FINALLY the West is cracking down some authenticable integer with regards to the Indian nuclear security especially India’s potential of becoming a hefty fissile material proliferator of the South Asian region. Besides the Indo-US strategic partnership aiming at mutual outcomes, there are several report on the press and social media by the US think tanks and policy making institutions expressing similar apprehension.
A United States based think tank the Belfer Centre has declared the Indian nuclear programme as unsafe, saying that India’s civilian nuclear energy project which is being expanded with help of countries like United States can create new potential pathways to the acquisition of fissile material that could be diverted for military purposes. The report titled ‘The Three Overlapping Streams of India’s Nuclear Programmes’ is written by Kalman A Robertson and John Carlson at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs of the Harvard Kennedy School.
It actually identifies the problems in India’s nuclear programme arising from gaps in the commitments New Delhi had made after its nuclear deal with the US and in its separation plan, its Safeguards Agreements and its Additional Protocols. The relationships and overlaps between its three streams of nuclear programme: civilian safeguarded, civilian unsafeguarded, and military of their civil and military programmes were observed in report are not transparent. For that reason the report is also known to be a call for a satisfactory international oversight on Indian nukes.
Perilously after acquiring enough nuclear weapons, nuclear city, aspirations for hydrogen bomb etc, India’s new strategy followed by the cold start doctrine is to build up and widen the production of smaller and less destructive nuclear weapons. The manufacturing of these tactical nukes are increasingly expanded because of the fissile stock India managed to acquire from Indo-US nuclear pursed by several such deals since 2009. This devastating fissile material stockpile is actually a by-product that is left open ended when it comes to the IAEA safeguards and Additional Protocol.
Likewise the report titled ‘Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?’ formulated as a Project on Managing the Atom Report released by Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Harvard Kennedy School access the similar kind of observations. In this one, the US officials have reportedly ranked Indian nuclear security measures as weaker than those of Pakistan and Russia, and the US experts visiting the sensitive Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 2008 described the security arrangements there as extraordinarily low key.
In contrast to the prior scorching argumentation over Pakistan and India’s NTI ranking (both theft of sabotage ranking) it is highlighted in aforementioned report that although India has taken significant measures to protect its nuclear sites, its nuclear security measures may be weaker than those of Pakistan. India faces significant insider corruption. It is difficult to judge whether India’s nuclear security is capable of protecting against the threats it faces within itself as the information available about India’s nuclear security measures is too limited in this regard.
Examining about the Indian nuclear security and safety measures many such incidents have been on record that squeal about its poor record. Investigating that, Vijay Singh, a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) head constable at the Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station in 2014, shot and killed three people with his service rifle. Although the CISF had a personnel reliability programme in place, it was not able to detect Singh’s deteriorating mental health, despite multiple red flags including him saying that he was about to explode like a firecracker. Albeit of India’s evidential stockpile of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material, India also has a civilian plutonium reprocessing programme in a workable practice.
Actually, India has not placed due safeguards at a 500MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor, which is scheduled to achieve criticality in April 2016, and as result the nuclear plant is poised to introduce a new pathway for the production of both electricity and un-safeguarded plutonium. So it is dissected that India’s nuclear programme is not only unsafe but requires implementation of satisfactory international oversight mechanisms which should be taken into consideration by nuclear suppliers. Therefore, taking into account the forthcoming 2016 NSG plenary meeting in which Indian membership would be a conflagrating matter, the ‘incompleteness of the separation of India’s civilian and military programmes should be taken into consideration when determining conditions for nuclear cooperation.’ This could be effective especially now, when the US think tanks despite of collaborating in areas of mutual interests, are coming up with some unbiased narratives in this regard.
— The writer works for Strategic Vision Institute, a think tank based in Islamabad.