Dear Mr. President,
Greetings from India!
I welcome the dynamic role that the Nuclear Security Summit process has played in raising awareness concerning threats to nuclear security. It has significantly stimulated national actions and international cooperation for mitigating the risk of terrorists gaining hold of nuclear weapons and related materials. The success achieved has reinforced my conviction that India and the United States share the common objective of developing a robust nuclear security regime and will continue to be committed towards consistent improvement of nuclear security, domestically and internationally.
Without any complacency, the Government of India has approved the establishment of the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP), as committed at the first Summit in 2010. The GCNEP is a dedicated centre of excellence on nuclear security, with participation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other foreign partners. Its primary mission is to develop a robust nuclear security culture by building a system that is intrinsically safe, secure, sustainable, and proliferation-resistant. The GCNEP (presently under construction) has already started conducting off-campus courses in training. It is also investing in research and development on issues such as physical protection, design basis threat, safety-security interface, and the security culture that permeates India’s nuclear establishment. The GCNEP is a signature of India’s assurances on its high and effective standards of nuclear security.
India’s nuclear security mechanisms meet global standards. This can be inferred from the fact that no extreme nuclear security incidents have occurred in the country. However, this does not mean that we are complacent about any hypothetical nuclear security situation. Given its geographical location, India has repeatedly expressed concern about the grave dangers of unlawful smuggling in nuclear materials and technology from within the region.
India is deeply concerned about the possibility of a nuclear security breach from within Pakistan. The repeated assassination attempts on former president General Pervez Musharraf perpetrated by Pakistani military personnel, and the Mehran naval base attacks highlight the degree of Pakistan’s vulnerability to insider threats. Additionally, a recent declaration made by ISIS about the possibility of acquiring “a nuclear device” from Pakistan has further raised security tensions in the region. Any likelihood of diversion of sensitive nuclear materials reflects upon Islamabad’s lacking nuclear security system. This can seriously compromise the nuclear security of not only Pakistan, but also seriously endanger the nuclear security of my country and the rest of the region.
Given so, a critical challenge for the GCNEP is to negotiate a similar outreach program, to help Pakistan in facing acute nuclear security challenges. Collaborative programs between the Indian and Pakistani centers of excellence (CoEs) can contribute towards strengthening nuclear security not only in southern Asia, but also worldwide. Such collaboration might help develop potential for joint efforts towards a range of research synergies to strengthen regional response against any vertical proliferation. India and Pakistan are both victims of terrorism and hence there exists a common cause for both to combine their nuclear expertise and excellence in combating the threat to nuclear security. However, much lies upon the future attitude of the political establishment of Pakistan and the Pakistani military towards bilateral ties with India.
Nuclear security requires consistent and continuous effort, devoid of apathy. The benefits achieved must be reinvested to continue the legacy of the summit process. As a continuation, India may explore possibilities to negotiate with China and Pakistan to create a Regional Nuclear Security Summit process with the objective of preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials. A regional summit process would help raise awareness about growing nuclear security risks emanating from within the region like the ISIS threat, increasing demands for nuclear energy, fissile material expansion, and tactical nuclear weapons.
As leaders of powerful democracies and growing economies, I urge that India and the United States undertake joint responsibility to develop a nuclear security culture that both assures the international community and inspires other nations to reiterate their commitments towards a robust nuclear security regime.
As heads of state gather in Washington, D.C. for the final Nuclear Security Summit next 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.