The fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington has ended in Washington. While some of the apprehensions expressed in a previous post on this subject have been borne out, some of PM Modi’s commitments could become problematic depending on how exactly India follows through on them.
The most damaging turn of events was US President Obama’s re-hyphenation of India and Pakistan and, much worse, implicitly reaffirming US’ longstanding nonproliferation policy objective of “cap, freeze, rollback” of nuclear weapons capabilities in South Asia. “We need to see progress in Pakistan and India [to] make sure”, he demanded, somewhat magisterially, “that as they develop military doctrines that they are not continually moving in the wrong direction” as regards expanding “nuclear arsenals” “especially those with small tactical nuclear weapons that could be at greater risk of theft.”
Modi responded, not by asking Obama to stop lecturing and defining the nuclear deterrence requirements of other countries but to get going with drastic reductions of US and P-5 nuclear weapons inventories but, with Washington’s soft-pedaling of Pakistan-sourced terrorism in mind, carping about treating terrorism as “someone else’s problem and that ‘his’ terrorist is not ‘my’ terrorist… All States must completely abide by their international obligations.”
In light of the US government’s approach and attitude some of the six commitments Modi voiced at the summit could create trouble for India. These commitments are:
1) India’s continuing to accord a high national priority to nuclear security through strong institutional framework, independent regulatory agency and trained and specialised manpower, to include physical and cyber barriers, technological approaches, setting up a facility for medical grade ‘Moly-99’ using low enriched Uranium and using vitrified forms of vulnerable radioisotopes such as Ceasium-137.
2) India will counter nuclear smuggling and strengthen the national detection architecture for nuclear and radioactive material, with a dedicated counter-nuclear smuggling team.
3) India will support IAEA’s central role in nuclear security by a further contribution of $1 million to the nuclear security fund and a workshop to be held in India with IAEA experts on International Physical Protection Assessment Service (IPPAS).
4) India will join trilateral initiative of NSS chairs (US, South Korea, Netherlands) to oversee the implementation in subscribing states of measures to strengthen nuclear security.
5) India will also join three gift baskets for this summit in priority areas of countering nuclear smuggling, nuclear security contact group in Vienna, and sharing of best practices through Centres of Excellence such as India’s own.
6) India will host a meeting of Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in 2017 to complement the international conference on countering nuclear smuggling planned with Interpol. The nuclear security architecture in the country is to be strengthened and participate in strengthening security architecture at the global level.
For example, items #3,4,5 & 6 all involve international/multilateral/IAEA arrangements which could be the tool used by the US in particular and the P-5 states generally to penetrate the secret parts of the nuclear establishment under cover of progressing and providing technical “expert” advise for increasing the security and protection of dangerous materials. It could be used to suborn Indian participants with the aim ultimately of subverting the Indian weapons program, wherewithal, and capabilities. By now most countries have got the hang of a basic feature of Indian reality: Indians, by and large, are “bikaoo” (purchasable) — all that needs determining is their price.
Further, the Indian side, as per a statement released to the media that seems to have been drafted without any apparent awareness of where the country’s strategic and national security interests actually lie, crowed about India’s export controls list and guidelines being harmonized with those of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and how it “looks forward” to strengthening its contribution to shared non-proliferation objectives through membership of the export controls regimes. This commitment, mind you, is despite India’s being prevented from getting anywhere within smelling distance of membership in NSG, and which membership will obtain once Pakistan too (shepherded by China) gains entry into it.
To further emphasize its “good boy” status, and hammer a few more nails into its own nuclear coffin, India at NSS-4 also pointedly referred to its enacting the Weapons of Mass Destruction and their Delivery Systems Act, 2005, giving effect, inter alia, to India’s obligations under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.
So ends another of Modi’s forays into the outside world.