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The NTI Matrix: Viewpoint From Pakistan – OpEd

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The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) — founded by US Senator Sam Nunn and CNN founder Ted Turner — describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan organization” tool for assessing the security of the world’s deadliest materials with a mission to strengthen global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

It assesses the contribution of 24 states in five categories: (a) Quantities and Sites, (b) Security and Control Measures, (c) Global Norms, (d) Domestic Commitments and Capacity, and (e) Risk Environment.

Earlier, on January 14 NTI released its report, a unique assessment of nuclear material security conditions among 176 countries, developed with Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Following the reports released in 2012 and 2014, this time round the year it has been released and will leave you surprised due to low ranking of Pakistan despite its efforts to improve its security and safety of weapons, which implies weak regulations and bias been followed in the report.

Now take a look at how well are the two nuclear neighbors taking care of their nuclear material. The NTI 2016 Nuclear Security Index ranks 24 countries that possess “one kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials” both India and Pakistan fall into this category.

Notably, in the nuclear security Index, Indian ranking on nuclear materials security has been improved placing Pakistan at position 22 and India coming out at 21 regarding the likelihood of nuclear material being stolen. This likelihood of position comes out while ignoring the efforts taken by Pakistan for their security and control measures; compliance to global norms; capacity to keep them safe; and their risk environments.

In this collection of global indices, Pakistan has been at the bottom last number in ranking for nuclear weapon useable material. To put records straight, this criterion ignores Pakistan’s stellar role in for On-site physical protection, control and accounting procedure, physical security during transportation as Pakistan has a 30,000 strong, trained and dedicated nuclear security force. Interestingly, it is difficult to empirically measure how effective material control is unless theft, pilferage or sabotage are reported. Not a single such incident has ever been reported in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the duplicity for blaming Pakistan internationally can be judged as Pakistan is labelled as the most dangerous country given its battlefield nuclear weapons, and so-called unstable domestic and internal environment.

Whereas, in this self-abnegation frame, the NTI index interestingly reflects a different story and acknowledges that Pakistan’s domestic commitments and capacity to prevent the theft of nuclear materials are fairly good in the region. Pakistan did more since 2012 to boost protection of its atomic-bomb fuel than any other nuclear-armed country implementing best practices.

Now a question arises that how has India fared in the 2016 Index for nuclear security? The same India, where the situation is highly alarming and it seems that all the realities are conveniently swept under the carpet. And also the shocking aspect of Daily Mail’s reports highlights that some Indian nuclear scientists are reportedly assisting Naxal rebels to learn to utilise and transport uranium. Isn’t it a serious concern to think of, if and only if they are working on civilian nuclear technology? The international community will have to dig in as to what extent their nuclear weapons and sites are secured.

The quasi NGO’s index makes one further wonder as United States scored overall 11th position. Furthermore, U.S. scored 1st position for its actual security and control system taken on-site whilst ignoring the breach done by a group of anti-nuclear activists and The Nun Who Broke into the Nuclear Sanctum. It’s clear that the United States needs to do more to uphold the solemn responsibility of making certain that their nuclear weapons and materials are effectively secured through ratifying two major international conventions on nuclear security.

Arguably, it seems that the global nuclear security is as strong as the weakest link in the chain which deserves a more realistic assessment and is nothing more than only a patchwork of agreements, guidelines and multilateral engagement mechanisms. The third nuclear security summit is going to be held in Netherlands in March 2016, where countries will optimistically commence commitments toward safeguarding nuclear facilities and destroying more stocks.

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Usman Ali Khan

Usman Ali Khan is a graduate of Defence and Strategic Studies. The area of interests are Dynamics of nuclear proliferation, Tactical nuclear weapons, Disarmament, South Asia and Middle Eastern regional politics. The writer frequently writes on different national and international newspapers.

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