Nuclear Security Summit 2014: Pakistan’s Role

20 Mar, 2014    ·   4345

Rabia Akhtar suggests that this is the right time for Pakistan to propose an Asian Trilateral Nuclear Safety and Security Network with India and China

Leaders taking part in the third Nuclear Security Summit (24-25 March 2014) in The Hague, Netherlands seek to reiterate their national commitments to secure existing nuclear materials in their territories and foster international cooperation in all aspects of nuclear security.

What role can Pakistan play in furthering the aims of the NSS in the region and beyond? Why should Pakistan take the lead?

Furthering the Aims of the NSS in the Region and Beyond: Role for Pakistan
The timing is just right for Pakistan to take the lead in proposing a regional nuclear safety and security arrangement inviting both India and China to form an Asian Trilateral Nuclear Safety and Security Network (AT-NSSN). All three countries in the region have much to gain from sharing best practices on nuclear safety and security with each other and contributing to the overall nuclear learning in the region. It is ironic that the three countries meet other global leaders at the NSS forum to reiterate their national and international commitments yet they do not talk to each other about their regional commitments especially when all three are nuclear weapons states; all three share a common border and all three carry historical/political baggage which fosters insecurity and hampers cooperation.

It is only natural to start this regional dialogue and the timing could not be more perfect for such an initiative. Pakistan has announced its nuclear energy vision programme 2050 whereby it is committed to generate 44,000 MW of electric power by 2050 through the development of 32 nuclear power plants in the country. Pakistan will be able to achieve this objective through Chinese assistance and investment in Pakistan’s nuclear energy sector. There has been much speculation by India and the US about Sino-Pak nuclear energy cooperation in addition to the never-ending hullabaloo about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons given its internal security dynamics. Pakistan can hence use a tri-lateral NSSN forum to address mutual insecurities with India and China; address Indian and Chinese concerns about the safety and security of nuclear weapons, facilities and materials in the region; and discuss mechanisms for strengthening nuclear security cooperation among the three countries. The IAEA, the US and EU countries can be invited as observers to the forum.

Pakistan and Nuclear Security: Taking the Lead
Pakistan’s nuclear security architecture has strengthened over the years and has achieved certain milestones since its nuclearisation in 1998, affording it a unique position. Pakistan’s nuclear security regime rests on four pillars as highlighted in Pakistan’s national statements made in 2010 and 2012:
• Pakistan’s command and control system: The National Command Authority (NCA) with the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) as its secretariat, “exercises control over all aspects of policy, procurement, operations and most importantly, nuclear security.”
• Pakistan’s nuclear regulatory regime: Pakistan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) oversees all matters related to “nuclear safety and security, including physical protection of materials and facilities, material control and accounting, transport security, prevention of illicit trafficking and border controls, as well as plans to deal with possible radiological emergencies.”
• Pakistan’s export control regime: Pakistan’s export controls framework is governed by several legal and administrative instruments. The Export Control Act 2004 further strengthened controls over “export, re-export, and other forms of transfer; transshipment and transit of goods, technologies, materials and equipment, including prohibition of diversion of controlled goods and technologies; covers tangible technology transfers; and includes catch-all provisions” (INFCIRC/636).
• Pakistan’s international obligations: Pakistan honours its national and international commitments with regard to the nuclear safety and security of its nuclear facilities and materials. Pakistan believes in a non-discriminatory international security regime that facilitates countries to pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

As a proof of its commitment to enhancing nuclear security, Pakistan has developed Centres of Excellence for Training (COEs) managed by the SPD. The training academy offers specialist courses in all aspects of nuclear security, physical protection of materials and facilities and personnel reliability. As part of its national education strategy for nuclear safety and security, a masters degree programme in nuclear engineering with a specialisation in nuclear security is offered by the Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) and the School of Nuclear and Radiation Safety and the Nuclear Security Training Centre (NSTC) is run by the PNRA. Pakistan announced in the last NSS 2012 that it is “ready to open these training facilities, which can act as a regional and international hub, to participants from other countries in the region and beyond.”

According to the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index 2014, “Pakistan’s score has increased by three points compared to 2012, putting it in the top ten most improved countries and making it the most improved nuclear-armed state in the NTI Index,” (NTI Index 2014, Pakistan country report) even though Pakistan ranks 22/25 while India ranks at 23 and China at 20. Notwithstanding their ranking, Pakistan, India and China have had an excellent record of operating their nuclear facilities and securing nuclear materials for the past five decades. It is time they come together and share their experiences to enhance regional security and stability in the region.