Pakistan’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy Projects and NSG Membership

Written By: Dr. Rizwana Abbasi

Nuclear technology for peaceful purposes is not a new subject. The proposition has been under some serious consideration, for both theorists and practitioners alike, since the world was introduced to this new, unprecedented and unique form of energy. The question, nonetheless, for ‘letting it go from one nation to another’ had been in critical debates in the professional circles since 1950s – before, during and after the Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Programme. The discussion on nuclear energy’s use and spread has been renewed and become more acute in recent years. Today, Asia-Pacific is home to the world’s leading dual-use companies and expected to see the world’s most rapid growth of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is viewed, by many analysts, as gap filler in energy calculus of a nation. Pakistan is one of the aspirants ‘energy deficient’ states that focus on energy security to fulfil socio-economic demands.

Pakistan has always remained sensitive to rising energy needs viz-a-viz strengthening the energy mix, which I refer to as ‘alternatives enhancing strategy’. Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) established the first nuclear power reactor at Karachi named as Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP-1 or K-1). K-1 was a small 137 MWe Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR) operationalized in 1971. K-1 contributed towards power requirement of Karachi for nearly 45 years and has lived its useful life. Presently, K-1 is under review by the PAEC because of its age. The second unit is Chashma–1 (C-1), in the Punjab province. This is a 325 MWe two-loop Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) that was installed in May 2000. Its twin unit, Chashma-2 (C-2), was installed in 2011 with an upgraded capacity of 330 MWe. The net capacity of the above three nuclear power plants is 600-700 MWe, which amounts to 4.3 per cent of the total energy mix. Though functioning efficiently, yet the installed nuclear power plants are not enough to bridge energy supply and demand gap. Pakistan, therefore, decided to install another two nuclear power plants to its grid. Pakistan, in June 2008, publicly pronounced to institute the units C-3 and C-4, each carrying 320 MWe with Chinese assistance. The work on installation and operationalization of these projects started in 2011, under the complete safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The units of C-3 and C-4 are going to have a functional life of nearly 40 years.



Despite the IAEA safeguards, the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) raised apprehensions about China’s supply of C-3 and C-4. Historically, the NSG emerged in response to the 1974 Indian nuclear explosions with the purpose of halting further proliferation of nuclear weapons. The aim of the group was to ensure that transfer of nuclear material would not be diverted to unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycles and nuclear explosive activities. The NSG elaborated and served the purpose of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT – came into force in 1970) Article III.2 and IV. It’s worth noting that China acceded to the NPT in 1992 and signed the provisions of the NSG in 2004. The contracts for C-1 and C-2 were signed in 1990 and 2000 respectively, before China joined the NSG, which imposes an embargo on sales of nuclear equipment to Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) that are not party to the NPT. Therefore, the Chinese official stance is that C-3 and C-4 are similarly “grandfathered,” and arrangements are consistent with those for units 1 and 2.

Following the progress made on C-2 and C-3, and contextually recognizing the need for more energy, Pakistan, in June 2013 announced that two 1000 MWe class reactors would be installed as K-2 and K-3 adjacent to the site of K1, in Karachi. It is expected that the K-2 and K-3 will be finalized by 2020 and 2021 respectively. The K-2 and K-3 projects are an inescapable necessity for Pakistan, as in recent times, the production of electricity is far outnumbered by the demand coupled with announced and unannounced load shedding are impeding the growth and development. Proponents and optimists believe that the fastest and cheapest way of dealing with the country’s power woes is building the K-2 and K-3 nuclear power plants. Pakistan was producing 755 MWe electricity from the existing nuclear plants and it would reach to 40,000 MW by 2050. Whereas our immediate neighbours such as India and China in parallel are producing far higher amount which is 5308 MWe and 19050 MWe at present and aspire to produce 15,000 MWe and 50,000 MWe by 2020 respectively. In the overall construct of energy generation, India and China aim at producing 200,000 MW and 400,000 MW by 2050 respectively.

It is safe to argue that the nuclear power plants might just be our only chance to prevent power starvation and insufficiency. Nuclear energy, indeed offers a greater capacity factor, lower cost and environmentally safer source at this stage. During my interaction with a group of scholars, working at the Asia-Pacific Centre of Security Studies (APCSS), USA, they opined that growing need for energy security and nuclear energy is fast, safer and cost effective pathway to mitigate power shortage.

There are some analysts who view design of K-2 and K-3 (which is known as the ACP-1000 design) to be in violation of internationally acclaimed safety standards required of a nuclear power plant. It is worth mentioning here that the criticism concerning the design of the Chinese ACP-1000 reactors is, somewhat blown out of proportion, all pressurized reactors are essentially identical and the only significant variation between diverse generations of reactors lies in their respective safety features and systems, which increase with each advancing generation of reactors. There are no constraints on the vendors to market their reactor designs without installing it inside their home territory. For PAEC, the “K-2 and K-3 are reported amongst the safest reactor systems accessible globally, as the ACP-1000 model selected for the new reactors is based on the well-tested PWR concept of which hundreds of systems are operating around the world.” The PAEC also reported the ACP-1000 design as a Generation-III plant and boasts ‘Passive Safety Systems (PSS),’ which means that no active interference is needed in case of errors or failure. These passive safety systems help the plant’s engineers or operators a maximum of 72 hours to act in case of emergency situations as it has been incorporated with additional security measures unlike the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents.

On Accidents’ Evaluation, the evidence shows that the K-1 has been running smoothly for the last 40 years, neither did it release any radiation nor did it create any other predicament for local residents. Furthermore, these fresh K-2 and K-3 power plants, according to the PAEC, are double containment plants that mean radioactivity will remain inside the plant even in case of any misfortune. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) has casted low chances of releasing radioactive material from the reactors into the environment. Indeed a double containment wall to avoid the release of radioactive material makes the two nuclear reactors safe. More so, Karachi’s population is within the requirements of nuclear power plants; no development will be permitted in the vicinity of the plants. The design can withstand an earthquake of 9.0 Richter scale. Moreover, Karachi Development Authority clearly prohibits all housing society construction within 5 km of K-1.

