States would take concrete steps towards nuclear disarmament.

The NSS focuses on the international nuclear security culture and norms, involving some 54 states. The summit’s goal is to push for an international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, break up black markets, and detect and intercept illicitly trafficked materials.

On the eve of this summit, the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad hosted an unprecedented roundtable with policymakers, diplomats, and other experts, led by the former custodian of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, Lt-Gen (r) Khalid Kidwai. General Kidwai addressed the participants in his current capacity as the adviser to the National Command Authority (NCA). The NCA is headed by the prime minister and is the top commanding authority responsible for overseeing all aspects of Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

Pakistan has always committed to strong nuclear security. As General Kidwai plainly stated in his address, Pakistan’s national security is intertwined with its nuclear security. For that reason the country attaches the highest importance to its nuclear security without compromise.

In 1998 Pakistan reluctantly tested its nuclear weapons, as a response to the nuclear explosions carried out by India. It was a very tough decision for the country. If it had not tested its nuclear weapons, the Indians would have used their nuclear bombs to bully and weaken Pakistan.

Following the 1998 tests, General Kidwai was given the responsibility of conceiving and developing a rigorous national nuclear security regime. The task demanded him to design a system so thorough that it had to ensure 100 percent security at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.

During his 15 years of service as the head of the Strategic Plans Division, the division that serves as the secretariat to the NCA, General Kidwai implemented the strongest physical and technological solutions to guarantee the greatest levels of security possible for Pakistan’s nuclear programme.

According to the general, “Through its security and intelligence divisions, the SPD runs a strict Personnel Reliability Programme”. “SPD has developed strong security and intelligence capabilities to deal with all issues impinging on national security, including proliferation, insider and outsider threats, accidents, precluding any possibility of nuclear terrorism.”

The Pakistani nuclear security regime takes into consideration all kinds of threats and has a comprehensive regulatory framework in place to ensure one hundred percent security at all levels. This high level of security extends to Pakistan’s civil nuclear programme as well. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority, an autonomous oversight body, has earned the confidence and respect of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its nuclear safety regulatory system.

Pakistan has a strict export control regime in place, taking into account lessons learned from the A Q Khan fiasco. Today, the country can boast that its legislative, regulatory, administrative and enforcement measures are equivalent to if not better than the various international multilateral export control regimes. In addition, our National Detection Architecture is in place to deter, detect, and prevent illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials.

The IAEA has shown such great confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security culture that it is now using Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security as a regional hub to offer training on all aspects of nuclear safety and security. The implementation of Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Action Plan will also be done in collaboration with the IAEA. The Nuclear Emergency Management System is designed to handle all nuclear and radiological emergencies. Pakistan’s collaboration and cooperation with the IAEA extends to many other areas. As a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan has been “proactively engaging in all international forums to promote norms and good practices for fostering nuclear security”.

Just as Pakistan has established a safety and security framework for its nuclear weapons at the strategic, operational and tactical levels, it has done the same for its civil programme, by investing heavily in nuclear safety and security at the plant, corporate and regulatory levels. Pakistan has over four decades of experience operating nuclear power plants, all of which operate under IAEA safeguards. By the mid-century, the country plans to invest heavily in nuclear energy to address Pakistan’s energy requirements.

Pakistan’s goals for nuclear safety and security are in line with the objectives of the Nuclear Security Summit. Over the years, the steps Pakistan has taken to ensure a strong safety and security culture have been to maintain its reputation as a responsible nuclear state. As General Khalid Kidwai said, “Pakistan’s national security is intertwined with its nuclear security… therefore the security of its nuclear program is the state’s most pressing priority.”

The writer is an assistant professor at NUST in Islamabad. Twitter: @umarwrites.



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