By Nilova Roy Chaudhury*
Repeatedly thwarted by China from gaining entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), India has moved to remind the world about its strong anti-nuclear proliferation credentials and showcase why it is a good candidate for entry into the global nuclear commerce body.
India hosted a crucial global meet against nuclear terrorism in February to showcase its non-proliferation history and bolster its case for NSG entry. The Implementation and Assessment Group Meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) was held in New Delhi. The meeting again highlighted the continued priority India attaches to nuclear security and efforts to strengthen institutional non-proliferation frameworks and promote international cooperation.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), “This event highlights India’s commitment to global nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. It is a part of our overall engagement with the international community on nuclear security issues.”
Inaugurating the meeting, India’s Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said, “Terrorism remains the most pervasive and serious challenge to international security. If access to nuclear technology changes state behaviour, it is only to be expected that it would also impact on non-state calculations. Nuclear security, therefore, will be a continuing concern, especially as terrorist groups and non-state actors strike deeper roots and explore different avenues to spread terror,” Jaishankar said.
Around 150 delegates from GICNT partner countries and international organisations participated in the event. The GICNT was launched in 2006, jointly by Russia and the US. It now includes 86 partner-nations and five official observer organisations. The GICNT comprises four working groups; Implementation and Assessment Group, Nuclear Detection Working Group, Nuclear Forensics Working Group and Response and Mitigation Working Group.
“The possible use of weapons of mass destruction and related material by terrorists is no longer a theoretical concern,” the MEA statement said. “A breach of nuclear security may lead to unimaginable consequences. It is imperative to strengthen international efforts to combat such threats.”
India is party to all the 13 universal instruments accepted as benchmarks for a nation’s commitments to combat international terrorism. India is party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and has ratified its 2005 amendment. India is also part of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
A pioneer of the non-proliferation movement, IIndia at the meeting highlighted measures it has taken.
India’s export controls list and guidelines have been harmonized with those of the NSG. In 2005, India enacted the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems Act, 2005. This fulfils India’s obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540. Institutionally, the security of all nuclear and radiological material in India is ensured through oversight by India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
Although not a member of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), India, for the first time, was invited to and participated in commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which guarantees the Latin American region as a nuclear-weapons free zone. The Treaty remains the only Nuclear Weapon Free Zone that has an organizational structure to ensure its compliance and to promote its objectives.
For India to attend Commemorative Conference on February 14 was a symbolic gesture, underlining the faith reposed by the host nation, Mexico, a crucial NSG member which had, in 2016, raised some doubts about India’s NSG entry.
India has supported numerous nuclear disarmament proposals at various international fora. Its nuclear policy combines protection of national security in a nuclearised global order and the responsible use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes for meeting its developmental needs.
India also moved Monday, February 20, to extend an agreement with Pakistan to reduce the risk of accidents related to nuclear weapons. First signed as a confidence –boosting measure between the two countries in 2007, the agreement was valid for 10 years. The pact has been extended for five years.
According to the pact, both India and Pakistan have to inform each other immediately if an accident occurs relating to nuclear weapons, which could create the risk of a radioactive fallout, with devastating consequences, or create the risk of an outbreak of a nuclear war between the two countries.
*The author is a veteran journalist and writer on strategic affairs