Nuclear Security Summit 2016
Mohammad Jamil


In the forthcoming summit, discussions will be held on the evolving (nuclear terrorism) threats.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will represent Pakistan at the forthcoming nuclear security summit to be held in Washington from March 31 to April 1, 2016. Though the United States has not been consistent about its stance on Pakistani nuclear arms, yet the former has assured the international community that Pakistan is capable of protecting its nuclear weapons. In a policy statement on Pakistan’s nuclear programme, the US State Department said: “Islamabad is well aware of its responsibilities with respect to nuclear security and has secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.” A few days before the summit, the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School has released a report reviewing global security measures, which stated: “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.

Observers are of the view that the US does not want Pakistan to shut down its nuclear programme; however, it does want Islamabad to reduce the size of its arsenal. There is a perception that Pakistan is being subjected to renewed pressure to freeze its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities. Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who represented Pakistan at talks in the first week of March, however, insisted that Islamabad would not accept any unilateral curb on its programme. Any reduction must also apply to India and it must address the conventional imbalance between the two countries. In the past also, Pakistan had taken the position that if India signed the CTBT and NPT, Pakistan would also sign. Being a sovereign country, Pakistan should take its own decisions, without being pitted against India.

Having said that, Pakistan is a responsible state and has contributed towards global efforts to improve nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation measures, which is being acknowledged by the US and the IAEA. Last week, US Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottenmoeller told a congressional panel: “Pakistan has really done an excellent job of establishing a progamme for nuclear security.” The Nuclear Security Summit process was initiated by President Barack Obama. In his speech in Prague in April 2009, he had underlined security of nuclear materials as a priority of his administration. He had set the target for securing all vulnerable nuclear materials from the world within four years. Since then three Nuclear Security Summits have taken place in Washington in 2010, Seoul 2012 and The Hague in 2014, but to no avail.

This will be the fourth and concluding summit as President Obama completes his final term this year, and it is to be seen as to how his successor would deal with the issue. In the forthcoming summit, discussions will be held on the evolving (nuclear terrorism) threats, and highlight steps that can be taken together to minimise the use of highly-enriched uranium, secure vulnerable materials, counter nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism. Notwithstanding several threats to international security looming over the entire issue of international terrorism, the spectre of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a source of concern and alarm. But the US had signed a civil nuclear agreement with India whereby India would enjoy the rights of those states that had signed the NPT.

In the cover story of the Newsweek of mid-September 2009 titled “Learning to love the bomb”, Jonathan Tepperman had tried to prove that nuclear weapons may make the world a safer place to live in. Adlai Stevenson once said: “Nature is neutral. Man has wrested from nature the power to make the world a desert or to make the deserts bloom. There is no evil in the atom; only in men’s souls.” It is an irrefutable fact that nuclear technology has the potential to have a tremendous positive impact on the day-to-day lives of nearly every individual because it allows doctors and scientists to combat disease through diagnosis and treatment of cancers and other ailments. However, the potential has not been exploited in full. That point aside, the big powers have arrogated to them the right to decide about the quantity and kind of nuclear weapons developing countries would have.

The US leadership would like other countries not to develop nuclear arms, and destroy whatever arsenal they have because it feels that nuclear weapons represent gravest threat to the security of America. But those countries that feel their security is threatened by a hostile neighbour or warmongers also seek to develop nuclear arms to counter hegemonic designs of big powers or those having an edge in conventional weapons and forces. Since big powers wish to have the monopoly of nuclear devices they do not have the moral high authority to convince other countries not to produce atomic bombs and destroy the existing ones. The problem is that the US has double standards, one for its strategic partners and the other one for the rest of the world. Israel is an undeclared atomic power, yet America would not like to see Iran or any Arab country develop nuclear arms to face the security challenges that they have.

However, there is another threat looming large on the horizon. If Donald Trump wins the GOP party nomination and is elected as president of the United States, he may roil Pak-US. relations that are on a positive trajectory at the present. While responding to a question during a presidential debate, Trump said that if he were elected to the White House, he would keep the country’s troops in Afghanistan to protect Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. “I think you have to stay in Afghanistan for a while, because of the fact that you are right next to Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons and we have to protect those,” he said. He had once suggested that the US should seek India’s help to secure Pakistani nukes. In fact, the so-called civilian nuclear deal between the US and India has disturbed the balance of power in South Asia. At the time of concluding agreement with the US, India had stated that further nuclear tests would not be necessary, yet it started paving the way to conduct such tests.