The Summit

M A Niazi The Nuclear Security Summit has taken place, and is over with a commitment from countries attending to stop the movement of fissile material in the next four years. This replaces the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), hitherto the sole instrument for controlling the spread of nuclear weapons. The USA used the Summit for three purposes: first, to demonstrate in its ability to host it, its status as the sole superpower. Second, to beat up on Iran, and finally, but perhaps most important, to show that it retained the lead on nuclear issues in the new unipolar world, they previously having been tackled only with the consent, assistance, and perhaps initiative of the USSR. The USA did not mean to use it to fulfil any of the hopes that were being placed in it in Pakistan, that it would address any of the concerns of Pakistan, which along with India and North Korea is in a kind of limbo, having carried out a nuclear explosion, but not admitted into the nuclear club. The USA succeeded in calling the Summit apart from the United Nations, the mechanism it has favoured so far for multilateral operations of this sort. This may cause some worry in UN circles, as the response indicates that the USA may well no longer need its fig-leaf to carry out such activities. That it no longer wants the fig-leaf, which it used to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, indicates the dominance (at least to American eyes) of non-Americans in the world body. However, it also respects the expertise that it has developed, and the joint communiqu issued after the Summit mentions it as the lead agency in monitoring compliance. Summoning the Summit was easy compared to getting it to condemn Iran, which did not happen, summoned to agree to a new package was another matter. However, while the USA is over-stretched, it will engage in an adventure there as soon as it can release sufficient forces from one or both theatres. Meanwhile, the next Summit has been agreed upon, and it was President Obama who announced that it would take place in two years, and would be hosted by South Korea. That would serve to apply more pressure to North Korea than the present Summit. Again as a sort of replacement for the UN, at least for participants, the next step would be the setting up of a Secretariat, and entering negotiations about having the IAEA report to the new body. The USA is not just concerned about its UN dues, but it has multiple issues of control, associated with its payment of dues, which this mechanism would help resolve. At the same time, the USA has demonstrated that it has primacy on nuclear issues. By an agreement on the example of Iran should provide enough evidence of the limits placed by the USA on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Fissile material is the key. This is to go back a step in the nuclear cycle, and recognises that the same fissile material, or rather radioactive metal, which can be used for generating power can also be used for bringing about an unimaginable explosion. The focus on fissile materials came because it was realised that any nuclear material that went into peaceful uses was not available for weapons use. This was proposed through the original compact proposed, Atoms for Peace, through which developed countries gave peaceful nuclear technology in exchange for a promise to eschew weapons development. However, the cornerstone of this edifice was that the winners of World War II would have nuclear weapons, along with their veto power in the UN, and none of the countries which won independence after that War, were supposed to have these weapons. However, within the newly independent countries, there were several with their own reasons to achieve nuclear weapons status. India in particular has been the leader, because it has harboured superpower ambitions from the time of its independence in 1947. It has no real motive beyond the ambition of its rulers to be acknowledged as a superpower. However, its pursuit of nuclear weapons status, which culminated in the tests of 1998, made Pakistan respond in kind, making it the first country without global ambitions to become a nuclear power. In the two decades and more that it pursued this technology, it did not see a global role for itself beyond what it could fulfil without nuclear weapons. Similarly, North Korea used its possession of nuclear weapons more as a bargaining chip with the USA, than as a real threat to force South Korea into any action. Israel also developed nuclear weapons after fighting two wars with its Arab neighbours. Israels nuclear weapons are based on technology stolen from the USA. However, the Israeli nuclear threat to the peace of the world could not be tackled at a Summit hosted by the USA. The movement of fissile material was thought the best possible step after the failure of the proliferation regime in the shape of multilateral treaties. However, as the Summit itself shows, there is still a lot of fissile material floating around, and if it is not necessarily used to make bombs be used to replace material that could be. Fissile material is the datum of information on which all of those estimates of bombs manufactured are made. The motive of the nuclear powers in ensuring weapons non-proliferation remained maintaining the monopoly. Though its reasons for participating in the war on terror have nothing to do with the Summit, Pakistan is so subordinate to the USA that its participation in the latter was assured. And if it can be fobbed off with statements about its weapons being safe, then it is probably not only not a danger, but it will not get a civilian nuclear deal that allows it to put fissile material to military use, as India is doing. More importantly, the Summit did nothing towards solving the problem of the 'limbo nuclear powers, who may or may not be accommodated, but who undoubtedly exist. When the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) was brought in, much was made of the promise of the nuclear powers to give up these weapons. However, they did not. And this was not pursued at the Summit, which the USA not only had the effrontery to attend as a nuclear power, but which it convened as the leader of the nuclear haves. Without some adjustment of the new nuclear powers, who are now almost as many as the original nuclear club, there will be no real purpose to such Summits. Email:

M A Niazi

The writer is a veteran journalist and founding member as well as Executive Editor of The Nation.

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