WASHINGTON: Like others in the international community, Pakistan believes that nuclear materials must never fall into the wrong hands, says Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi.
In his remarks, delivered at a dinner US President Barack Obama hosted on Thursday night for the world leaders and officials attending the Washington Nuclear Security Summit, Mr Fatemi assured the American leader that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was “eagerly looking forward to participating in the summit’s deliberations”. But “unfortunate developments” at home prevented him from travelling to Washington, he added.
“Nuclear materials must never fall into the wrong hands. This is a global concern, which Pakistan fully shares,” he said in remarks that focused on nuclear security threat perceptions.
He also thanked President Obama for calling Prime Minister Sharif earlier this week to convey a message of solidarity with Pakistan after the Easter Sunday terrorist attack in Lahore.
Mr Fatemi noted that the Nuclear Security Summit process, which President Obama introduced in 2010, had contributed significantly to nuclear security.
“Valuable ground has been covered in strengthening nuclear security architecture worldwide through national actions and voluntary exchange of experience, expertise and best practices,” he said.
He said that renewed interest in nuclear energy worldwide implied more nuclear materials and facilities necessitating more preparedness.
He also stressed the need for remaining alive to the potential threat of radiological dispersal devices. Mr Fatemi noted that this threat was not limited to states with significant nuclear programmes.
“Radioactive sources are being employed everywhere in the private sector, hospitals, industry and research,” he said. “Facilities hosting such materials are often more vulnerable. There is, therefore, the need for vigilance and preparedness in all places.”
Mr Fatemi said that emergency preparedness and response were effective deterrence against malicious acts and this required significant training efforts, including those by nuclear security centres developed by states.
“Pakistan’s emergency response mechanism includes a Nuclear Emergency Management System at the national level. A Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Support Centre and a Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Coordination Centre run round the clock.”
Kashmiri people and their supporters held a peaceful demonstration on Thursday evening outside the venue of the summit to remind the world that the Kashmir dispute, if left unresolved, could cause a direct conflict between two nuclear-armed nations in South Asia.
Scores of protesters from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Washington gathered outside the Convention Centre, carrying placards with the message, “Kashmir: Nuclear flashpoint.”
They also chanted slogans, saying that now was the time to resolve the Kashmir dispute and people of Kashmir also deserved freedom.
Speakers supported the demand for self-determination in Kashmir and urged India to stop human rights violations in the valley.
They noted that both India and Pakistan were busy building up their nuclear arsenals and advanced delivery vehicles.
“All those leaders attending the Nuclear Summit and those who are interested in world peace are urged to persuade both India and Pakistan to help resolve the Kashmir dispute for the sake of international peace and security,” said Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai, secretary general of the World Kashmir Awareness.
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2016