The Nuclear Security Summit has opened on a positive note. Ukraine has volunteered to get rid of its stockpile of highly enriched uranium. The bold and applaudable decision by Ukraine is sure to help global non-proliferation efforts and bring optimism into the Summit. However, it is sad that Pakistan was given the opportunity to be the lead speaker and demand a nuclear deal from the US at the inaugural dinner.
NDTV reports Pakistan PM Yusuf Gilani saying, “For Pakistan, civil nuclear power generation is an essential part of the national energy security strategy, to help meet our energy needs for social and economic development. We have more than 35 years of experience of operating nuclear power plants. Pakistan has highly trained manpower and a well established safety and security culture. Pakistan qualifies for participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level. We urge all relevant forums to give Pakistan access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses, in a non discriminatory manner.”
Though the Summit is not intended to call up countries individually for their proliferation records, Washington should not have given a known proliferator the honor of being one of the first speakers at the Summit. It smells of favoritism and hypocracy as the US is simultaneously involved in imposing sanctions on Iran for starting a potentially dangerous nuclear program. It shows that Pakistan’s nuclear program and proliferation record can be ignored because the country can possibly be an useful ally in AfPak war zone. Just last year at a conference in Geneva, Pakistan was one of the leading opponents to an international ban on production on fissile materials for nuclear materials. The reason being its paranoia about losing its strategic balance with India.
During his speech Mr Gilani said that “Pakistan rightfully expects the US to adopt non-discrimination in terms of a civil nuclear deal with Islamabad.” The problem with this statement is that India and Pakistan are not equals. The two countries differ not only in size and economic strength, they also cannot be compared on the basis of their nuclear non-proliferation record. While Pakistan is a proven proliferator with connections to Iran and North Korea, India has so far no known nuclear connections with rogue nations. India has no-first-use and disarmament as state policy, and has not built a single reprocessing facility in the last decade. Whereas there is news of a new reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium being built by Pakistan. Before the Summit, the Harvard University’s Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs put out a report that raised concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile. The report says that Pakistan’s stockpile ”faces a greater threat from Islamic extremists seeking nuclear weapons than any other nuclear stockpile on earth.” It also expressed fear that inside sympathizers might compromise the security of Pakistan’s nuclear materials and facilities.
I have argued before for India taking up a leadership role at the Summit and contributing contructively in setting up an efficient security mechanism. It should be aggressive in discouraging even symbolic honors to proliferating countries. In his speech tomorrow, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should convey his displeasure about Pakistan’s nuclear claims and demands, and Washington giving it a patient hearing. India should make it clear that even though Pakistan might be an important ally in the war on terror, its proliferation record cannot not be overlooked to that end. Pakistan should be questioned about what it is doing to secure its nuclear facilities and materials from even the smallest of thefts, and the reliability of those working at these facilities. As the lack of security at Pakistan’s nuclear facilities and the Islamic militants in that country pose one of the greatest dangers to India, India has a large stake in what Pakistan does. As its neighbor and potential first point of attack it needs to be satisfied about the security measures being taken by Pakistan. Mr Singh should make the most of this Summit and visit to the US to ensure the security of Indian borders and people.