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Nuclear Security Summit: India Links Nuclear Safety To Controlling Terrorism – Analysis


By Kimberley Anne Nazareth and Pramod Jaiswal*

The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) 2016 took place between March 31 and April 1, 2016 in Washington D.C. One of the most talked-about summit which is aimed to address the global concern and threat of nuclear terrorism, was held for two days and was attended by heads of 50 countries. The summit focused on limiting weapons-usable nuclear materials, enhancing international cooperation to prevent the illicit acquisition of nuclear material by non-state actors and enhancing the global nuclear security network. Interestingly, the Russian President Vladimir Putin was absent along with Iran and North Korea. Absence of Russia was of great significance as it is a major nuclear power. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi too participated in the summit and was treated as a major player by the hosts.

The NSS was initiated by US President Barack Obama as part of his policy to create nuclear-free zones by laying its foundation in Prague in 2009. President Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, highlighted its theme as “world without nuclear weapons”. Since 2010, the summits were held every two years and it was concluded with this summit, which was the fourth and final one. The first summit was held in Washington D. C. in 2010, and was followed by additional summits in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014. Those summits were able to achieve tangible improvements in securing nuclear materials and strengthening international institutions that support nuclear security and gaining tangible agreements from nations towards nuclear security.

NSS aims to address concerns about fissile material falling into the wrong hands, at a head-of-state level, which includes minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), bolstering security at nuclear facilities through enhanced national regulations and implementation of best practices, enhanced membership in international instruments and organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The two major goals for the 2016 NSS were advancing tangible improvements in nuclear security behaviour, and strengthening the global nuclear security architecture. As was the case at previous summits, many countries announced significant nuclear security commitments and accomplishments, both through national statements or in association with multilateral accords.

The 2016 Summit also provided a forum and opportunity for world leaders to engage with each other and to reinforce at the highest levels, a pledge to securing and eliminating nuclear materials, and preventing nuclear smuggling. The summit’s significant achievements were the recovery /elimination of more than 1,500 kilograms of HEU and separated plutonium, the establishment of dozens of new training centers, and updates on state security laws. Moreover, with the rise in the number of terrorist activities and terror attacks, nuclear terrorism is still a major concern. The recent terror attacks in Brussels and Paris are signs of the growing influence of the IS in Europe; places that were considered the most secured up until now. These developments are worrisome, not only to national and international security but also to nuclear weapons.

After the fourth and final Summit of 2016, both China and India committed to implement the security initiative and achieve the goals of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Many countries, including Poland and Japan, agreed to reduce their highly enriched uranium stockpiles.

For New Delhi, the NSS 2016 has been a platform to demonstrate its responsibility to nuclear security to the global community. However, off-the-cuff comment by U.S. President Barack Obama has made India upset. At a press conference following the conclusion of the NSS, Obama cited India alongside Pakistan as an “area where I think we’d need to see progress”. President Obama later acknowledged the political blunder of placing India and Pakistan in the same league concerning nuclear security. India, time and again, has expressed its resentment, on any attempts to equate its nuclear security and nuclear doctrine with that of Pakistan’s. The Indian delegation, throughout the 2016 summit, displayed a keen interest to nuclear security and end to nuclear terrorism. Nuclear terrorism is one of India’s greatest concerns, especially because Pakistan lacks its control over the terrorist cells within the country.

The 2016 summit holds prominence because India joined the three “gift baskets”. Basket diplomacy is one of the main aspects of the NSS, which is when a consensus is reached and then those willing to join can do so thus getting around universal consensus. This approach is crucial especially in a multilateral summit where universal consensus is impossible. These gift baskets or joint endeavours were mainly in priority areas – countering nuclear smuggling, the contact group in Vienna to carry on the work of the summit, and sharing best practices through centres of excellence. The summit also gave New Delhi a responsibility to hold an international conference with Interpol, who plays an important role in prevention and smuggling of nuclear, biological, radiological and chemical materials.

During the summit, PM Modi shared India’s national progress status, which underlined the various steps the country had taken on nuclear security, which includes updating export controls for companies manufacturing nuclear technology, taking “robust strides” towards implementing nuclear safeguards, setting up an inter-ministerial counter-smuggling team, using low-enriched uranium instead of high-enriched uranium (HEU) and shutting down the only reactor using HEU, setting up 23 response centres across the country to take care of any nuclear or radiological emergency and putting a cyber security architecture in place. Similarly, India also pledged USD 1 million to the IAEA, to strengthen nuclear security, in addition to the USD 1 million, already contributed in 2013. Moreover, Modi’s also met leaders of NSG member countries such as Canada, Kazakhstan, Britain, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Japan with the interest of becoming a NSG member country.

India participated in the entire four summits, which clearly reflects its commitment towards nuclear security. President Obama’s remarks indicated that US was equally worried with the situation in South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. However, the US considers India as a responsible nuclear power if the 123 Agreement is any indication. It is noteworthy to state that the deal is still not completely ratified. Hence, the 2016 NSS had a couple of goals for India: first was to garner support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), and second, to highlight that nuclear security cannot be achieved without a concerted global approach to tackle terrorism. However, the most important demonstration of India’s leadership lay in the linking of the issue of terrorism and nuclear safety.

*Kimberley Anne Nazareth and Dr. Pramod Jaiswal are associated with Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi. They can be reached at: [email protected]

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