By Sajjad Shaukat
A 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit has ended recently with an international commitment by the leaders present in Washington that they would all secure their national fissile material within four years and would ensure their safety against access by terrorists. The leaders said that they “recognise the need for cooperation among states to effectively prevent and respond to incidents of illicit nuclear trafficking”.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said on April 13 that he was confident of the security of Pakistan’s nuclear programme
It is mentionable that Pakistan’s civil and military leadership has repeatedly indicated that our nuclear assets are under tight security control. In this regard, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani remarked, “Our nuclear programme is in safe hands…Pakistan has put in place multi-layered mechanisms for the safety and security of its nuclear assets.”
Pakistan’s participation in the Nuclear Security Summit and the confidence of the international community in the safety of Pakistani custodial controls has boosted the legitimacy of the country’s nuclear programme.
Although since 9/11, the US-led western countries have been strengthening their counter-terrorism cooperation against the common threat of nuclear proliferation, posed by terrorist organizations, yet by setting aside Indian poor nuclear security, the Summit has displayed irresponsible approach.
However, despite Obama’s confidence over Pak nukes, double standard of Washington shows that it totally ignores India on the question of nuclear proliferation as its sole aim is to de-nuclearise Pakistan which is the only atomic power in the Islamic World.
So far there has been no fissile material reported missing from Pakistan as opposed to numerous reports of such material going missing from India.
In July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seized eight kg. of nuclear material from Arun, an engineer in Chennai including two other engineers. It was reported that the uranium was stolen from an atomic research center. On November 7, 2000, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA pointed out that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts.
On January 26, 2003, CNN disclosed that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipment including titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps. Indian investigators acknowledged that the company falsified customs documents to get its shipments out of India.
In 2004, when the issue of international nuclear black market came to surface, Pakistani nuclear scientist, Dr. A.Q. Khan was only blamed by America and other European states for proliferation activities by ignoring the western nationals and especially those of India. While in February, same year, India’s Ambassador to Libya, Dinkar Srivastava revealed that New Delhi was investigating that retired Indian scientists could possibly be engaged in “high technology programs” in the employ of the Libyan government for financial gains.
On June 12, 2004, Berkeley Nucleonics Corporation (BNC), an American company was fined US $ 300,000 for exporting a nuclear component to the Bhaba Atomic Research Center in India.
In December 2005, United States imposed sanctions on two Indian firms for selling missile goods and chemical arms material to Iran in violation of India’s commitment to prevent proliferation. In the same year, Indian scientists, Dr. Surendar and Y S R Prasad had been blacklisted by the US due to their involvement in nuclear theft. In December, 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.
Last year, death of India’s nuclear scientist, Lokanathan Mahalingam raised new apprehension about the safety of Indian atomic assets. He was missed from the scenario and after a couple of days; his dead body was recovered from the Kali River.
Notably, India’s record of poor nuclear safety has surprised the international community in the era of ongoing nuclear age. In this respect, in the end of November, 2009, more than 90 Indian workers suffered radiation due to contamination of drinking water at the Kaiga Atomic Power Station in Karnataka.
In fact, Indian nuclear power installations have not been practising the right safety methods along with rigid security measures. Indian past record shows various kinds of security lapses in connection with various nuclear plants and the related sensitive materials.
Nevertheless, in connivance with the officials, proliferation of nuclear components and their related-material has continued intermittently by the Indians. Surprisingly, despite nuclear proliferation by India in violation of various international agreements and its refusal to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), CTBT and Additional Protocol with the IAEA, Washington not only included New Delhi in its joined non-proliferation goals like Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), but also signed a pact of nuclear civil technology in 2008, praising India as a responsible atomic actor.
It is notable that in the past, Islamabad offered a number of suggestions to New Delhi to jointly sign NPT and CTBT, but the latter flatly declined. Instead in 1998, India detonated atomic devices and compelled Pakistan to follow the suit.
Besides, in the recent past, solid evidence has surprised the world regarding the existence of Hindu terrorism which also shows future dangers of Indian proliferation owing to its poor safety. In this respect, Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra arrested a serving Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit along with some officials who confessed that they were involved in training of the Hindu terrorists, supplying them the military-grade explosive RDX, used in bombings of various Indian cities including Malegaon. The investigation further indicated the confession of Lt. Col. Purohit for the bombing of Samjhota express, while proving close links of the Indian army officials with prominent politicians of BJP, VHP, RSS and Bajrang Dal, who have been pressurizing New Delhi to release the arrested persons.
All these developments prove security lapses in connection with Indian weapons and especially nuclear facilities. In this context, most dangerous aspect is that Hindu fundamentalists, trained by Indian military experts or secret agency RAW could even prepare and obtain Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Thus they could jeopardise the global peace by using these fatal weapons inside America and Europe so that these developed nations could also point finger at Pakistan because of their ‘stereotypes’ against the Muslims and Islamabad in wake of war on terror.
It seems that all the global non-proliferation conventions led by the US are applicable to Iran, North Korea and particularly Pakistan, while India which has played a real role in the international black market from where even terrorists can obtain these fatal weapons, is exempted because Washington has to fulfill its Asian interests through New Delhi at the cost of Pakistan.
Nonetheless, if American duplicity in the matter continues, Obama’s nuclear policy will badly fail as all the issues such as terrorism, Kashmir, Afghanistan and non-proliferation are inter-related. Consequently, question arises, are Indian nukes safe?
Sajjad Shaukat is a regular writer for www.oly.com.pk He writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations