In 2009, President Obama in his much acclaimed Prague speech voiced his determination to work towards a future world free of nuclear weapons.  Since then, there has been deep disappointment that little progress beyond START 11 has been achieved towards this objective. On the contrary, a recalcitrant Congress increased spending on nuclear modernization by America, Russia, UK, France and perhaps China, amongst the P5, and by India consequent to the US-India nuclear deal, expanding the number, range, lethality and variety of its nuclear weapons and  delivery systems.

 One bright spot that Obama can point to for his legacy has been to powerfully focus global attention on nuclear security, as part of the campaign against potential nuclear terrorism and nonproliferation. He did so as promised in his Prague speech, by organizing a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in 2010 which focused on three main issues: cooperative measures to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism; protection of nuclear materials and related facilities; and the prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. The summit was attended by 47 invited countries at the Head of State/ Government level.

For the three non NPT nuclear countries, this process posed certain questions as they were not within the NPT structure which attempted to define international rights and obligations in the nuclear field. They were conscious that over the years the major Western powers and Russia have pursued a policy on nonproliferation starting with technology denial regimes, the NSG, MTCR, the Australia Group, and the Wasseneaar Arrangement, moving on to plurilateral arrangements such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

Then more recently, the Security Council was employed to put in place mandatory global guidelines with UN oversight mechanisms with periodic reporting requirements both for counter terrorism and nonproliferation. This, because the traditional international law route and the negotiation of treaties was considered too uncertain a process by these major majors. This also spared the P5 from having to constantly respond to the overarching question of why they continued to evade their commitment under the NPT to work towards nuclear disarmament. 

Was part of the agenda to impose further obligation and restrictions on the non NPT nuclear states? Would the outcome of these recommendations become customary practice that would in turn become soft law with the end objective a new nuclear security treaty or mechanism? Would there be a demand for universal reporting and oversight? The central issue was that while increased nuclear security was obviously of common interest, a heaver responsibility for the nuclear powers within and without the NPT would acknowledge the central role of national responsibility or seek to circumscribe. Additionally, it would impact the growing need of developing countries for safeguarded civil nuclear energy.

For Pakistan, a nuclear power, the decision to participate reflected a forward looking approach coupled with a confidence in the strength of its own nuclear security architecture backed by national commitment towards nonproliferation. Additionally, it reflects confidence in the negotiating ability of three generations of diplomats honed in international and regional disarmament and arms control negotiations.

Sitting it out would have meant an inability to influence, as had happened during the substantive negotiations over the Non Proliferation Treaty when Pakistan was not in the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Conference; the forerunner of the  Conference of Disarmament .

This positive attitude has been one of Pakistan’s hallmarks.  The Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) put together by the US and Russia sought to cover all nuclear facilities in all but the five  NPT nuclear states.  However, in a negotiation with the US and Russia of which I was a part, agreement was reached that Pakistan’s dedicated (military) nuclear facilities and material would not of course be covered. The positions of Pakistan and India are often similar on disarmament issues. After Pakistan joined so did India.

At the 2010 Washington and 2012 Seoul Summits, Pakistan’s delegation was led by its then Prime Minister. PM Nawaz Sharif is most likely to attend the forthcoming Summit later this month in The Hague on March 24th and 25th. The 2012 Seoul Summit Communiqué apart from reaffirming the fundamental principles agreed at the Washington  Summit, states that all participating countries agreed to make every possible effort to achieve further progress in the following 11 important areas. Global Nuclear Security Architecture, Role of the IAEA, Nuclear Materials, Radioactive Sources, Nuclear Security and Safety, Transportation Security, Combating Illicit Trafficking, Nuclear Forensics, Nuclear Security Culture, Information Security and International Cooperation.

The NSS put into play rounds of intercessional meetings and negotiations. Each country designated Sherpas and Sous Sherpas backed by teams of diplomatic, technical  and military experts to inch upwards to the summits with a consensus outcome Communiqué. Pakistan put together an inter-ministerial team to work with its Sherpa, Permanent Representative to the UN in New York, Ambassador Masood Khan, who has ably held this responsibility throughout. Policy positions were prepared for approval by the political leadership to guide national positions.

While the negotiations were both intense and educative for all countries, what were Pakistan’s policy objectives? First of all, to credibly project through its concrete legislative, institutional, and implementation measures that Pakistan was a responsible nuclear state according the highest priority to nuclear security and its associated issues, and a committed global partner. Secondly, to showcase its achievements in nuclear security. Thirdly, to contribute to its constant efforts to update and improve its nuclear security systems. Fourthly, that the NSS  did not  set up new international processes or institutions, did not duplicate existing mechanisms and arrangements primarily under the IAEA. Fifthly, to ensure that the outcomes would not be at variance with its national security and civil nuclear energy priorities and interests.

How has it fared so far? On the core issue that national efforts are the most important part of global efforts to enhance nuclear security, and that this responsibility must rest in national hands, Pakistan along with other like minded countries has held this line. It has showcased its achievements. A nuclear security regime with a four pillar foundation: of a well defined and robust command and control system; a rigorous regulatory regime on all matters related to nuclear security and safety; a comprehensive export control regime complimentary to global standards; and international cooperation consistent with national policies and interests as well as international obligations

Two Centers of Excellence for Training have been established. One, a training Academy for nuclear security set up under the Strategic Plans Directorate and recently visited by an impressed DG IAEA. The other, a Nuclear Security Training Center by the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At the Seoul summit, these training facilities were offered as a regional and international hub for participants from other countries.

Pakistan highlighted that as a country with an advanced nuclear fuel cycle capability, it was in a position to provide nuclear fuel cycle services under IAEA safeguards and to participate in any non discriminatory fuel cycle assurance mechanism. It reemphasized its qualifications to become a member of the Nuclear Supplier Group and the other three export control regimes on a non discriminatory basis.

Beyond the projected summit in Washington in 2016, the future of the NSS process is uncertain. However, its impact will remain in  heightened recognition of the need for taking all steps necessary to improve  the multidimensional aspects of nuclear security brought about by this process. Whatever resonance or future shape its influence takes, Pakistan is building a valuable foundation of additional experience, negotiation and networking to work to advance nationally led equitable common objectives in this area while safeguarding its core interests.

 The writer is a former Pakistani diplomat.