From 1960s up to this date, only two deaths were reported from nuclear plants’ incident, which is not very high. The PAEC had carried out surveys that reveal the maximum temperature of water in Karachi is 31oC and the water that is used for cooling the plants only had increased around 2 to 3oC that was still less than harmful level for marine life that is 38oC. The current location of these plants has been regarded as feasible by the relevant authorities such as the PAEC. The National Command Authority has also set up a specialized force for the protection of nuclear installations. The PAEC’s sound credentials and accident free record of operating nuclear power plants up to this date discounts any doubts on the efficacy of K-2 and K-3.

The PAEC has initiated, to what I term a ‘comprehensive nuclear safety orchestration’, which involves risk assessment, preparedness and an evacuation plan for people living out to 15 km from the site. The military institutions, national, provincial and local disaster management authorities and traffic police are in coordination in case of emergency evacuation. The feature has become more significant after the Fukushima incident that did not have a natural cooling system as they thought that there would be no electricity shutdown in Japan. It is paramount that the PNRA and PAEC ensure a close coordination with the NDMA in order to reinforce preparedness plans to respond to natural and man-made accidents. Public awareness and engagement as a whole of society approach is essential. The institutions need to actively participate in global disaster management and nuclear risk reduction conferences, workshops and institutional training programmes to bring best practices home.

If Pakistan is not a signatory of the NPT, it does not mean that it automatically disqualifies from receiving any assistance for its peaceful nuclear programmes. In the case of non-NPT states – India has been given the benefits of the NPT states in the form of Indo-US nuclear deal, this is a sinister selectivity which compels me to call it an ‘opportunists’ leverage’. As a non-NPT state, India is keen to join the NSG to achieve global support for its civil nuclear deals. Thus, the NSG is under pressure to expand membership outside its defined criteria. Obviously India, a non-NPT nuclear weapon state, has not placed its facilities under the IAEA’s full-scope safeguards and thus, it is not entitled to the benefits of the NSG membership. It makes logical sense that non NPT states usually follow special safeguards whereas it is obligatory for the NPT member states to follow comprehensive or full-scope safeguards. Thus, it is subject to the NSG rules that forbid nuclear cooperation with states that have unsafeguarded facilities. Besides, India has not signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and has not addressed the moratorium on the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Though being without widespread legitimacy, the NSG also has to recognize current realities. In time, the NSG will have to reflect emerging trends in the global nuclear power industry. As agreed in NPT Article IV, the Group by no means will oppose development of peaceful nuclear energy, even as it remains strongly opposed to proliferation. Pakistan desires to secure nuclear energy through an appropriate, universal institutional mechanism thereby securing membership in the NSG directed by a ‘criterion-based approach,’ – a mechanism that defines nuclear cooperation with these new nuclear weapon states based on equality and justice – that is consistent with current political realities. Such a proposition, pragmatic in nature and consistent with time-sensitive strategic urgency, is paramount for Pakistan as it aspires to institute two additional nuclear power plants to generate 40,000 MW by 2050 to make up for the crippling power deficiency that plagues it. Pakistan’s inclusion in the NSG based on logical grounds would indeed secure enduring trust between the group members and Pakistan.


The writer is a PhD in International Security and Nuclear Non-Proliferation from University of Leicester, UK and is on the faculty of NDU, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
If Pakistan is not a signatory of the NPT, it does not mean that it automatically disqualifies from receiving any assistance for its peaceful nuclear programmes. In the case of non-NPT states – India has been given the benefits of the NPT states in the form of Indo-US nuclear deal, this is a sinister selectivity which compels me to call it an ‘opportunists’ leverage’. As a non-NPT state, India is keen to join the NSG to achieve global support for its civil nuclear deals.



Indo-US Nuclear Accord & Indian Ocean Stability

Written By: Muhammad Azam Khan

The US based influential Foreign Policy magazine recently reported that India is building a top secret nuclear facility in southern state of Karnataka (formerly Mysore) to produce thermonuclear weapons. Located in the city of Challakere, about 260 km from Mysore on the India’s western coast, the facility is expected to be completed by 2017. It will upgrade India’s nuclear weapons but would be “deeply unsettling” for its neighbours, according to the report. The report lists that the project’s primary aim is to expand the government’s nuclear research, to produce fuel for Indian nuclear reactors, and to help power the country’s fleet of nuclear submarines.

Substantiating this report, retired Indian nuclear scientists and military officers disclosed in interviews that India’s growing fleet of nuclear submarines would be the first and foremost beneficiary of the newly produced enriched uranium. Welcome to the maritime arena, the Indian Ocean, one of the two upcoming global battle grounds for geo-political contest, rivalry as well as cooperation in this century. The other being South China Sea in the western Pacific Ocean.

Previously reeling from some enduring security challenges, the Indian Ocean is now confronted with an unwinnable race for military nuclearization duly adding to the regional woes and instability. Through the northern Arabian Sea in the western Indian Ocean huge shipments of fossil fuels and other goods destined for regional and extra regional countries traverse each day. The economic growth of these countries is tied to this area of the Indian Ocean. The chaos in the Middle East and rise of ISIS impinge on the region’s fragile maritime security. The unfolding geopolitical landscape is meanwhile steadily fuelling angst in the region. India’s unfounded agitation on CPEC, the P5+1 agreement with Iran on latter’s nuclear programme and the recent move by Riyadh to forge 34 nation alliance cannot conceal the strategic fissures, the likely triggers for realignments in the Indian Ocean.

