Nuclear Security Summits | Beenish Altaf

THE fourth and final meeting of the initiative — Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) 2016 will be held on March 31-April 1, 2016, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Centre in Washington, D.C. this was announced by the Berlin President two years ago. It is pertinent to mention here that even though nuclear security is solely the sovereign property of state, countries definitely need to ensure and agree upon the collective and mutually agreed steps to guaranteesafety and security from the existing evolving threats hanging around them.

NSS is a summit basically aimed to seek awareness of the threat of nuclear terrorism and how to lock up the world’s nuclear materials more securely, so that they would not be so easy for the terrorists to steal. Moreover, due to the evolving strategic Ukrainian environment, the short-term concerns over Ukraine partly overshadowed the long-term goal of the summit this time. By and large, the NSS outcomes cannot be expected as a binding legal instrument since it is not legally binding and its operating mechanism is political in nature.

As the President stated in his speech in Prague in 2009, nuclear terrorism is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. He announced an international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, break up black markets, and detect and intercept illicitly trafficked materials. The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, D.C. in 2010, and was followed by additional Summits in Seoul in 2012, and The Hague in 2014. The forthcoming 2016 Summit aspires to continue discussion on the evolving threat and highlight steps that can be taken together to minimize the use of highly-enriched uranium, secure vulnerable materials, counter nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism.

Previously all the participating countries reached The Hague in order to demonstrate and substantiate their commitment to the goals and foremost aims of NSS, just as Pakistan endeavored to do likewise by its presence at the NSS this time too. The fact is beyond doubt that Pakistan is committed to and has shown its determination and dedication to nuclear security by participating in all the three meetings of NSS (Washington, DC 2010; Seoul, 2012 and The Hague, 2014). Its engagement with the international community in promoting nuclear safety and security has been demonstratively admitted at international fora. Moreover, as per the NSS agenda on understanding the risks of nuclear terrorism and nuclear accidents, Pakistani authorities have taken appropriate steps.

Moving ahead, as the NSS calls for regional and collective steps towards improved and enhanced security, Pakistan can adopt a frontline position in proposing a “regional nuclear safety and security arrangement by inviting both India and China to join in an Asian Trilateral – Nuclear Safety and Security Network (AT-NSSN).” The term AT-NSSN, coined by Rabia Akhtar, Kansas State University, proposes in a very rational, coherent and workable manner the need to elevate mutual gains that would, in practical, be beneficial for regional stability along with its nuclear safety and security concerns.

Since all these three countries of the region are nuclear powers, so they need to share and contribute their expert experiences and methods in this regard. It would add to the nuclear knowledge in the region. Akhtar here raised a very critical and paradoxical point that the three countries meet other global leaders at the NSS forum to reiterate their national and international commitments but even then they do not try to 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. Pakistan can use such type of fora and several other such platforms to address its national and international security concerns, including on its nuclear and energy security. In this trilateral nuclear region, India and China too stand with similar apprehensions about each other, therefore the most desirable pattern is to discuss the unease regarding the energy crises, nuclear facilities of the region and nuclear safety and securityof their nuclear weapons over here; where the other important global players can act as observer states.

Pakistan however has highlighted its potential qualification to be included as a member in the export control regimes, especially in the Nuclear Suppliers Group, owing to the fact that “it is in a position to provide nuclear fuel cycle services under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards and can participate in any non-discriminatory fuel cycle assurance mechanism.” Therefore, realistically Nuclear Security Summits could be best utilized as a forum or a platform to initiate such type of (bilateral or multilateral) networks, which would directly voice its objective and agenda worldwide. Nevertheless, being of legal non-binding nature, the future of NSS would be uncertain and indistinct even after the next projected summit that is expected to be in Washington 2016.

— The writer works for strategic vision institute, Islamabad.

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