The government on Thursday agreed to accept a significant confidence-building measure with Pakistan. The cabinet committee on security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, decided to sign an agreement with Pakistan to reduce the risk from accidents relating to nuclear weapons.
Announcing the decision, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the agreement on “Reducing the Risk from Accidents” relating to Nuclear Weapons will be signed during the visit of Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmud Kasuri next month. Kasuri is scheduled to visit India in February for a meeting of the India-Pakistan Joint Commission.The dates for Kasuri’s visit are still being worked out.
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The agreement will reduce the risk from any accidental strike, like a terrorist attack, on nuclear facilities in either country. The need to keep the other country informed reduces the threat of a nuclear conflagration and the threat of radiation, a senior official explained. Along with the annual exchange of lists of each other’s nuclear facilities, the agreement will “significantly lower the risk of a nuclear accident” between India and Pakistan, an official said. India and Pakistan share an agreed arrangement to inform each other about their nuclear installations and facilities to be insulated from any attack from the other.
Under the agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities, which came into force in 1991, the two countries exchange lists of their nuclear installations and facilities on January one every year. The two countries also have an agreement for pre-notification of ballistic missile tests, operational since 2005.
India has a no first-use policy as part of its stated nuclear doctrine. Pakistan does not.
Mukherjee, who visited Pakistan over the last weekend, said the two countries had been talking about the agreement for a while, and were now ready to sign it.
The two countries had reached an understanding on signing the agreement in November, during the Foreign Secretary-level talks. The Cabinet had to approve such an agreement before it could become law.
India on Thursday protested against the firing by Pakistan Rangers in the Akhnoor sector and sought a Flag meeting of border security forces of the two countries to prevent recurrence of such incidents. The firing took place on Wednesday. “We have already taken up the matter with Pakistan,” External Affairs Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said. The incident, Sarna said, amounted to a violation of the three-year-old ceasefire along the border