Besides conventional naval build up, the intimidating doctrines and bellicose policies aimed at regional domination and overwhelming the small island states, India is in overdrive to subvert strategic, political and economic interest of neighbouring countries. But little does New Delhi recognize that this zeal for absolute mastery is only a recipe that will further cut on the precarious regional stability.

A major reason spawning persistent instability in the Indian Ocean and on its shores, at least in strategic sense, has been the 2007 nuclear accord between Washington and New Delhi. Critics even then warned the United States, it would reward India for its secret pursuits of the bombs and allow it to expand work on nuclear weapons. Almost eight years on, the prophecy has held true.

An unnamed senior official in the US administration recently stated that India’s civilian nuclear programme is profiting from new access to imported nuclear fuel after removal of embargo in 2007 and now requires almost “no homemade enriched uranium”. While India has yet to purchase a single nuclear reactor from Washington, it has already received around 4,914 tonnes of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan and has agreements in place with Canada, Argentina and Namibia for additional shipments.
The International Panel on Fissile Materials, a consortium of nuclear experts from 16 countries, estimates that the Arihant class, India’s locally constructed nuclear submarine core requires only about 143 pounds of uranium, enriched to 30 percent – a measure of how many of its isotopes can be readily used in weaponry. Using this figure and the estimated capacity of the centrifuges India is installing in the upcoming secret site at Karnataka alone, former IAEA analysts conclude that even after refuelling its entire fleet of nuclear submarines (estimated to be 3-5 in next decade or so) there would be 352 pounds of weapon grade uranium left over every year enough for at least 22 Hydrogen bombs.

This, then, is the net result of Indo-US nuclear accord. It serves to demonstrate how the deal has and shall continue to help New Delhi expand its nuclear ambitions of becoming a “regional policeman” in the Indian Ocean. While Washington works hard to promote global nuclear disarmament with one hand, it tacitly supports proliferation with the other.

But “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride." India faces some daunting internal and external challenges before it can assume the mantle of a “regional policeman” or simply put rule through a blue water navy. There is no universally accepted definition of a blue water navy. Generally, however, it refers to the ability of a navy to sustain broad range of maritime operations across the open ocean. A blue water navy is one able to operate in blue water, and thus beyond the coastal or littoral regions and well on the other side of exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles (370 km). Such navies usually have one or more aircraft carriers besides nuclear submarines with power projection capabilities at great ranges. A blue water navy is also able to sustain operations for extended duration without support from the shore or home base. Only few navies in the world today hold true blue water potential. With eleven aircraft carriers, the United States Navy has more than the combined total of all countries.

Regardless, the challenges to accomplish blue water status for the Indian Navy are humongous. The number one internal challenge is uninspiring performance of India’s premier research and development organization, DRDO, which handles bulk of all domestic military production. This is over and above the lamentable lack of strategic culture amongst its political class as well as bureaucracy. International expert Stephen Cohen dissects this issue extensively in his best selling work “Arming without Aiming”.

Numerous major military projects undertaken by DRDO in the past including stealth ships for the Indian navy, Arjun tank, Light Combat aircraft etc. have rusted, hitting snags and resulting in exceptional delays with cost overruns. Consequently, India’s military continues to import about 70 percent of its sophisticated weapon systems from overseas. This foreign dependence is a major internal faultline severely inhibiting India’s rise as a military power. In case of navy the problem further compounds given the wholesale hardware changes required to switch over from the Cold War vintage Russian platforms-technology to local products.

In a recent interview with Times of India, former Chief of Army Staff General V.P Malik maintained that his country’s war preparedness will remain hampered unless DRDO and ordnance factories are made more accountable. In a scathing indictment of India’s bureaucracy, General Malik said, “the Ministry of Defence is a bad organization. Accountability within the Ministry is zero.” He added that if DRDO was not delivering, he would like some secretary, some joint secretary resigning or sacked besides the DRDO head.
On operational side, India’s sole nuclear submarine, Arihant is not yet fully integrated with the fleet. But even once integrated, the more tough business of delegating nuclear command authority to a field commander (officer of the rank of Commander or Captain Lt Col/Col equivalent), commanding the nuclear submarine will have to be resolved. In the meantime, the Indian navy carrier, Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) brought from Russia after painful delays of several years is still unable to fully support fighter operations from its flight deck.

Externally, the greatest hurdle standing in the path of India’s rise in the western Indian Ocean, if not the entire Indian Ocean, is Pakistan with its small yet resilient navy. With port of Gwadar just next to the Strait of Hormuz acting as gateway to multiple regions, CPEC promises economic boon for both, China and Pakistan. Given its steadily rising stakes in the region, Beijing is set to increase military footprint in the Indian Ocean to ensure security of trade and assets. Washington will do well to lower its mollycoddling with the Modi government. Anything short will only stir up more instability.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
An unnamed senior official in the US administration recently stated that India’s civilian nuclear programme is profiting from new access to imported nuclear fuel after removal of embargo in 2007 and now require almost “no homemade enriched uranium”. While India has yet to purchase a single nuclear reactor from Washington, it has already received around 4,914 tonnes of uranium from France, Russia and Kazakhstan and has agreements in place with Canada, Argentina and Namibia for additional shipments.



Nuclear Security Summit & Pakistan

Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington D.C. on March 31 and April 1, 2016. Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communiqué stated: “The threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to international security, and the threat is constantly evolving.” More than 50 world leaders participated in the Summit. They expressed their commitment to advance a central pillar of President Barack Obama’s Prague Agenda, i.e. “preventing terrorists from obtaining and using a nuclear weapon.” The participants in the Summit ensured to the international community to safeguard nuclear and radiological materials from ending up in the hands of terrorists. Indeed, it is a sign of relief in the age of asymmetrical warfare.

