Flawed Indian nuclear security | By Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan

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Flawed Indian nuclear security


INDIA has become “international brand” of dirty politics, dirty nationalism (Hindu extremists) and dirty bomb.

Regional security of South East Asia has now been at stake because of “inadequate” nuclear security parameters of India.

Foreign Ministry of Pakistan showed great concerns over illegal possession of a large “quantity” of uranium worth of 2.9m by two unauthorised persons in Indian state Maharashtra which pointed its “deteriorating” control mechanisms.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre of India confirmed the uranium seized was highly “radioactive” and pure.

It seems that enemies of peace have found a “safe haven” in India to trade nuclear enrichment uranium.

Thus unfortunately, international black market has developed close connections with local Indians to create supply chains for nuclear materials.

In the past, numerous incidents of “collective” and “individual” uranium theft and smuggling have been reported in India due to which several countries, including the United States and the Organization for the Prevention of Nuclear Terrorism, expressed their serious concern.

It is indeed a “wake-up” call for all the regional countries and international watchdogs to hold India accountable for this serious security “breach” due to which the entire regional security has been eroded.

A series of incidents of this nature raise concerns about nuclear safety and security in India. It also confirms the possibility of a nuclear market existing in India that could be connected to international players.

Chief spokesman emphasized that security of nuclear material should be the top priority for all countries.

He suggested a thorough investigation of the matter as to how such a sizeable quantity of uranium could become available outside any state control and identify the gaps which made this possible. Right from the beginning, India’s nuclear safety and security record has not been up to the “mark” and has serious “fault lines”.

Inappropriate state control, as confirmed by the latest seizure of uranium, shows that India still has to go a long way before becoming a responsible nuclear power and be accepted as a member of the Nuclear Supplier Group.

In this context, Indian parliamentary report confirmed 147 mishaps or security-related occurrences were reported in Indian atomic energy plants between 1995 and 1998.

Out of these instances, 28 were of acute nature and nine of these occurred in nuclear power installations.

Ironically, nuclear arsenal is now in the hands of an irresponsible extremist government of Modi which has immensely increased fears among the regional countries.

India has been a customer in nuclear black market due to which Indian state must regulate nuclear material or else could be considered complicit in their trafficking.

Strangely, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), United Nations (UN) and international community did not utter a single word on this grave incident.

Conversely, India has been propagated against Pakistan’s nuclear program, labeling it dangerous for the world, while Pakistan made efforts on state-level to ensure that its nuclear assets are safe, secure, and far out of the reach of terrorist organizations.

On the other hand, Indian has been expanding its nuclear program actively pursuing vertical nuclear proliferation post-1998. Unfortunately, nuclear black market in India is also thriving.

The Indian Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested two men for illegally possessing over seven kilograms of highly radioactive natural uranium in the western Maharashtra State.

Critical analysis of the past clearly indicates that India has become a hotspot for a potential illegal nuclear trade and a black market hub. In December 2016, the police seized around 9kg of depleted uranium (DU) in Thane, India.

The consignment, costing almost Rs 27 crore, is believed to have been smuggled from a Gulf nation and was up for sale in the black market.

In July 2018, Kolkata police arrested five men with allegedly one kilogram of uranium stored in two plastic bags.

It was revealed later that the substance was allegedly uranium resin that had come in contact with radioactive uranium previously.

In February 2021, four men in Indore were apprehended by the police while trying to find buyers for 2gm of uranium stored in three glass bottles and one plastic bag.

According to many regional as well as international security reports confirm that ISIS has been trying to access nuclear material.

Since, according to international media mainly TRT, Al Jazeera and many other doubted that India has become safe haven for ISIS so recent theft and smuggling of uranium in India alarmed the world.

India currently has over 150 nuclear warheads and is rapidly making efforts to increase the number.

According to a 2017 Belfer Centre report (2020) over the next decade, India will supersede China, France, and the UK in nuclear weapons stockpiles.

This will allow the country to become the third country with the most nuclear warheads, just behind the US and Russia.

These incidents simply expose India’s patchy safety and security record and raise questions on the security measures around its nuclear facilities, which at the moment are in the control of a nationalist-religious extremist government dreaming of a greater India at any cost. India possesses both nuclear weapons and extensive nuclear fuel cycle capabilities.

India tested its first nuclear device in May 1974, and remains outside both the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

However, India has a facility specific safeguards agreement in place with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a waiver from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) allowing it to participate in global civilian nuclear technology commerce. India has a sizable and growing nuclear arsenal, primarily due to its hegemonic designs.

Right now the so-called “shining” India is in the “line of fire” due to third wave of deadly Coronavirus. Humanity is “struggling” and at its “lowest ebbs”.

Health system of India has now “collapsed” and resultantly “colossal” deaths are being perpetrated. So-called sustainable macro-economy of India has “destroyed” and “dusted out”.

Moreover, theft and smuggling of uranium material has put its national and regional sovereignty alike at stake.
—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.