ISSN 2330-717X

Pakistan And Nuclear Report Card 2016: Assessment, Interests And Collisions – OpEd

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Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament debates have received important considerations in the contemporary nuclear environment, that has resulted in a strategic shift of the paradigm in the global nuclear politics. However, the states that are party to the nonproliferation efforts  see such advancements in lieu of their threat perception.

The efforts that took place to curb the spread of nuclear weapons have reinforced the impression that under the changing dynamics of global politics and regional/national security, challenges to nuclear non-proliferation are ineffectively addressed. The NPT review conferences, which have taken place every five years, have often failed to achieve a consensus on a final document regarding different issues pertaining to non-proliferation. Disagreement between Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) on nuclear disarmament/horizontal nuclear proliferation under Article VI of the treaty, which calls upon P-5 NWS to ‘pursue negotiations’ for ‘effective measures’ within the framework of the NPT, lingers on with no consensus in sight. Similarly, differences continue to persist in the interpretation and application of Article IV of the NPT on peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

Recently, the independent Arms Control Association (ACA) released a new study that measures the performance of 11 key states in 10 universally-recognized nonproliferation, disarmament and nuclear security categories over the past 18 months. The study, “Assessing Progress on Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament, 2013-2016”, is the third in a series that gives grades to China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, India, Israel, Pakistan—each of which possess nuclear weapons—and North Korea—which maintains a nuclear weapons capability—as well as Iran and Syria, which are under investigation for possible nuclear weapons-related activities. The indicators used for the assessment are: banning nuclear-weapon test explosions; ending the production of fissile material for weapons; reducing nuclear weapons alert levels; verifiablly reducing nuclear force size; assuring non-nuclear weapons states that they will not be subject to nuclear attack; establishing nuclear weapon-free zones; complying with international safeguards against the diversion of peaceful nuclear activities for weapons purposes; controlling nuclear weapons-related exports; implementing measures to improve the security of nuclear material and facilities; and criminalizing and preventing illicit nuclear trafficking and nuclear terrorism.

The Report Card assigned a Grade C to Pakistan. Pakistan’s grade improved slightly since the 2013 report, due to progress on strengthening export controls and ratifying a key nuclear security treaty. The country updated its national control lists last year to make them compatible with those of the nuclear export cartels like the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime and Australia Group. In Pakistan’s neighborhood, both China and India were given C+ grade, while Iran got a C. On nuclear security commitments, Pakistan got a B+ as compared to a B in 2013. The improved grade was because of accession to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material amendment this year. Physical security has improved in the recent years, due in significant part to US assistance across a spectrum of activities. This assistance includes the development of nuclear material accountability and tracking programs, advanced training by US national laboratories, and the development of personnel reliability and accounting measures. On the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safeguard, Pakistan got a Grade B, although all of its civil nuclear facilities are under IAEA safeguards.

The report says that Pakistan’s grade has been lowered because in October 2015, Aizaz Chaudhry publicly stated that Pakistan has developed low-yield, tactical nuclear weapons. Pakistan is believed to have deployed these weapons on the battlefield. The other nuclear nation in South Asia, India, developed and enhanced nuclear arsenal; aided by civilian nuclear cooperation agreements; triad of nuclear delivery systems; short, medium and long range missiles; SLBMs and nuclear powered sub-marine; developing BMD system and there are also reports about Hydrogen bomb. As encouraged and supported by US and allies like Israel – India is engaged in massive conventional and strategic military buildup.

Pakistan has played an active role in international nuclear mechanisms. It is noteworthy that four security summits have taken place so far and Islamabad has accepted US proposals for securing all vulnerable materials within four years. Several safety and security measures have been put in place as part of this commitment. Pakistan acceded to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Pakistan has undertaken some measures to protect its non-nuclear radiological materials. As part of that it has upgraded physical security at its nuclear medical centers. This measure is intended primarily to prevent the spread of material for making RDD (‘dirty bombs’). Pakistan has also participated in the IAEA nuclear safety action plan. Additionally it has extended its cooperation in other areas with the IAEA to improve nuclear security.

The low ranking implies weak regulations, which despite Pakistan’s efforts indicates a biased assessment. This grading of positions is the result of ignoring the efforts taken by Pakistan for compliance to global norms; their security and control measures; capacity to keep them safe; and their risk environments. Interestingly, it is difficult to empirically measure how effective material control is unless theft, pilferage or sabotage is reported. Pakistan’s domestic commitments and capacity to prevent the theft of nuclear materials are fairly good in the region. Unlike India, Pakistan has an independent regulatory agency and robust domestic nuclear materials security legislation in place. Arguably, it seems that the global nuclear security is as strong as the weakest link in the chain which deserves a more realistic assessment as it is nothing more than a patchwork of agreements, guidelines and multilateral engagement mechanisms. It seems that the facts about a few states have been deliberately ignored to justify the allocated rankings.


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