Although the issues discussed in the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) were broad based and not country specific, yet Pakistan received proportionately greater attention in the international media. The encouraging fact is that many international organizations, including International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), reputed American think tanks, in their published reports during the preceding weeks of 2016 NSS acknowledged the practical efforts of Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of its nuclear material and facilities. In addition, the 2016 NSS provided an opportunity to Islamabad to highlight its creditable nuclear material and facility safety and security record and demand for the end of the discriminatory Nuclear Supplier Group restraints on nuclear equipment and technology transfers to Pakistan. Syed Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on Foreign Affairs categorically stated in the Nuclear Security Summit: “Pakistan has strong credentials to become a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and other multilateral export control regimes, on non-discriminatory basis.” It is because, it maintains a safe, secure and effective nuclear program.

The NSS process resulted in the establishment of a nuclear security regime, i.e. patchwork of many treaty commitments, bilateral and multilateral initiatives, and informal rules. The following discussion is an attempt to answer the two interlinked questions. Has NSS process succeeded in constituting a reliable nuclear security regime? What is Pakistan’s approach towards the NSS process?
Significance of Nuclear Security Summit Process

Today, nuclear and radiological terrorism is not a theoretical risk. That the terrorist groups may cause nuclear havoc is a realistic threat. During the last week of March 2016, Belgium media reported alarming news that: “Two of the Brussels suicide bombers secretly filmed the daily routine of the head of Belgium’s nuclear research and development program and considered an attack on a nuclear site in the country.” On March 30, 2016, President Barack Obama wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post: “Of all the threats to global security and peace, the most dangerous is the proliferation and potential use of nuclear weapons. That’s why, seven years ago in Prague, I committed the United States to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and to seeking a world without them.” He added: “Given the continued threat posed by organizations such as the terrorist group we call ISIL, or ISIS, we’ll also join allies and partners in reviewing our counterterrorism efforts, to prevent the world’s most dangerous networks from obtaining the world’s most dangerous weapons.” On April 5, 2009 in a speech at Prague, President Obama while describing nuclear terrorism as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security,” promised to initiate “a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” In the following year he launched the NSS process.

President Obama’s commitment for the safety and security of nuclear infrastructure and material resulted in the process of nuclear security summits. The NSS provided a forum for high-level meetings during which heads of state/government deliberated for the implementation of restrictions to secure nuclear weapons, fissile material, and nuclear facilities. Precisely, the primary objective of the NSS was to improve nuclear security that prevents terrorists from sabotaging nuclear facility as well as prevent them from making and detonating a nuclear weapon/dirty bomb.

President Obama convened the first NSS in Washington, D.C., on April 12 and 13, 2010, to discuss how better to safeguard weapons-grade plutonium and uranium to prevent nuclear/radiological terrorism. It was reported that: “in the run-up to the 2010 summit, Obama’s team asked summit participants – like dinner party guests – to each bring a “house gift” when they showed up. Instead of bottles of wine or bouquets of flowers, these house gifts were pledges to take concrete action on nuclear security, such as removing HEU or signing on to one of the conventions. While many participants opted to effectively “re-gift” commitments they had already planned to make, others took significant new steps, and almost all fulfilled their pledges.” The second summit held in Seoul, in March 2012 had further strengthened the gift approach by announcing a series of “gift baskets,” or joint commitments by several states, to goals that included preventing nuclear smuggling and improving control of nuclear information. The third NSS held in the Hague in 2014 received a more serious response, i.e. “Two thirds of participants signed the Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation Initiative. Under it, states agreed to treat IAEA guidelines as minimum standards for domestic law, and to request peer reviews of their nuclear security rules, providing a mechanism by which states could better assure the public and the international community that they were sufficiently protecting materials and facilities.” (The Atomic Science Bulletin, March 2016) The commencement of nuclear security summit had invigorated a serious discourse on the subject of nuclear terrorism. The tangible outcome of the process is that more than a dozen countries were cleared of HEU and signed on to the key international conventions.

The 2016 NSS had experienced constructive as well as distrustful happenings. It included a special session on responding to urban terrorist attacks — and a simulation of how to handle the threat of imminent nuclear terrorism. It created an action plan for nuclear security under the auspices of five international organizations: the IAEA, the United Nations, Interpol, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. In this context, the primary role was assigned to IAEA. According to the Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communiqué: “We reaffirm the essential responsibility and the central role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in strengthening the global nuclear security architecture and in developing international guidance, and its leading role in facilitating and coordinating nuclear security activities among international organizations and initiatives and supporting the efforts of states to fulfill their nuclear security responsibilities. We welcome and support the Agency in convening regular high-level international conferences, such as the December 2016 international conference on nuclear security including its ministerial segment, to maintain political momentum and continue to raise awareness of nuclear security among all stakeholders.” Notwithstanding these optimistic conclusions, the pessimistic fact was that the Russian Federation, where some of the largest stockpiles of civilian nuclear material and second largest nuclear arsenal in the world remain, had chosen to boycott the 2016 NSS.

Importantly, the fourth and final NSS brought the process to an end on April 1, 2016. Despite the conclusion of the NSS process, the issue remains debatable, whether all high-risk nuclear and radiological materials and facilities are rigorously protected from theft or sabotage. “The Nuclear Security Summits have had a positive effect, but the strategic goal of developing an effective global nuclear security system remains unachieved,” the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an anti-proliferation watchdog, claimed on March 23, 2016. Perhaps, the four Nuclear Security Summits did not end completely the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. Tons of materials that terrorists could use to make dirty bombs even today remain deeply vulnerable to theft. Conversely, the encouraging concrete accomplishment is that these summits have created a realization of the threat at the highest level, which entailed various measures/initiative to prevent the misuse of nuclear material by the terrorist organizations. The nations with nuclear wherewithal have identified many areas in which cooperation and better security could help further diminish nuclear and radiological threats through the participation in NSS process. Precisely, “The Summits have also strengthened the nuclear security architecture at national, regional and global levels, including through broadened ratification and implementation of international legal instruments regarding nuclear security.

