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Experts cautious on NTI’s report about nuclear security

ISLAMABAD: Experts fear that welcoming Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)’s latest nuclear security index could amount to giving official recognition to it, which can cause problems in the future.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by Strategic Vision Institute on ‘NTI Index Report 2020’, they called for cautiously treating the report that said Pakistan was the “most improved country” in terms of nuclear security. Pakistan was ranked 19th, a notch above India, which was at the 20th spot.

NTI said Pakistan had improved in the Security and Control Measures and Global Norms categories.

Zamir Akram, former ambassador and ex-permanent representative to the Conference on Disarmament and the United Nations in Geneva, said: “While we should welcome the findings of the latest report that recognise our efforts, we should not give the report a kind of status that it becomes a benchmark for determining Pakistan’s performance (with regards to nuclear security) in future.”

He feared that endorsing its findings could lead to increased pressures from other countries for stopping the production of fissile material, besides seeking ‘intrusive’ details about the safety and security procedures, said a press release issued by SVI.

Mr Akram said not only NTI’s scoring system was complicated but it was also very subjective relying on tools and parameters like political stability, governance and compliance with international legal commitments which were not quantifiable. India was on these counts given a much higher score than Pakistan.

“If we look at the situation in India objectively, it can hardly be described a country with political stability, same is for governance and international commitments,” he said and observed that Pakistan’s record with regards to its international commitments was as good as that of India, if not better.

Prof Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, a leading defence analyst, agreed that there was no need to endorse the report officially.

Dr Jaspal said Pakistan’s assessment with regards to material production and elimination trend, insider threat prevention and onsite physical protection was not done appropriately. He contended that all nuclear countries were increasing their fissile material, therefore, it was wrong to expect differently from Pakistan. He also said Pakistan had an effective personnel reliability programme, and decades-long experience of safely operating nuclear facilities.

He called for strengthening cyber-security, being more transparent, and proactively pursuing admission into international nuclear cartels.

SVI President Dr Zafar Iqbal Cheema said while the recognition of the improvement in nuclear security situation in Pakistan is welcome, the report itself cannot be treated as an international standard or a criterion about how a country should behave.

“Pakistan as a sovereign country has all rights to make its nuclear policies that suit its interests. Pakistan’s record is much better than reflected by NTI’s nuclear security index,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020

This event was also covered by The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2020.

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