Nuclear security/nuclear stability in South Asia ?
THERE can be no denying the fact that since 1998, the issue of South Asian strategic stability/instability has remained the core issue between the two nuclear arms neighbour — Pakistan, and India.
The issue has arrested the glaring attention of the leading nuclear strategists in the West.
Over the past 15 years, the West, particularly, the United States has unjustifiably pumped the Indian Administration regarding its nuclear-based arms initiative and development exclusively endorsed by the fact that during the Obama, George Bush regimes, India-US enjoyed the honeymoon of their unilateral nuclear deal which almost paved the way towards strategic instability in South Asian Region, thereby undermining the very core of strategic restraint regime (SRR) in South Asia.
In South Asia, Washington has intermittently been favouring India, while constantly ignoring Pakistan’s warranted concerns.
What remains an irony that maintaining nuclear security/nuclear stability has become a single responsibility of Pakistan whereas India seems an exception to this rule.
On 08 December 2021, Pakistan’s former DG of the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) General Khalid Kidwai (Retired) delivered a keynote address to the IISS-affiliated Centre for International Strategic Studies (CISS) in Islamabad, on matters related to the issue of nuclear security/strategic stability/instability in South Asia.
As for nuclear security vis-à-vis the doctrine of strategic stability/instability in South Asia, the substance of General Kidwai’s though-provoking indoctrination lies in this undeniable belief that’ strategic balance is core to strategic stability’ in South Asia, but unfortunately this core has been compromised because of the US-India out of the way nuclear partnership vindicated by the fact that India’s eight nuclear reactors, so far remained out of the IAEA safety/security protocols. By no means, nuclear stability should be considered automatic or by default.
In reality, nuclear weapons are considered more important than condemning new nuclear states for breaking non-proliferation norms.
Thus, established nuclear powers must share experiences with new ones to enable effective nuclear learning that ensures strategic stability.
At a time, when the five de jure nuclear powers (US-China, Russia, UK and France) are affirmed to prevent further expansion/use of nuclear weapons globally, it is imperative that the international community must take serious note on the issue nuclear security vis-à-vis strategic stability in South Asia.
By any reasonable calculations, it appears that the issue of nuclear security is but a serious business to be used as a tool of political intimidation-cum-political instrumentalisation, as to gain point-scoring via deliberated statements.
In this context, Islamabad logically and fairly expects that considered opinions must reflect objectivity, evidence, professionalism and meet the highest standards of confidentiality lest these become counter-productive.
According to Lt General Kidwai, the fundamental principle that was agreed upon at the conclusion of the initiative taken by President Obama in the series of Nuclear Security Summits (NSS) was that nuclear security was a national responsibility.
The very drive towards nuclear security via national responsibility was, in principle, agreed by those who were thought to be the international experts in this field. Thus, Islamabad followed the very spirit of the NSS. His arguments can be summarized in five major inflection points.
One: with the inception of the war on terror, the world has had shown serious concerns over nuclear material falling in the hands of terrorists.
The very spectre of a nuclear Armageddon seemed as a consequential outcome arose in South Asia, thereby giving birth to such an eventuality happening, or at the very least the possibility of a dirty bomb exploding in the South Asian cities, became a catalyst for laying the highest emphasis on securing nuclear material and infrastructure the world over – more particularly as a core of national responsibility.
In the given focus on worldwide nuclear security, one must be cognizant of the fact that nonetheless the focus must be apolitical and by no means, it should be utilised a tool for selective political intimidation.
Two: Islamabad rightly took its ascribed responsibilities and obligations to the hilt with the seriousness that nuclear security required not only to address the broader international concerns on the issue but also it entailed in Pakistan’s own interest as a responsible nuclear power.
Three: Needless to say, albeit not after the post-Nuclear Security Summit process, but even11 years before the establishment of Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA) in April 1999 under the very auspices of SPD, the said operation — under the one window institution for all matters nuclear in Pakistan, nuclear security of men, material and infrastructure — became a leading Pakistani priority.
A professional, skilled and ideologically well- conceived comprehensive national nuclear security plan was implemented across the country in a short stipulated time.
Four: Some of the Programme’s components comprised robust physical security that need the revitalization of nuclear security via induction of a variety of dedicated, well trained and well equipped security and intelligence forces, accompanied by Personal Reliability Programmes (PRP), Material Control and Accounting (MC&A), and also espoused by the establishment of a state-of-the-art Training Academy, later renamed as PCENS or Pakistan Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Security. Notably, the PCENS has earned a valuable recognition by the IAEA.
Five: Whereas, on the diplomatic front, Islamabad entered the pivot of a mainstream international nuclear security regime, thereby having a befitting knowledge to say that for nuclear security there were no upper limits to education.
Understandably, this process of continuous improvement in nuclear security must go on since there is no end to it. Obviously, there are countries sponsoring strong National Technical Means (NTMs).
And yet, a large number of responsible international personalities, whether visiting Pakistan or not appeared to have expressed confidence on record in Pakistan’s efforts in the areas of nuclear security.
Given the growing concern for global and regional nuclear security, this subject needs to be broadened, politically and geographically.
Equally important is the urgency that in Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood this issue needs to be gaining attention and help prevent smuggling of nuclear material leading to international catastrophes.
Sadly, so far, India’s record is very harrowing. Needless to say, nuclear security is the pivot of strategic stability/instability in South Asia. As long as, the West adopts a policy of double standard, the prospects of any workable strategic restrain regime in South Asia are very bleak.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-international law analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.