Pakistan’s Cognizance to Nuclear Safety and Security
Since 1960s, Pakistan has been endeavoring to utilize nuclear energy for its economic prosperity. Accordingly, today, it is included among a few technologically advanced countries that have been successfully using nuclear energy for power generation, boosting agriculture products – wheat, cotton, etc. – yield and in medical center for curing cancer patients. In addition, Pakistan is also employing nuclear technology for solidifying its defensive fence. Despite serious opposition by international community and destabilizing economic sanctions by United States-led Western nations; Pakistan has been maintaining its advanced nuclear program.
Pakistan’s advanced nuclear program necessities the establishment of a robust safety and security apparatus to prevent the nuclear and radiological terrorism. It has not only indigenously institutionalized safety and security system but also has continuously been upgrading it with the assistance of neutral international institutions. Today, its export controls are consistent with those being implemented by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group. Moreover, the international community has acclaimed its Export Control Act of 2004.

Islamabad regularly participates in the international forums to cooperate with the international community to impede the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. Consequently, Pakistan’s nuclear installations are very much secure. It was reported that the IAEA has recorded 2,734 nuclear incidents worldwide, including five in India, but “not a single accident or breach happened in Pakistan.” Similarly, the Harvard Kennedy School Report released on March 21, 2016, revealed that: “US officials have reportedly ranked Indian nuclear security measures as weaker than those of Pakistan and Russia.” The report concluded that Pakistan’s nuclear security arrangements were stronger than India’s.

Pakistan assigned great importance to the safety and security of nuclear materials, nuclear facilities and nuclear weapons. Recently, therefore, it ratified an important nuclear security accord – a 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). It requires states party to provide appropriate physical protection of nuclear materials on their own territory. Islamabad had participated in the four Nuclear Security Summits with a sense of objectivity. During the previous three NSS, the Prime Ministers led its delegations. Premier Nawaz Sharif announced to lead Pakistani delegation to participate in the fourth NSS. Unfortunately, due to terrorist attacks in Lahore on March 27, 2016, he cancelled his planned visit to the United States to attend the NSS. Consequently, Tariq Fatemi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, led the delegation to the fourth NSS.
Pakistan’s engagement with the NSS process was guided by four key principles: first, the NSS should not lead to new or parallel mechanisms; rather, it should help strengthen the existing arrangements. Second, the NSS should not put any additional obligations on the participating countries. Third, the NSS should maintain focus on the civil-nuclear fuel cycle, without venturing into weapons programs, which remain the sovereign prerogative of all nuclear weapon states. Fourth, NSS-related commitments, as agreed by participating states in the form of communiques and other outcome documents, would remain voluntary in nature and be guided by the states’ domestic and international obligations.

The critical examination of NSS process reveals the truth that Global Zero movement for the total elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth is not a realistic objective in the prevalent anarchical international society. Conversely, the safety and security of nuclear material, nuclear facilities and nuclear weapons is not only imperative for global security but also a realistic agenda. Therefore, the primary objective of NSS process should not be allowed to degenerate after President Obama leaves office in January 2017.
The international security is a shared responsibility and thereby the global consensus is imperative for an effective enforceable system for securing nuclear materials to protect the world from dangers of nuclear and radiological terrorism. The participants rightly pronounced in Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communiqué: “Countering nuclear and radiological terrorism demands international cooperation, including sharing of information in accordance with States’ national laws and procedures. International cooperation can contribute to a more inclusive, coordinated, sustainable, and robust global nuclear security architecture for the common benefit and security of all.” Hence, instead of ‘discriminatory approach’ in the nuclear realm, ‘universal approach’ shall be adopted in engaging the sovereign nations to ensure the safety and security of nuclear material and facilities.

The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations. Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pakistan And the Nuclear Taboo

Written By: Dr. Rizwana Abbasi

Empirical record shows that nuclear weapons have not been employed after 1945. However, in many crises and wars in history, there were possibilities when nuclear weapons could have been used without fear of retaliation. But, states did not use the nuclear use option, even at the higher cost on the theatre of war. This happened despite the existence of many supporting variables that might have prompted employment of nuclear bombs, such as: widespread nuclear weapons in states’ possession internationally; states’ technical efficiency in regard to operationalization of such weapons; transfer of nuclear weapons from old to new proliferators with asymmetric power balance; the centrality of nuclear weapons in states’ national security policies and their strategic doctrines; states’ distinct strategic cultures/traditions and unique politicACal systems and; more significantly, absence of legal prohibition towards possession and use of nuclear weapons. To fully understand the question as to why nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945, Tannenwald in her prize winning account, Nuclear Taboo and T.V. Paul in his Tradition of Non-use of Nuclear Weapons have revised this debate more persuasively and comprehensively than the others cited and commented on.

The more embracing and comprehensive explanation of this non-use puzzle is based on the conventional or realpolitik argument that is based on material factors such as existence of nuclear weapons and ‘deterrence’. Tannenwald believes that deterrence is an important but insufficient part of this explanation for non-use. She challenges the realists’ idea that non-use of nuclear weapons is not only based on material factors (‘state level policy assessment and consideration about nuclear use based on “non-norms” factors: such as fear of escalation of war; retaliation; the military utility of nuclear weapons; weapons availability; and the costs and feasibility of nuclear weapons and their alternatives’) or deterrence. She believes that the normative aspect provides a more convincing explanation for this debate. Her well researched explanation based on constructivist approach is that normative ideas about morality and legitimacy have led to the development of a collectively held, self-reinforcing norm of non-use of nuclear weapons, or a nuclear weapons taboo. She built the argument that taboo (a stringent norm – that is unbreakable) not only constraints the behaviour of nuclear weapon states but also constitutes their identities and interests as civilized nations. Thus, Paul relegates the tradition of non-use of nuclear weapon to an informal norm, for him norms can be modified over time – and does not give much weight to constructivists’ norms-based approach. For him deterrence, the fear of the impact of use of nuclear weapons, and the reputational issues for states arising from the use of nuclear weapons are important in this debate.

