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What and how of nuclear security

According to an Indian Express report (March 21), an anonymous tip-off has helped the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to bust a mineral smuggling racket that involved exports of beryl — an atomic mineral ore of Beryllium. Six persons were arrested in end-January and about 31 tonnes of atomic mineral was recovered; the US, Canada, Russia and Brazil are the recipients. Extracts of beryllium from the mineral ore are used in atomic power plants, space technology and scanning equipment. Beryl is one of the “prescribed substances” notified by the DAE under the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. Prior to the latest operation, a 20-tonne consignment of beryl is learnt to have possibly been smuggled to Hong Kong from Kandla Port in Gujarat in October 2015. The is alarming as India being a party to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment, is duty-bound to prevent the smuggling of atomic minerals of all kinds.

This also comes in the backdrop of a 2014 report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative that pegged India’s “nuclear security practices” at a low 23rd rank among 25 countries known to possess at least a bomb’s-worth of fissile materials. Report that India exhibited “weaknesses… in the areas of transport security, material control, and accounting, and measures to protect against the insider threat, such as personnel vetting and mandatory reporting of suspicious behaviour”.

Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process has been President Obama’s brainchild since he underlined security of nuclear materials as a priority of his administration in his infamous Prague speech of April 5, 2009. Prague speech became talk of the town because of his amateurish Global Zero concept visualizing, a nuclear weapon free World. Soon after Obama back tracked from Global Zero rhetoric acknowledging that it won’t be possible to achieve it during his lifetime. Of now, only nine nuclear power plants are outside IAEA safeguards, the world over, and eight of these are in India, courtesy India-US Agreement 123.

As a fallout of neo-Cold war, Russia has refused to participate in the Washington summit and has snubbed offers of collaboration over the pending conversion of about 63 Russian nuclear power plants still using Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU). Russia has the largest stockpile of HEU, approximately 700 tonnes. Absence of a nation of such capability and stature is obviously a setback to furtherance of the Summit process.

Since its inception, the NSS process has covered a lot of mileage in reducing the requirement of Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) through technological improvement and innovations, whereby a large number of civil usage nuclear facilities have switched over to use of Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) as their fuel/input material. In 2010, 50 countries had an HEU stockpile of more than 1 kg, it is now down to half the number; and HEU has been totally removed from 13 countries. The NSS initiated an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the globe within four years. By any standard, that has been an underestimation of the task and even after six years hence, the Nuclear Security Summits shall fade into history without being able to claim that all bomb making materials have been sufficiently secured. However, the NSS process did inspired nations into action since they came with report cards in hand to showcase the highlights of all they had done at the national and regional levels towards furthering nuclear security.

Like all earlier summits, this time also, Prime Minister was to lead the Pakistan delegation, but gruesome terrorist attack in Lahore kept him away. Pakistan’s participation at the highest level reflects its strong commitment to nuclear security. The United States has been very appreciative of Pakistan’s participation in these meetings. It has periodically recognized Pakistan’s active engagements with global community on the issue of nuclear security. In a recent policy statement the US State Department has said that Islamabad is well aware of its responsibilities with respect to nuclear security and has secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.

To further contribute towards NSS process and, in the broader context, international non-proliferation effort, Pakistan has ratified the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). On July 08, 2005, states parties to the CPPNM adopted by consensus an Amendment to the CPPNM which expands the scope of the convention to cover nuclear facilities and nuclear material in peaceful use, storage and international as well as domestic transportation. The CPPNM is a legally binding international instrument in the area of physical protection of nuclear material; it also establishes measures related to the prevention, detection and punishment of offences related to nuclear material. Ratification of the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM is another affirmation of Pakistan’s commitment to the objective of nuclear security and reinforces Pakistan’s credentials as a responsible nuclear state. It demonstrates Pakistan’s confidence in its national nuclear security regime which is at par with the latest international standards in the field.

Earlier, in its meeting held on 24 February 2016, under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, the National Command Authority (NCA) undertook a comprehensive review of the prevailing regional and international security environment. NCA took note of the growing conventional and strategic weapons’ development in the region. It expressed serious concerns over the adverse ramifications for peace and security on this account. NCA reiterated its determination to take all possible measures to make national security robust.

The NCA re-affirmed that, as a responsible nuclear State, Pakistan would continue to contribute meaningfully towards the global efforts to improve nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation measures. Pakistan has the requisite credentials that entitle it to become member of all multi-lateral strategic export control regimes, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Pakistan seeks adoption of a non-discriminatory criteria for expansion of all regimes.

In another acknowledgment of Pakistan’s expertise in nuclear security, annual meeting of the international network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSC) was held from 14-18 March in Islamabad in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). For the first time, this meeting was held outside IAEA Headquarters. Fifty six officials representing 29 countries attended the meeting. Officials of the World Institute of Nuclear Security and IAEA also participated in the event. NSSC regularly contributes to global efforts for enhancing nuclear security capacity building through an effective and collaborative mechanism.

The emergent global nuclear order is focusing on a greater role for India’s nuclear weapon status, transfer of nuclear technology and materials especially massive import of Uranium. Despite India’s poor track record, the US and its nuclear camp followers are trying to evolve an India specific criteria to upgrade India’s NSG waiver into a full-fledged membership. The DG IAEA has recently expressed his satisfaction over implementation of the agency’s safeguard measures in the country, while appreciating the nuclear safety and security record of Pakistan; even then Pakistan is being subjected to the renewed pressure to freeze its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile capabilities. Pakistan attaches highest significance to its nuclear safety and security and is fully compliant of all international and domestic obligations.

