By Ikram Ullah Khan

May 29, 2014

IkramMost across the globe, correlate the word ‘nuclear’ with death and destruction. The other dimension of nuclear technology which includes saving the lives and bringing economic progress through its peaceful uses is not very well known.

Nuclear technology has both military and peaceful uses. In contemporary world, many nations are using nuclear technology in various civil fields, including industry, medicine, agriculture and energy, for their economic development. This kind of use of nuclear technology to put it in plain words, contributes in a positive manner for social and economic development of a country.

The automobile industry, aircraft manufactures mining and petroleum companies, pipeline companies, construction crews, newspapers, photographic films, textile, tin and aluminum industry, are all benefitted from the nuclear technology.

Studies have revealed that 800 million people are malnourished and thousands of them die daily from hunger and hunger-related issues every year. Today, enhanced quality food production and effective seed storage is possible with the help of nuclear technology. It has made it possible for mankind to preserve food for a long period of time. It will help not only overcome the threats of food shortages but also help improve the food security.

In order to explore these beneficial prospects of nuclear technology, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation is working in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to better utilize nuclear technology in food and agriculture. Food irradiation is the process that increases the food shelf-life to save millions of lives.

Pakistan became nuclear on May 28, 1998 in response to the Indian nuclear tests. It was forced to start its military nuclear programme, to preserve the country’s integrity and security. But, parallel to that, it has never abandoned to take benefit of civil nuclear technology for the country’s socio-scientific progress and development.

Even today Pakistan is included in the list of those countries; that are using nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Fourteen Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission operated Cancer Hospitals are located inside Pakistan along with various private hospitals and oncology centres, including Agha Khan University Hospital, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital and Centre for Nuclear Medicine (CENUM).

In the contemporary world advanced nuclear technologies are essential for the economic progress of the countries.  Nuclear energy, among all alternative sources of energy, is considered the cleanest and environment friendly source of energy. Currently, Pakistan has a small civil nuclear programme that produces only 725 MWe.  It has plans to expand its civil nuclear programme.

The developed countries with advance nuclear technology are restricting the uncomplicated share of nuclear technology under the garb of rigid non-proliferation architecture.  This posture adopted by the developed countries is against the interests of those developing countries which want to put in place a large-scale civilian nuclear power programme. This kind of approach is an obstacle in the way of building a global consensus to achieve the desired goals set by the global community. It is also undermining the sincere efforts and role of these developing countries which aim strengthening the global efforts in the realm of non-proliferation, nuclear safety and security.

This rigidity of the nuclear non-proliferation regime has not served even the interests of major powers in this new age of multi-polarity. They have often used the excuses of geopolitical and strategic interests to unlock or ease the fundamental provisions of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture.

The existing discriminatory approach of the nuclear non-proliferation architecture that is also based on inequality and selectivity should be reviewed and transformed into non-discriminatory approach.

Why only India received the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)’s waiver for trade in nuclear technology, despite its fragile record in nuclear safety. Why Pakistan is still being refused to provide a similar status, despite its proven clean record in nuclear safety and security.  This unfair treatment is probably due to the great powers’ commercial interests with India and their vested geo-political interests in the region to transform India into a great regional power against China.

The nuclear states outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) should be treated equally so that all of them could equally share the responsibility to strengthen the global nuclear safety and security and non-proliferation efforts. It is highly likely that with this single initiative, all states would be free to exchange the high-tech advanced nuclear technologies and research for global peace and prosperity.

The nuclear states outside-NPT would be more cooperative, firm and confident to fulfill their national and international responsibilities in the areas of nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament, in the field of nuclear safety and security. This would also generate a more transparent nuclear culture and would enhance trust at all levels.

The existing non-proliferation architecture is a product of Cold War fears and threats. The world has changed, and this architecture should also be changed. The leaders of the major powers should immediately design a new or modified non-proliferation architecture that would promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and should treat all states with equality and justice.

This approach could change the prevailing perception about the word nuclear. The increased global peaceful nuclear cooperation would gradually enhance civil nuclear trade. It is likely that nations would receive utmost benefits from nuclear technology. Those people who stage protests against the use of nuclear technology after observing its miraculous benefits in many fields of life would become its admirers.

This situation could possibly reduce the existing level of mistrust and threat perception among nuclear nations. It is a fact that knowledge is a blessing and war is destruction. If world leaders sincerely want to strengthen peace and security, they should work for smooth exchange of civil nuclear technology. One can hope that with this there  would be no more nuclear arms races in future; there would be ‘race for knowledge’ and prosperity among nations.

The writer is Research Associate at Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS).

The views expressed in this article are writer’s own and do not necessarily present the position of the Centre.

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