India’s Nuclear Concerns: Obama Responds #NSS2016

My dear Prime Minister Modi ji,


I trust my letter finds you well. I look forward to welcoming you to Washington for the fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS). With the cherry blossoms blooming across the city, it is an excellent time to visit.

The NSS process, which began in 2010, has been an interesting journey. As a result of this process and the commitment shown by world leaders like yourself, the number of countries ratifying the International Convention on Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) and the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM/A) has gone up. In addition, the global stocks of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) in the civilian sector have also come down. International effort as part of this process has also resulted in the installation of nuclear detection equipment at over 300 international border crossings, including airports and seaports, to detect smuggling of radioactive material across international boundaries. All of this has made the world a much more secure place. Needless to say, this has been possible due to the result of collaborative efforts with like-minded partners such as India. The Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) established by your country will be a great platform for exchange of knowledge and cutting-edge research in nuclear energy and security. Let me therefore place on record our grateful appreciation for your efforts to improve the overall level of nuclear security in your country and across the globe.

Having said that, much more needs to be done. I hope the 2016 Summit, with participation from 52 countries and the European Union as well as three international organizations, will put in place mechanisms that will allow us to build on the work of the past three meetings. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will play a crucial role in taking this work forward. However, that also means that the international community will have to significantly ramp up our support of the IAEA, both financially and otherwise, to enable it to effectively address the increased responsibilities it will have to undertake.

I share your concern about the security situation and the spread of violent religious extremism in Pakistan. Many of the attacks mentioned in your letter do highlight the complicity, if not active collusion, of some elements of the security forces with terrorist groups. Given that Pakistan is increasing both its fissile material stockpile and nuclear weapon arsenal, the situation is worrying, to say the least. However, the Nawaz Sharif administration has been making efforts to improve the safety and security of nuclear materials in Pakistan. As part of these endeavors, Islamabad recently ratified the CPPNM/A.

Like you, I also believe that better understanding of the differing perceptions of vulnerabilities and thinking about nuclear weapons is crucial to alleviating risk of crisis escalation and improving regional stability. In this light, I wholeheartedly welcome your suggestion for collaborations between the Indian and the Pakistan Centres of Excellence (CoE), part of IAEA’s Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSC) Network. In addition, your suggestion of initiating a Regional Nuclear Security Summit process among India, China, and Pakistan is also an excellent one. We can discuss how to take this initiative forward in the course of our meetings on the sidelines of the NSS. I believe this and other such regional initiatives will be an important component in building upon the successes of the NSS process.

I would like to propose another area of possible cooperation between India and the United States. This would be in cyber-security of civilian nuclear installations. Given the vast expertise in both countries on this issue and the fast changing nature of threat, I feel working together on this would be mutually advantageous to both of our countries.

Let me once again thank you for your kind letter and for taking the time to travel to Washington to be part of the 2016 Summit. I look forward to renewing our relationship and taking our conversations forward.

With my warmest regards,

Barack Obama


As heads of state gather in Washington, D.C. for the final Nuclear Security Summit this week, what would South Asia’s leaders say to President Barack Obama? In this series, two SAV contributors speculate what Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif might convey to the U.S. president on their country’s nuclear security accomplishments, areas for improvement, and an issue they would like on the agenda at the Summit. Two other contributors sketch out how President Obama might respond. Read the entire series here.


Image: Anadolu Agency, Getty

Posted in , India, Nuclear Security, Nuclear Security Summit 2016, US

Arun Vishwanathan

Arun Vishwanathan

Arun Vishwanathan is Assistant Professor in the International Strategic and Security Studies Program, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. Arun holds a doctorate in International Relations from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Prior to joining NIAS, he held the position of Assistant Director in the National Security Council Secretariat between 2008 and 2011. He was Associate Fellow at the Indian Pugwash Society, IDSA Campus, New Delhi between 2005-2008. Arun specializes in issues relating to nuclear deterrence and strategy, proliferation of nuclear weapons and technology, national security reform and defense industry ecosystem. He is the co-editor of the book Troubling Tehran: Reflections on Geopolitics and co-author of monograph on Hatf-IX/ NASR - Pakistan's Tactical Nuclear Weapon: Implications for Indo-Pak Deterrence. Arun's research has been published in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Strategic Analysis, USI Journal, Contemporary Review of the Middle East, International Journal of South Asian Studies, Synergy: Journal of Centre for Joint Warfare Studies in addition to opinion pieces in various national and international media houses. He is an alumnus of the Summer Workshop organised by the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS), Colombo and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London and the Asia Pacific Leadership Network (APLN) for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.

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6 thoughts on “India’s Nuclear Concerns: Obama Responds #NSS2016

  1. The security summit process since its working has been able to achieve the intended objective of developing a better understanding of the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear security issues effectively. This objective can be achieved by encouraging more efforts to the push states to strengthen their respective nuclear security efforts without putting on additional obligations and creating new mechanisms.

  2. Great Article Arun.

    Both you and Reshmi highlighted the importance of possible collaboration between the Indian and Pakistani COE’s. The trilateral cooperation proposal would be an even more welcome development and many of us in Pakistan agree that such mechanisms need to be put in place. It may be coincidence but India was not represented at the recently concluded annual meeting of the International Network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSC) held in Islamabad from 14 -18 March. Fifty six officials representing 29 countries including China and the US attended the meeting. Officials of the World Institute of Nuclear Security and IAEA also participated in the event.

  3. the Idea for Regional NSS is good, but if it comes in respectful manner instead of having an incompatible aggressive national features of both South Asian states. Such notion will empower China to play an active role of a responsible extra-regional power, but will China be able to actively involve in the region like US…… A serious question ? (Will China like to go beyond Economic Spheres of Interest)

  4. Many Thanks Michael, The series has been an interesting one – though challenging – to contribute to. Especially as one has to consciously keep checking if one is being true to the ‘role’ being assumed.
    Many thanks to Akriti and Sameer !!

  5. Thanks Amina, Glad you found the article interesting !
    Dialogue between the CoEs will be a useful and important initiative. It should happen under the rubric of the IAEA NSSC if not at a bilateral level.
    In that context, there doesn’t seem to be any information about why India wasn’t represented at the recent Annual NSSC meeting at Islamabad.

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