NSS & Pakistan

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Dr. Shireen M Mazari

President Obama has called a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April (12-13) this year and more than 40 heads of state are expected to attend. This is a follow-on from Obama’s Prague speech of April 5 in which he outlined his arms control and nuclear nonproliferation objectives with nuclear terrorism topping the list. Now there is a growing lobby within Washington that sees Obama’s nuclear arms reduction and disarmament pledges as threatening to US long-term interests; and so far Obama has not managed to move substanti-vely on his commitments in this field – as has been the story with him since he began functioning as the US president. In fact, so far his foreign policy in actual actions has not strayed too far from that of his predecessor.

Be that as it may, since the Pakistani president will also be present at this Summit, the country needs to evolve a policy on nuclear security that ensures Pakistan’s interests for the future. One does not expect President Zardari to actually take a strong nationalist position against the Western tide at the Summit, but we can at least highlight what does need to be done and live in hope. A beginning needs to be made by preparing our interpretations of the four main points of the Obama nonproliferation objectives. The environment envisaged is not a UN-type international framework for nuclear security but a US-led framework, with the US firmly in the driving seat. So, the first thing Pakistan needs to build support for the view that any such framework must be within a UN framework and support for this view can be built amongst the developing states, who are critical to the success of this Summit.

Then comes the Obama agenda, beginning with the desire to “lead a global effort” to secure all vulnerable nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within a time frame of four years – Obama’s term in office! Now clearly, Pakistan will be targeted on this count but we need to point to the truly vulnerable sites which actually are primarily in the US. After all, it is from the US that a USAF plane simply took off with live nuclear weapons and no one knew who had authorised it or where it was headed. So there are serious question marks about US command and control and till these are cleared, US nuclear sites need to be under extra international supervision. Also, Pakistan needs to demand at this Summit that all past incidences of “loose nukes” be evaluated and the most vulnerable or accident-prone sites should then be secured. Of course no such incidents have ever cropped up in Pakistan so we should ensure that our nuclear sites do not even come up for discussion – although that will be part of the US agenda.

Then Obama is seeking, according to his Prague speech, new partnerships and new standards to protect sensitive nuclear materials. Well, if Obama is really committed to this objective, the first thing he needs to do is to move out of the nuclear deal with India – the 123 Agreement – since that widens the scope for diversion of nuclear materials for weapons purposes, given the lose safeguards agreements and the freeing of Indian fissile material for the production of more nukes. So far the US has set regressive standards for nuclear material safety through this deal with India and through its continuing proliferation to Israel – so let the US move towards setting new standards that truly ensure nonproliferation. Many states will be prepared to enter into nondiscriminatory partnerships with the US on this count.

Obama also wants to convert coalitions of the willing effectively into international institutions – such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Global Effort to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. PSI should certainly be open to all states but for Pakistan it is essential to ensure that this does not contravene the Law of the Sea agreements. As for the Global Effort to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, there are already international treaties that exist like the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material Treaty. Why not simply stren-gthen these? Also, the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference is coming up in May and it is time the NPT was brought in line with the prevailing ground realities where two overt nuclear weapon states are not accommodated as such within the Treaty.
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