By Dr. Nazir Hussain 

Apr 03, 2014

leaders_group_photo_1222x650_0Nuclear Security Summit was held at the Hague, Netherland, on March 24-25, 2014, participated by 53 countries, to show their commitment to effectively control illegal proliferation of nuclear and radioactive materials. This was the third bi-annual summit in line with the previous two held in Washington DC (2010), and Seoul (2012) to safeguard the world against nuclear terrorism. This summit pledged tougher nuclear security standards in line with the Washington Work Plan and the Seoul Communique. 

Therefore, it is pertinent to know what are the objectives of these summits?  Also, how far these have been achieved during the three summits held so far? Importantly, what has been Pakistan’s contribution to global non-proliferation and its stance during the Hague Summit? This article endeavours to look into these questions in the historical context and contemporary global/regional security environment.

Historical Context

In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, non-state actors constituted a serious threat to global peace and security. In this changing security environment, the danger of nuclear materials falling into their hands posed a serious challenge to world leaders. In order to overcome this challenge, the UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 1540 in April 2004 to call upon states to refrain from supporting non-state actors from transferring, producing or delivery of WMDs. The resolution also asked states to pass national legislations for effective implementation. A‘1540 Committee ‘was formed to review the progress in this regard. This resolution was extended several times and ultimately in April 2011 through UNSCR 1770 it was extended till 2021.

U.S. President Barak Obama in his Prague 2009 speech called nuclear terrorism one of the greatest threats to international security. The first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC in 2010 was hosted by President Obama to draw the attention of world leaders to this emerging threat. Over 50 countries through Washington Work Plan pledged their commitment to enhancing cooperation and making agreements to secure nuclear materials and facilities.

In the backdrop of Fukushima incident in March 2011, another Nuclear Security Summit was held in Seoul in March 2012 aimed at securing and protecting radiological material, its theft and misuse. World leaders gave their commitment to these objectives through the Seoul Communique.

The Hague Summit

The third nuclear security summit was held in March 2014 at the Hague participated by 53 countries including Pakistan. After thorough deliberations, 35 countries gave their commitment to bolster nuclear security and to prevent nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands. They also agreed that national measures would be subject to ‘peer reviews periodically.’

It should be noted with concern that there are ‘almost 2,000 tonnes of weapons-usable material in circulation worldwide’ that can land in the hands of terrorists if global efforts and cooperation are not enhanced. The terrorists may not be able to produce the nuclear bomb but the risk of a ‘dirty bomb’ is always a nightmare. Therefore, world leaders pledged ‘to reduce the stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium.’      

Pakistan’s Stance

Participating in the NSS, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif stated that ‘Pakistan attaches highest importance to nuclear security because it is directly linked to country’s national security.’ He said that ‘Pakistan’s nuclear security is supported by five pillars; strong command and control; integrated intelligence system; rigorous regulatory regime; comprehensive export control regime; and international cooperation.’

He added that ‘Pakistan has over 40 years of fool-proof command and control system, and technical experience. The country has established a Centre of Excellence that conducts specialise courses on nuclear safety, security, protection and reliability.’ The premier offered that Pakistan is ready to share the best practices and experience with other countries. On these bases, the prime minister demanded that Pakistan should be integrated with the international export control regime notably, the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG), and sought international cooperation and assistance for civil nuclear technology under IAEA safeguards. 

Pakistan has shown a strong commitment to the global non-proliferation regime since early 1970s. Pakistan proposed the Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (NWFZ) in South Asia, simultaneous singing of NPT by India and Pakistan, unilateral moratorium of further nuclear testing, and followed a policy of nuclear restraint after becoming a nuclear power. Despite being a non-signatory to the NPT, Pakistan has placed all its Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) under the IAEA safeguards.

Pakistan’s ‘best practices’ and unblemished record of safety and security was complemented by the U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, during his meeting with prime minister Sharif at the Hague Summit. Also, Yukiya Amano, the IAEA Director General, while visiting Pakistan in March 2014, praised the country’s strong commitments to no-proliferation and its security and  safety of nuclear materials. Moreover, Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear expert at the IISS, has suggested that ‘the time has come to offer Pakistan a nuclear cooperation deal akin to India’s.’

NSS and regional/global security environment

The NPT regime remained successful for several decades to keep a check on horizontal proliferation, but the growing security concerns and threat perceptions coupled with reluctance of P-5 states to halt vertical proliferation has led many countries to develop nuclear weapons; Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea. In the backdrop of Iranian nuclear controversy, some Gulf States are also contemplating the nuclear option. The ‘over-kill’ nuclear weapons possession by the Nuclear Weapon States is also posing a serious challenge to the global non-proliferation efforts. The prosper of nuclear terrorism by Non-state actors has further eroded the global efforts to counter proliferation.

President Obama’s Prague speech had several objectives to be achieved, but the NSS is concerned only with safety and security of nuclear materials. Some analyst believe that the NSS are sermons of the developed world to the rest of the states on nuclear safety and security, whereas the P-5 themselves have a bad track record such as the three Miles Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Moreover, the double standards and discrimination followed by the P-5 states, especially by the U.S. in their nuclear policy do not augur well for the global/regional non-proliferation efforts. The Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, the waiver to India, and its inclusion into the NSG, are some of the issues that irritate other states like Pakistan. Despite its unblemished track-record of safety and security of nuclear weapons and materials, a strong commitment to non-proliferation, and best practices and experiences, Pakistan is denied civil nuclear cooperation and inclusion into the global non-proliferation regime, especially the NSG. 


The successful conclusion of the NSS with commitment of participant states on nuclear terrorism augur well for the success of the NSS. However, Nuclear Weapon States must ensure the agreed fundamental principles of NPT, i.e., global disarmament and efforts to halt vertical proliferation. A commitment from the above would set the pace for discouraging the aspiring nuclear states.

Pakistan has effectively show-cased its case at the NSS, but the double standards and discrimination in nuclear affairs would not pay dividends for an effective non-proliferation regime. A Criterion Based approach instead of a Country Specific approach is the solution to create an effective global/regional non-proliferation regime. 

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