The present writer’s contention, drawing upon Tannenwald’s and Paul’s investigation is that ‘taboo’ may be the correct explanation and that the term gains credence because no state has used nuclear weapons from 1945 to the present even under compelling circumstances. To the present writer’s understanding, ‘taboo’ was certainly established by the United States of America, but there were some significant attributes that explicitly or implicitly contributed to the establishment of this taboo. These are guided by and based on U.S.’ national security interests and material factors. Thus, my contention is that a single approach or cultural/normative aspects alone cannot explain the taboo talk. Amalgamation of both material and non-material or ideational factors can explain this question of non-use more clearly.

In the first place, realist and neo-realist theorists argue that states (rational, unitary actors) are primarily concerned with their own survival in the international order; the great powers have dominated the system, and anarchy has been the key ordering principle that has structured states’ behaviour. Thus, it is fair to assume that the two superpowers’ national security interests and their strategic gains remained uppermost in the bipolar world. One, nuclear competition/arms race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union in 1950s helped them achieve bomb efficiency and sufficiency to maintain their doctrinal force posture and preserve deterrence credibility. The former Soviet Union broke America’s nuclear supremacy and monopoly that certainly regulated the nature of war. Two, the U.S., and the Soviet Union were two leading global powers and they desired to maximize their global political influence. Thus, based on their technological efficiencies and capabilities, they realized that there can be no victory in the nuclear domain. Moreover, the two superpowers had to transcend their power beyond their regions. Thus, they preferred peace/settlement over confrontation/war. Three, the U.S. wanted to establish a favourable world order by preaching peace and minimizing violence. Four, introduction of new conventional technologies, such as Ballistic Missile Defence and missile interceptors, reduced the role and utility of these weapons globally that indeed modified the U.S. behaviour.

Secondly, neo-liberal approach articulates that institutions contribute substantially to the world of politics, especially in the area of state cooperation and behaviour. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union believed that the new patterns of international politics were based on multilateral institutions, which help states see one another through the lens of shared interests. Thus, on the policy side, non-proliferation arrangements were initiated at the system level by the superpowers during the Cold War through negotiations which were somehow successful till 1991. The two bipolar blocs, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact, played a considerably important role in placing constraints on states’ nuclear behaviour through incentives and alliances. The establishment of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was initiated as a system level arrangement based on President Eisenhower’s address to the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on December 8, 1953.

After President Kennedy’s prediction in 1963 that “15 to 25 states would obtain nuclear weapons by 1975,” the U.S. opened discreet channels of communication with the Soviet Union, the Eighteen-Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENDC) and its NATO allies. Thus, negotiations on disarmament brought the two superpowers together to draft another arrangement to prohibit further nuclear weapons proliferation. Subsequently, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was finalized and was opened for signature in 1968 that came into force in 1970, with a range of obligations on the Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) and Non-Nuclear Weapon States (NNWS) based on three bargaining pillars – non-proliferation, right to peaceful use of nuclear technologies and disarmament. Later the Conference on Disarmament (CD) and export control regimes were introduced that tend to give an important status to the NPT and overall non-proliferation efforts.

In 1961, President Kennedy’s administration sought to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons and to develop more flexible and conventional alternatives. The initiatives that were initiated during the Cold War, such as introduction of Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), arms control arrangements, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Soviet Union in 1972, and extension of nuclear states negative security assurances to non-nuclear states in 1978 also contributed to resilience of this taboo. These formal and informal treaties and regimes that are directed to promote non-proliferation laid down the concealed and robust foundation for nuclear taboo, thereby containing states’ behaviour not only towards development of nuclear weapons and arms control, but they also promoted the spirit of non-use. The purpose of these arrangements was to establish a rule-based mechanism against proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world and create trust among states.

Thirdly, constructivist approach based on ideational factor thus helps one to endorse Tannenwald’s taboo debate. The former two models based on political and self-interest grounds helped modify states’ normative and social behaviour during the Cold War. President Truman’s contribution by assigning non-military or political role to nuclear weapons was based on fear factor or horrendous consequences of use of nuclear weapons. Strategic thinkers’ contribution based on their scientific inquiry at the RAND; such as, Bernard Brodie, Thomas Shelling, Albert Wohlstetter, Henry Kissinger and Herman Kahn; injected vigorous strategic thinking at the political and strategic levels on the role of the nuclear weapons hence verifying the fact that there is no victory in the nuclear war. Indeed, American reputation was widely damaged due to employment of nuclear weapons that certainly set the new discourse/direction in regard to the role of the U.S. as a leading power in the world order. In parallel to this, the fear factor and consequences of use of nuclear weapons generated human rights debates, civil society movements, anti-nuclear weapons pressure groups in the U.S. and Europe. In this process, common public perception in the West was much more developed with respect to the horrific effects resulting from the use of nuclear weapons, and an increased sense of responsibility at state level had emerged in this respect.

Resilience and Fragility of Taboo in the Present Century: Resilience of Taboo
In the first place, it goes without saying that slower proliferation of nuclear weapons, contrary to Kennedy’s prediction – that was widely anticipated – has not come to pass yet. Two, discernible decline in number of arsenals between the U.S. and Russia has strengthened non-proliferation framework and spirit towards disarmament. Three, the indefinite extension of the NPT in 1995 and the treaty’s membership that has reached up to 190 states, are hallmark developments. Four, the introduction of New START by President Obama, announcement of diminishing role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security policies, Global Zero Movement and President Obama’s efforts are great steps towards the survival of taboo talk. Five, arrival of smarter conventional technologies such as Global Prompt Strikes (GPS), missile anticipators and shifting power centres, global integration/interdependence and regionalism have reinforced the spirit of non-use taboo, thereby minimizing the utility of nuclear weapons.

