What purpose did Short Range Nuclear Weapons (SRNWs) or Tactical Nuclear Weapons (TNWs) play in the history of nations’ security policy? Why did the U.S. make the TNWs during the Cold War? Did this weapon introduce stabilizing or destabilizing effects? During the Cold War, nuclear weapons indeed remained central to the U.S. strategy of dissuading Soviet aggression against the U.S. and its allied nations. The U.S. invented diversified platforms that could carry nuclear warheads, thus crafting a complex countermeasure strategy and detailed operational plans to guide the use of these weapons in the event of a conflict with the former Soviet Union and its allies. Due to cost-effectiveness of this weapon, both the nations developed thousands of these to deploy outside their own territories. For example, the U.S. had over 7000 weapons deployed in Europe and about 2000 in the Pacific. Soviets also deployed these weapons at nearly 600 bases, with some located in Warsaw Pact nations in Eastern Europe, some in the non-Russian republics.
It is significant to mention here that the fundamental purpose of deployment of this weapon by the U.S. in the battlefield was against the advances of advarsaries’ conventional forces and proxies in the Western Europe. This was the U.S. signalling to the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact that any aggression or conventional move could invite nuclear retaliation. Nuclear learning curve remained consistantly changing during the Cold War in regard to the size and strucure of both strategic and non-strategic nuclear forces in response to transforming nuclear technologies and evolving threat spectrum.
It appears that NATO will continue to maintain this full range of capabilities as long as nuclear weapons exist and to deter and defend against any threat. This is why the New START Treaty was silent on limiting or banning these weapons. Although neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union had used these weapons during the peak time of Cold War, however, despite the end of the Cold War, the TNWs still continue to play a role in the United States’ extended deterrence in Europe to have stabilizing effects in their strategic competition.
Later, the former Soviet Union broke America’s nuclear supremacy and monopoly, which had certainly helped regulate the intensity of war. Thus, based on their technological capabilities, both the nations realised there could be no victory in the nuclear domain. The introduction of new conventional technologies, such as ballistic missile defences and missile interceptors, reduced the role and utility of these weapons globally and indeed modified the U.S.’ behaviour. The U.S. later began to reduce these forces in the late 1970s with the number of operational non-strategic nuclear warheards declining from more than 7000 in the mid 1970s to below 6000 in the 1980s to fewer than 1000 by the middle of 1990s. In 1991, the then U.S. President, George H. W. Bush ordered to withdraw all land-based TNWs from overseas bases and all sea-based TNWs from U.S. surface ships, submarines and naval aircraft. Resultantly, the U.S. dismantled approximately 2,150 warheads from land-based delivery systems. Later, in 1991, NATO decided to reduce by about half the number of weapons for nuclear capable aircraft based in Europe which led to the withdrawal of an additional 700 U.S. air delivery nuclear weapons. TNWs were removed from bases in Korea and Europe by 1991 and 1992 respectively as a result of reduced threat in the backdrop of Soviet disintegartion.
Despite its superior conventional force, the TNWs still loom large in NATO’s deterrent policy against potential existential threats. Each nation still possesses thousands of these weapons deployed with their troops in the field, aboard naval vessels and aircraft. For example, the U.S. has approximately 760 non-strategic weapons with some deployed in Europe and the remaining in the U.S. Russia also possesses nearly 1000-6000 warheads for non-strategic weapons in its arsenals at present. It appears that NATO will continue to maintain this full range of capabilities as long as nuclear weapons exist and to deter and defend against any threat. This is why the New START Treaty was silent on limiting or banning these weapons. Although neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union had used these weapons during the peak time of Cold War, however, despite the end of the Cold War, the TNWs still continue to play a role in the United States’ extended deterrence in Europe to have stabilizing effects in their strategic competition.
