As the final Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) approaches this week, all eyes will be trained on not only the outcomes of the Washington Summit, but also on an appraisal of what the process has achieved over the course of the four summits. The laudable initiative by President Obama has been a subject of both support and concern. While it has certainly brought much-needed political attention and clarity on issues relating to nuclear security and terrorism, the process failed to invite several key players in this context, including Iran and North Korea, who will be significantly missing from the summit on 31st March-1st April. Additionally the Russian Federation has also indicated that while it remains focused on efforts to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it will not be participating in the final summit.
Over the course of three summits, over 50 states have shown their commitment by taking tangible steps for strengthening the global nuclear security system, enhancing international cooperation, and the up-gradation of domestic nuclear security regimes. However, in the same context, many states including Pakistan have reiterated time and again that the international community does not require any ‘new’ or ‘parallel’ mechanisms for cooperation on nuclear security, or to address the related threats of terrorism, as the existing central regulatory body, the IAEA, is an existent leading structure that effectively monitors all NS related issues.
In light of the upcoming summit, an appraisal of Pakistan’s participation and actions also becomes a useful benchmark for gauging the progress that has been made. As a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan has not only actively participated in all three summits at the governmental level, but also undertaken several serious steps to materialize the goals envisaged by international community in the NSS process. On 24 February 2016, the National Command Authority (NCA), the apex nuclear body in Pakistan, gave its approval in principle for the ratification of the ‘Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material’ (CPPNM), including the 2005 Amendment. The final instrument of ratification will be submitted to the Director IAEA soon after the formal approval of cabinet. Entry into force of CPPNM Amendment 2005 has been one of the key goals of the NSS process.
Furthermore, recognizing that even a robust security regime may not work effectively in the absence of deep cooperation at regional and international levels, Pakistan has dynamically engaged itself with international community for information sharing, joint operations and, active participation in every international effort to establish, evolve and strengthen the international nuclear security regime.
In the joint statement issued during Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington in October 2015, President Obama welcomed Pakistan’s constructive engagement with the NSS process and its cooperation with similar vital international forums. More recently, in a joint statement issued at the eve of Pakistan-US strategic dialogue, the US acknowledged Pakistan’s proactive engagement with “the international community, including through its hosting of IAEA training activities at its Nuclear Security Centre of Excellence and its active participation in the Nuclear Security Summits”. The US also extended its appreciation to Pakistan “for its commitment, in principle, to ratify the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.”
At the domestic front, over the years, Pakistan has established a robust command and control structure, which is in-line with international best practices and, of course, much appreciated by international community. It has also established a rigorous regulatory regime, which takes care of all matters related to nuclear safety, security, including physical protection of radiological material and facilities, material control and accounting, border controls, transport security and untoward contingencies. Moreover, a comprehensive export control regime is also in place. The effectiveness of the robust regime in Pakistan is determined by the fact that there has not been a single nuclear security-related incident in the country.
Similarly, Pakistan has also taken many steps to counter the threat of terrorism on its soil through both civil and military initiatives, with great success. This is why the international community has oft appreciated Pakistan for its vigilance and commitment to the issue of nuclear security. A State Department spokesman earlier this year also stated ‘The United States has full confidence in the nuclear security in Pakistan.”
The unfortunate truth however is that all of Pakistan’s achievements and compliance with best-practices become redundant when it continues to face policies based on discrimination, exceptionalism, ungrounded assumptions and malicious intentions. As a result, Pakistan’s substantive efforts to promote the goals of non-proliferation, disarmament have always been less appreciated and reciprocated by major nuclear powers, while a skewed support for Indian strengthening of its military capabilities continues unchecked. Denying Pakistan access to the international nuclear export arrangements while giving preferential treatment to India has significantly upset the regional strategic balance.
Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapon state that fulfills every criterion to be included in the four international export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). It has demonstrated its commitment to international peace and stability time and time again.
The NCA has determined to take all possible measures to effectively respond to the threats to national security without indulging in an arms race, and Pakistan desires to play a productive contributing role in achieving the goals of nuclear arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, on the basis of equality and partnership with the international community. Pakistan has proved its capacity and capability to hold an impressive nuclear record for the last more than forty years which is also recognized by the international community. It has strived hard and succeeded in establishing a robust nuclear security and safety regime, compatible with international standards and best practices. Pakistan’s successful diplomacy in the past nuclear security summits is testimony to its confidence and resolve, and at the same time a demonstration of it being a responsible actor in the global community.
Nuclear security measures should not become excuses to create obstacles or “infringe on nations ’rights” to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The current policies of exceptionalism are doing just that. In Prague, President Obama spoke of how ‘rules must be binding’. The Washington Summit and the end of the NSS process offers a chance to explore just how far these rules will be binding, and whether ‘some animals’ will continue to be ‘more equal than other animals’. If violation is met with consequence, then must compliance be met with reward? Pakistan must utilize this opportunity to highlight, yet again, how the people of Pakistan deserve the growth and progress that comes with access to civil nuclear technology and the supplier groups that its neighbor has access to, particularly given the fact that the country has worked very hard to meet all international safety and security standards and requirements. At the eve of the NSS process, it is time to put to test the rhetoric of justice and progress into the 21st century that was part of the premise of the this entire endeavor.