The third round of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) is due to start at The Hague on March 24 and the leaders of 57 nations and organisations are expected to deliberate on how to secure the world from nuclear terrorism during this two-day meet. The summit is crucial because nuclear terrorists are seeking to gain access to nuclear and radiological materials and technologies; the recent arrest of the Indian Mujahideen chief, Yasin Bhatkal, proves the degree of challenge the world faces: His interrogation has revealed that the terror outfit had planned a nuclear attack on Surat and contacted al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan to intensify terror attacks against India.
The renaissance of civil nuclear energy in Asia has increased the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. Asia has a dynamic economy and more and more nations are aspiring for nuclear power to meet their growing energy demands. Currently there are 120 operating and 47 under-construction power reactors in Asia. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 29 more countries, all first-timers, are planning for nuclear power, out of which 10 are from the Asia and the Pacific region. The greatest growth in nuclear energy production is expected to be in China, South Korea and India. With nuclear power expanding, the risks of atomic technology and radiological materials being diverted and misused for malicious purposes also increase. Asia is also fraught with the problems of long porous borders, transit hubs of enormous cargo, weak export controls, drug trafficking and other organised crime. All these aspects make Asia a potential zone for proliferation of dangerous, sensitive materials.
India must convey to the NSS the importance of universalising the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) of 1980 and Amendment to the CPPNM of 2005 and insist that ‘States of concern’ like Pakistan, North Korea and Myanmar must join the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism of 2005. India must assure the world that the security of its nuclear materials is regulated under stringent legislation like Mines and Mineral Act 1957, the WMD Act 2005, the Civil Liability Act 2010 and global level export controls. India must also support limited and incremental transparency through effective mandatory peer reviews and international inspections to check on any existing vulnerabilities to the nuclear systems of states while ensuring protection of sensitive information. India must encourage substantial collaboration among the Centers of Excellence on Nuclear Security of India, Pakistan and China to improve nuclear security in Asia.
Reshmi Kazi is associate fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi
The views expressed by the author are personal