Fragility of Taboo
However, the taboo remains fragile in the present century. The taboo holds no legitimacy and there is no legal prohibition on possession and use of nuclear weapons. Thus, the taboo talk demands a new nuclear taboo against proliferation of nuclear weapons via major fixes, thereby plugging the gaps that exist in institutional arrangements and agreements directed to promote non-proliferation. The major institutional arrangement with highest membership within the non-proliferation regime is the NPT that requires major improvements.

Despite its successes, the regime has failed in achieving its desired goals based on its three pillars which constituted a grand bargain. One, under the NPT, five countries are recognized as NWS, while the rest of the Treaty’s signatories are regarded as NNWS and barred from acquiring nuclear weapons. Such an arrangement has raised global criticism against this regime’s efficacy and it underscores great powers’ interests. Two, there is a problem of non-universal nature of the NPT that needs to be addressed. Three, another issue is that in Articles III and IV, the vaguely defined Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has been used to give waiver to states to transfer nuclear technology. Arguably, the U.S. waiver (2008) to India and U.S.-India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) have evidently damaged the essence and spirit of the taboo by complicating regional politics between India and Pakistan. Thus, it goes without saying that India’s and America’s shared interests have created regional imbalance and mistrust. States’ interests at the system level are indeed damaging the set institutional norms, thereby making regional politics highly complicated. Against this backdrop of existing realities such as: the growing reliance of India and Pakistan on nuclear weapons; absence of an arms’ control regime; non-existence of CBMs; existence of ambiguous doctrinal strategies and contingency plans; and aggravated arms’ race in South Asia powerfully advocate the fragility and vulnerability of taboo.

Four, no progress has been made in the implementation of Article VI prescribing disarmament by the NWS. In particular, the NPT extension conference referred to Article VI of the NPT and obligations of the NWS to pursue efforts in good faith towards total elimination of nuclear weapons. Five, export control regimes, particularly the NSG, are under immense stress against the backdrop of globalization, rising demand for energy security in developing countries of Asia and shifting global energy trends from fossil to non-fossil fuel – especially clean energy. Thus, the NPT clauses on non-proliferation and peaceful uses require major changes.
The taboo against use would remain under strain until and unless we establish a new taboo against proliferation of nuclear weapons. To strengthen the new taboo, it is imperative that we universalize the non-proliferation regime/agreements and arrangements, hence relating them to the states’ behaviour at the domestic level.

Pakistan and Nuclear Taboo (Non-Use)
How resilient is the taboo in Pakistan’s context? I have investigated the extent to which Pakistan’s security considerations and its nuclear behaviour were factored into the regional strategic environment/thinking or global non-proliferation regime/norms; and to what extent non-material/ideational attributes/factors would have an impact on Pakistan’s use or non-use decision?

Pakistan’s nuclear behaviour is motivated by two main factors. First, it is India-centric Pakistan’s behaviour, which became evident after 1965, is more adequately explained by the realist model: the threat to its security arising from its immediate neighbour, India, and the actions of India towards the acquisition of a nuclear capability which appears to be the main motivation behind Pakistan’s own drive towards acquiring a nuclear capability in response. Pakistan wars with India in 1965 and 1971, when it received no help from its allies, led it to rely less on alliance systems and to turn instead to self-help. Pakistan was left with no choice but to acquire nuclear weapon capability after the Indian so-called Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) in 1974, which challenged the strategic equation in the South Asian region. India’s unconditional hostility and its tests again in 1998 changed Pakistan’s cautious and restrained nuclear policy into one of weaponization. Pakistan thinks strategically and realistically when its national security and survival is threatened. Pakistan’s policy decisions in relation to nuclear weapons, its doctrinal strategies, contingency plans are directed to neutralize Indian actions, its conventional and non-conventional postures and operational plans directed toward Pakistan. However, Pakistan is vigilant on Indian conventional and non-conventional defence build-up, its contingency plans and future policies. Pakistan has included tactical nuclear weapons in its inventory to counter Indian Cold Start Doctrine, thus minimizing probability of war in the region.

Second, it was found that Pakistan’s behaviour is influenced by the non-proliferation regime which in the long term failed to secure Pakistan’s cooperation. We cannot deny the fact that on normative ground, though from the outset, Pakistan sought to be aligned with the global community, particularly the U.S., sometimes on bilateral grounds and on other occasions as a part of trilateral or multilateral alliances. Pakistan’s behaviour in the period from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, shows its cooperation based policy when it was a part of global alliances such as Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and Central Treaty Organization (CENTO). Pakistan refrained from nuclear weapons development in this period and relied instead on international alliances.

In 1974, on normative grounds, Pakistan had proposed to establish a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in South Asia; and in 1978, it proposed to India a series of measures which it rejected. These included a joint Indo-Pakistan declaration renouncing the acquisition and manufacture of nuclear weapons, mutual inspections by India and Pakistan of nuclear facilities, simultaneous adherence to the NPT by India and Pakistan, and simultaneous acceptance of IAEA’s full-scope safeguards. However, all these proposals were rejected by India.

In its national security interest, Pakistan decided not to sign the NPT: First, it has serious reservations about the structure of this Treaty that maintains a division between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on selective basis and has led to arguments that the NPT is primarily focused on safeguarding the interests of the P-5 states. Second, the NPT has made no progress towards disarmament, thus perpetuating the crisis of trust. Third, the NPT did not offer any incentive to Pakistan towards safeguarding its national security interests against existential threat coming from India. Fourth, the NPT failed to constrain states’ behaviour that legitimize and maximize their absolute gains thereby compromising the spirit of the Treaty. The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal is a significant case in point. Fifth, there exist considerable ambiguities and confusion between the clauses on non-proliferation and right to peaceful use of nuclear technologies that put substantial pressure on the applicability of the NPT in the 21st century.

On Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), Pakistan insists that negotiations on all four items agreed to in the Shannon Mandate of 1995, be pursued simultaneously. Pakistan proposes: One, the FMCT needs to be a non-discriminatory and universally verifiable treaty. Second, it does not agree with the term “cut-off” as it does not cover the existing stockpile/fissile material. Third, the FMCT should be conceived as a legitimate disarmament measure, not devoted merely to the goals of non-proliferation. Four, non-inclusion of existing stockpiles of fissile materials puts Pakistan in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis its adversary, India. Five, Pakistan believes that the U.S.-India nuclear deal and the NSG’s special waiver to India have unquestionably given India an advantage.

There are many reasons for Pakistan not to take a unilateral approach to signing the CTBT: One, it is unclear whether India would follow suit, given its intention to build hydrogen bombs. Two, Pakistan will not be recognized as a nuclear weapons state by the world community even if it signs the CTBT. Three, Pakistan may not secure substantial support for its peaceful nuclear programme, unlike India. Finally, if Pakistan were to join and quit because of India’s possible tests, such a reversal would have a huge costly strategic impact on Pakistan.

Being not a member of the NPT, Pakistan has instituted a laborious and robust export control and nuclear security regime. Pakistan follows the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540; it is a party to the Convention on Nuclear Safety; the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism; the Container Security Initiative, and the IAEA’s Incident and Trafficking Database. Moreover, Islamabad has established its independent regulatory authority – Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority – that works closely with the IAEA.

While, in general, the arguments presented here subscribe to this viewpoint, the reality in the case of South Asia is that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by two rival powers has in fact had a stabilizing effect on a volatile region. India and Pakistan have fought three major wars before they gained a nuclear deterrence capability. Nuclear deterrence has prevented both a full conventional war and a nuclear war. U.S. mediation has strengthened the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons which demonstrates the relevance of the constructivists’ arguments here. For example, two major crises (Brasstacks in 87–88 and the Kashmir crisis in 1990–91), as well as the Kargil crisis in 1999 and the long period of armed confrontation following the attack on the Lok Sabha in December 2001 have been resolved or contained through U.S. mediation (that is not guaranteed in the future).

It is possible that the U.S. would not have intervened had both states not been nuclear armed. Equally, U.S. mediation might not have been accepted by the parties – principally by India, which rejects third party mediation in most cases – had not the risks of nuclear conflict been very great. Thus, it is argued that the taboo against the use of nuclear weapons has been recognized globally, but it still holds weak recognition in the South Asian context because of regional complexities and distinct political direction of two new nuclear weapon states. India is focused on projecting power beyond the region, whereas Pakistan is focused on maximization of its own security.

The problems of the state of Pakistan in the context of use and non-use cannot be explained based on ideational factors such as norms/identity/culture or dealt with in isolation from problems related to regional strategic environment or problem within the non-proliferation system. One, Pakistan and India are developing countries and their societal factors cannot be compared with the super and great power of the world; two, illiteracy rate and level of tolerance and human right debates are fairly weak in these societies; three, there are no strong indigenous civil society movements and public awareness on the consequences of employment of nuclear weapons; four, distinct politics directions of India (seeks global role) and Pakistan (maximization of security) is delaying the peace process; five, both countries are not willing to compromise on the Kashmir issue.

Therefore, the argument generates a further debate: to fully understand Pakistan’s nuclear policy, the Indian case must also be considered. To alter Pakistan’s behaviour, it is necessary to change India’s behaviour first. To change India’s behaviour, there is a need to change the behaviour of the NWS overall. This is why it is only a change in the behaviour of states at the system level that can lead to a change in the behaviour of states at a regional level. A change in regional behaviour would lead to a change in Pakistan’s behaviour internally.

In the regional nuclear setting of South Asia, nuclear competition and mistrust is not bilateral, but triangular. India reacts not only to Pakistan but also to China. China supports Pakistan, but also has an uneasy relationship with the United States, which views it as a potential enemy. Therefore, the conclusion of this debate does not support the hypothesis that the solution in South Asia lies in bilateral negotiations between India and Pakistan or Pakistan’s behaviour on non-use phenomenon can be modified internally or on cultural basis. The argument is that the security dilemma of South Asia is sufficiently deep-rooted on realist thinking in both countries (India and Pakistan), and the prevention of risks and tensions between India and Pakistan is sufficiently problematic. This requires international institutions’ intervention and the non-proliferation regime itself to play a role in possible conflict resolution and to prevent use of nuclear weapons in crises and wars.

Today’s global problems are sufficiently complex and interrelated that require global solutions based on a multilateral and collective approach. International institutions need to be strengthened to counter the emerging threats to global security. In the future, if states operate in isolation and solely according to self-interest, the interests of all assuredly will suffer. Cooperation is possible in case in which gains are shared equitably. Thus, there is an urgent need to revive the non-proliferation regime and engage the non-NPT states in the full spectrum of non-proliferation and disarmament standards and obligations.

Within this debate, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development cannot be understood without taking into account this remaining puzzle: why a similar taboo does not exist against proliferation of nuclear weapons; why has one not emerged and why is one not recognized? Why did states find it difficult to institute a codified, stringent norm or a taboo against the proliferation of nuclear weapons? Unless there is a stringent prohibition of proliferation of nuclear weapons, the chances of moving towards total elimination or a global zero are low. A new taboo against proliferation will help secure the existing taboo against use and would pave the way to establish the ultimate and decisive step of a taboo against the possession of nuclear weapons.

The writer is a PhD in International Security and Nuclear Non-Proliferation from University of Leicester, UK and is on the faculty of NDU, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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