A question now arises that why did Pakistan include Short Range Nuclear Weapons (SRNWs) in its inventory? What is the purpose of these low yield weapons and how long would Pakistan rely on them? As a result of the Indian crafting the Cold Start Doctrine (based on offensive orientation thereby maximizing the probability of a limited war to achieve limited objectives in short time, thus denying Pakistan the opportunity to climb the escalation ladder), Pakistan crafted a re-balancing strategy to address Indian aggression, brinkmanship or punitive actions. Pakistan thus chose to include SRNWs in its inventory. Pakistan opted for countermeasure strategy to prevent such eventuality by denying India a space for war. Pakistan’s development of short-range missile, Nasr (60-70 km) is not meant to wage a limited war against India, but to prepare for such an eventuality thereby signalling to the adversary strong and punitive retaliation and reducing the probability of any kind of aggression or limited war. The short range Nasr is a quick response system to deter evolving threat at the limited level. Therefore, the Cold Start Doctrine appears to be offensive whilst Nasr is a defensive system designed to uphold deterrence and strategic stability in South Asia and prevent a major or limited war. Second, the development of Nasr as a low-yield battlefield weapon can therefore, also be seen as an instrument for nuclear peace in South Asian deterrence stability disrupted by India’s Pragati/Prahaar short-range nuclear capability. Third, the political considerations with regard to Nasr's development remain consistent with Pakistan’s credible minimum deterrence posture. Thus, aim of inclusion of this strategic platform in existing inventory was to increase value of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent force. Pakistan’s highly modest and comprehensive nuclear weapons program, Nasr is a part of Pakistan’s all-range counter measure capabilities, directed to outweigh Indian pressure from strategic to sub-strategic level. By preventing war, it makes peace secure and region stable and Pakistan’s deterrence credible. The TNWs have taken away Pakistan’s stress in terms of Indian brinkmanship, bullying, punitive action and any kind of major aggression in the conventional realm. Four, Nasr has proven to be a cost-effective tool for Pakistan against conventionally stronger India.
Five, it is a centralised weapon and weapon of last resort. Hypothetically speaking, in response to present Indian belligerent policies, Pakistan should have placed this weapon on high alert and under the field commanders. However, being a responsible nuclear state, Pakistan has shown restraint and patience. This gives credence to peace credentials of Pakistan. It seems that SRNWs have created more space for flexible response and counter-force targeting options. There are reservations at the global level that if Pakistan delegates these weapons to field commanders to use these low range missiles during a crisis situation, this will create risk of prompt employment. Pakistan’s centralized command and control, non-deployment of its SRNWs due to.
geographical contiguity and proximity between India and Pakistan immediately rule out these risks. In a fair assessment, Pakistan’s low yield weapons neither will be deployed in forward location, nor power will be delegated to field commanders unless India compels Pakistan in that direction. Pakistan has highlighted that these weapons will be used as a last resort unlike the U.S.’ strategy of first resort during the Cold War to outweigh Soviet proxies in Western Europe.
Opinion is divided that Pakistan may behave irrationally or employ these weapons (in definitive patterns of behavioural rationality). Contention here is that rationality relates to the states’ preferences. Sometimes, one state’s rational act is irrational for the adversarial state. Thus, it is very hard to judge Pakistan’s preferences under enormous pressure and during a war-like situation. Apparently, it seems that Pakistan’s strategy could be to make a highly calculated move during war-like situations. However, in response to any irrational and irresponsible Indian move, risks attached to SRNWs may not be discounted. India reportedly seems to employ massive retaliation in response to a nuclear attack (even low-yield), anywhere, within or outside its territory at any level. Nevertheless, India’s possession of the capability to institute a graduated response with its short-range nuclear capable missiles such as short range Prithvi, Dhanush and Pragati/Prahaar cannot be discounted.
India's No First Use (NFU) that is publicly undeclared posture received no consideration in Pakistan from the outset. New debate on Indian NFU suggests that India may transfer from NFU to First Use (FU) force posture and it may embrace pre-emptive, damage limiting counterforce strikes. Such nuclear romanticism would increase nuclear risks by forcing both the states to increase nuclear readiness by pulling the warheads and missiles off the recessed posture. Therefore, the development of Nasr, specific to India’s development of battlefield nuclear weapons and Cold Start Doctrine, becomes part of Pakistan’s deterrence capability without which its deterrence credibility could be completely undermined.
Finally, Nasr’s development falls within the broader contours of Pakistan’s declarations on credible minimum deterrence. It does not imply numerical expansion in deterrence forces. The increase within Pakistan’s deterrence capability would be in proportion to India’s planned expansion. This may, however, not exactly be within the parameters of weapon-to-weapon competitive strategy practiced during the Cold War. Whether Pakistan would practice recessed deterrence or follow the ready-arsenal strategy for some of its deterrence forces would depend on the prevailing strategic dynamics. Nevertheless, use of the SRNWs in the battlefield from any side carries the potential to escalate the dynamics of conflict perilously, thus leaving high prospects for nuclear exchange. It can be suggested that SRNWs would only induce caution and result in a stalemate thereby injecting rationality in both states’ strategic behaviour even during peace times. Pakistan has to be extra cautious in taking a decision to employ SRNWs. India, a so-called larger democracy, may provoke Pakistan towards a prompt employment and resultantly it could back off to declare Pakistan as a pariah state in the comity of nations. India will stand responsible for any such conventional move that intends to invite regional nuclear holocaust. Consideration on this paradox must be established at the highest strategic level.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Conclusion 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.