Pakistan: A responsible nuclear state

Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security mechanism evidently meet the merit of the IAEA. It incorporates international standards to promote well-being not only in the region but across the globe.

by Abdul Basit
On 15-16 February, the Director General International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr. Rafael Marino Grossi called on Pakistan for two days as an initiative to visit the civil nuclear program apparatus. The visit concluded by extolling Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security apparatus. During his recent visit, DG IAEA commended Pakistan’s efforts for the peaceful use of nuclear energy for sustainable development. He visited Noori Hospital, Nayab Agricultural Centre, and Chashma Nuclear power plant. He applauded Pakistan’s determination to curb Cancer while using nuclear technology. He vowed to further strengthen the use of peaceful nuclear technology in cancer hospitals under the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. In a shell, Pakistan and IAEA will increase collaboration in peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, particularly in agriculture and medicine, to the benefit of the country and its neighbors. That was the outcome of DG Grossi’s visit to Pakistan.

IAEA only deals with the security of the civilian nuclear program 

The nuclear safety and security program primarily involves comprehensive capacity-building activities in this regard. The recent visit of DG IAEA was also focused on their above-mentioned mandate. A similar visit by an IAEA mission took place in March 2022. During that visit, new and updated nuclear safety regulations in Pakistan have appreciated especially our significantly updated and strengthened nuclear and radiation safety. Pakistan’s nuclear safety and security mechanism evidently meet the merit of the IAEA. It incorporates international standards to promote well-being not only in the region but across the globe. During the recent visit on the sidelines of a seminar “Climate Change Mitigation and role of Nuclear Energy,” DG, IAEA termed Pakistan’s peaceful nuclear program as world-class. His statement is substantiated by Nuclear Security Index Report. The report categorically acknowledged that Pakistan has improved its score by 7 points and is the most improved country with weapons-usable nuclear materials. Its Security and Control Measures score increased by 25 points amid actions to strengthen its regulations. Pakistan also increased its score in Global Norms by 1 point because it subscribed to a nuclear security INFCIRC. Pakistan scores high (67-100) in Domestic Commitments and Capacity, medium (34-66) in both Security and Control Measures and Global Norms, and low (0-33) in Quantities and Sites, owing to its continued increases in quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials, and low in Risk Environment. In order to maintain and sustain the strategic stability in South Asia, Pakistan counterbalances India in the military& strategic domains. In the same vein, Pakistan tested its nuclear bomb in 1998 to balance the Indian strategic advantage. Yet Pakistan’s civil nuclear program remains exclusive and has never been used for military purposes. In fact contrary to India, not a single event of nuclear theft ever happened in Pakistan. In 2016 during a seminar on “Civilian Uses for Nuclear Energy,” Dr. Samar Mubarakmand stated that Pakistan’s nuclear program was established for peaceful purposes, however, national security concerns forced Pakistan to join the military domain of nuclear weapons. Despite ensuring all sorts of safety and security measures, Pakistan has been subsequently a victim of conspiracies revolving around her nuclear program. However, the above-mentioned empirical shreds of evidence suggest that Pakistan is indeed a responsible nuclear state with world-class nuclear safety and security measures. However, if we take into account the strategic behavior of our Eastern neighbor, it is quite visible with various evidence of reckless demeanor, particularly in the domain of nuclear safety and security. There are various firsthand examples of nuclear theft, mishandling of nuclear weapons, etc. In May 2021, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad on account of possessing a radioactive metal arrested two men. The confiscated material was a total of 7.1of kg natural Uranium worth INR 213 million. Similar subsequent events of security breach happened inside India’s largest atomic research center in November 2009 where two contract workers bid to steal computer spare parts from the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) inside the BARC complex. Followed by a similar event in 2010 when security forces nabbed seven of the culprits who attempted to secure class IV jobs there using forged documents along with the man who arranged their “recruitment.” KKNPP, the largest nuclear power plant in India experienced a cyberattack in September 2019. This event raised serious concerns about the Indian nuclear safety and security framework. As normally the systems installed inside nuclear stations are not connected to the outside cyber network and the Internet. Furthermore, a nuclear, land-attack cruise missile jointly developed by India and Russia was fired into Pakistan territory on March 9, 2022. The incident would have escalated the probability of hostile confrontation culminating in a nuclear war. However, Pakistan’s responsible response and rational decision-making ensured peace. This incident intensified the security dilemma in the region. According to the Nuclear Security Index Report, India scores low (0-33) in Quantities and Sites due to its regular production of weapons-usable nuclear materials. The index report suggests that India lacks an independent regulatory agency. Furthermore, it requires more stringent control and accounting measures, followed by the strengthening of regulations on insider threat prevention. It also requires transport security in accordance with IAEA guidance. It also has to improve in response capabilities by maintaining on-site emergency response capabilities with joint on-site/off-site emergency response exercises. India’s security culture requires enhancement with additional training for security personnel. Above all the requirement of Confidence Building Measures (CBM) by making regular declarations of quantities of both civilian and military nuclear materials and hosting regular peer reviews, including International Physical Protection Advisory Service missions. The brief comparison of the two nuclear safety and security apparatus suggests that Pakistan stands tall in this domain of nuclear safety and security. Hence it also proves that Pakistan is indeed a responsible nuclear state with international standards of safety and security. Moreover, it has been actively involved in regional nuclear support for peaceful purposes. Pakistan, being a responsible state actor, always ensured to implement of best practices of nuclear safety and security with systematic frameworks. It has also been a part of international forums that work towards the prevention of nuclear terrorism. Many improvements have been brought in the domestic legal and regulatory systems to further solidify nuclear security so that any type of breach in this aspect is halted. The nuclear program of Pakistan is deeply entrenched in the country’s national identity, therefore, the security of its infrastructure is deemed to be of utmost significance.   The writer is an Assistant Research Officer at the Center For International Strategic Studies, AJK. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 

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Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir