ISLAMABAD: The last of the Nuclear Security Summits (NSS), being held in Washington next month, will be succeeded by informal networks, while the participating states will voluntarily implement the commitments made by them.

As the process that emerged from US President Barack Obama’s speech in Prague in 2009, in which he stressed securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the globe, concludes with the fourth and last of the summits, being held from March 31 to April 1, the focus has been on how this effort can be continued afterwards.

Pakistan has consistently insisted that nuclear security is fundamentally a national responsibility and fulfilment of commitments should be voluntary.

This was reiterated by Pakistan’s former ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Zamir Akram, during an in-house seminar at the Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) on ‘Nuclear Security Summits until 2016: An analytical review’.

“The 2016 Summit Declaration and the action plans for future work by the UN, International Atomic Energy Agency, Interpol and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction are all measures that would be state owned, voluntary, without any enforcement machinery and without any reporting requirement.” He said these elements would be essential features of outcomes of the last NSS.

“Many countries were not in favour of continuing this summit process and were also opposed to any kind of follow-up action.” But as a compromise the follow-up action would be a voluntary responsibility at the national level, he said, adding that absence of key players like Russia, Iran and North Korea, the last two of which were deliberately kept out, raised questions about the reliability of the process on nuclear security.

About Pakistan’s participation in the process, Mr Akram said it helped neutralise or balance out the efforts that could have specifically targeted the country on the pretext of nuclear security.

“We were particularly successful in emphasising that the process has to be voluntary; should cover only the civilian programme; and that there should be no international mechanism involved in enforcing a nuclear security order. It helped Pakistan highlight its achievements and the measures taken for greater security,” he added.

Zahir Kazmi, a director at the Strategic Plans Division, said the NSS commitments should remain political and voluntary in nature, because nuclear security remained fundamentally a national responsibility.

“There should be no parallel or new initiatives because the IAEA has a central and leading role in taking forward the NSS-related commitments,” he pointed out.

The institute’s president Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said the country’s participation in the summits helped in improving “its image and interaction with the international community”.

Dr Cheema criticised the 2016 Nuclear Security Index issued by the Nuclear Threat Initiative which claims to work for global security by reducing the risk of use and preventing the spread of biological, chemical and N-weapons. He said the ranking was not compatible with Pakistan’s nuclear reality.

“The IAEA has conceded that not an ounce of Pakistan’s fissile material is unaccounted, yet Pakistan has been placed lower in ranking, which is baseless,” he said.

The ranking ignored the efforts made by the country with regard to its weapons’ security and control measures; compliance with global norms; capacity to keep them safe and their risk environments, he said.

Speaking to this correspondent, Ambassador Masood Khan, who has remained involved with the previous three editions of the NSS, said: “The IAEA will remain the leading agency. There will be informal networks in which participation will be voluntary. One norm accepted by all participating states is that nuclear security is a national responsibility and international cooperation is guided by the principle of voluntarism and international obligations undertaken by states. “It was the collective will of the participants that the summit process should not remain open-ended, while they realised that nuclear security was a continuous and abiding responsibility.”

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2016

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