With the summit event coming to a close, there is a question about successor organization. The most popular, and likely to be accepted, idea is that of the IAEA taking over the role. In July 2013, the IAEA had organized an international conference on nuclear security that was attended by 125 states and 21 organisations. By comparison, the NSS have been attended by only about 50 odd countries and 4 organisations.

Nuclear security is a global concern. Securing nuclear materials is a perpetual journey sans an assured destination. To succeed, international nuclear regimes have to come out of biased attitudes and selective applications.

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Dynamics of FATF listing

Pakistan Focus Analysis. Indo-US anti-Pakistan nexus is so very obvious, both have in-chorus expressed their joy on Pakistan’s placement on grey list. Indian Express has reported that “India, US are one in saying Pakistan deserved to be demoted to anti-terror funding group's 'grey list’”. "India welcomes the decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan in its Compliance Document (grey list) for ICRG [International Cooperation review Group] monitoring," said India's ministry of external affairs. And; "outstanding counterterrorism deficiencies consistently raised by the Financial Action Task Force and [Pakistan] needs to take actions, including on the raising and moving of funds of UN-designated terrorist groups, a top US official said to news agency PTI”. Decision is politically motivated and is part of American strategy to pressurise Pakistan to settle some other scores. Pakistan has been placed among the jurisdictions (states) with strategic deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen. FATF has called upon these states to complete implementation of the action plans expeditiously and within the proposed timeframes, vowing to closely monitor the implementation. It was also agreed in February Plenary that an Action Plan would be negotiated between Pakistan and FATF members by June. This has been done. The FATF has formally placed Pakistan on the grey list due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime. The decision came despite Pakistan had demonstrated reasonable progress in three out of four major areas of FATF concerns. Pakistan’s team led by Finance Minister apprised the plenary about measures that Pakistan had taken to stop money laundering and strangling the terror financing. In prevailing World Order, nothing works better than American pressures. During February plenary, the US and the UK went out of their way to by-pass the standard FATF procedures and jointly arm twist the FATF for nominating Pakistan for the grey list in June, regardless of its February-June period effort and progress; they were also joined by France and Germany. Pakistan has undertaken to work towards effective implementation of the Action Plan, while staying in the grey list. A similar situation took place in 2011 when Pakistan was included in the grey list and was taken out in 2015 after it successfully implemented the Action Plan. There were tall claims that Pakistan was unlikely to be placed on the grey list of the global financial watchdog as the country had made enough progress to meet international anti-money laundering and terror financing standards, such euphoric environment had been created before and during the previous FATF plenary meeting as well. There is a need to float realistic expectations before such international events. FATF identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies in its two public documents: FATF Public Statement (call for action)– commonly known as black list—and Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance— nick named as grey list. It is an on-going process; these lists are updated three times a year. Interestingly, FATF does not use grey list/blacklist terminologies. The ICRG of the APG had identified four key areas of concerns: deficiencies in the supervision of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorism Financing regimes; cross-border illicit movement of currency by terrorist groups; progress on terrorism financing investigation and prosecution; and implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373, for curbing terror financing. ICRG report has shown that Pakistan did show progress on three out of four major areas of concerns. Cross-border smuggling of cash was the only major area where Pakistan admitted deficiencies. Maximum number of conditions – nine to be precise – take into account the concerns of the UNSC resolutions, followed by eight commitments to address concerns regarding terrorism financing prosecution, four are about curbing currency movement across the border and five recommendations relate to improvement in the supervision mechanisms of banks and companies. Pakistan has undertaken to demonstrate that authorities are identifying cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency and understanding the risk of cash couriers being used for terrorism financing. Remember Ayan Ali case? And who protected her? Carrier is enjoying quality life abroad. Pakistan has made a “high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its Anti-money Laundering (AML)/Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies,” according to FATF announcement. The FATF said Pakistan will also be demonstrating that remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions have an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. “It will be demonstrating that competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services.” During the intervening period Pakistan government did strenuous hard work to plug the gaps. Ambitious laws were enacted. Finance ministry improved institutional mechanisms for handling anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism issues. Coordination between the State Bank, Banking institutions and law enforcement agencies had also been strengthened to curb money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan has recently addressed issues raised by the FATF through a tax amnesty scheme, while Securities and Exchange Commission has issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations (2018). National Security Committee has also reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the FATF. Through its Action Plan, Pakistan has demonstrated to the world that it was ready to go an extra mile to curb money laundering. Pakistan will have to deliver on the first goal by January next year and complete all the 26 actions by September 2019,” it is indeed a tight schedule. One wonders whether Pakistan has requisite mechanisms in place to implement and steer such an ambitious plan. An expert assessment has it that though Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list may hurt its image in the international landscape, its economic impact will not be as severe as being portrayed. This is because when Pakistan was part of the grey list/blacklist (2008-2015), it successfully approached multilateral bodies, floated international bonds and had international trades. Hopefully Pakistan will be able to come out or grey list in September 2019, however it must follow consistent economic policies to remain out of such trouble spots. Caretaker government would do a great service by forming a national commission to identify and punish all those responsible for letting the things reverse back after Pakistan’s previous journey to blacklist was over.

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