Unwarranted fear of nuclear terrorism
in order to mitigate what is a substantially small threat. By effectively evaluating the arguments for alarmism and responding to them in turn, this MRP asserts that the assumptions from which stem the contemporary overblown rhetoric on nuclear terrorism are not grounded.” After terror attack in Belgium, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Yukiya Amano had said that Brussels attackers had planned to set off a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’.
Yukiya Amano went on to say: “Terrorism is spreading and the possibility of using nuclear material cannot be excluded. The material can be found in small quantities in universities, hospitals and other facilities. European authorities had revealed that the group behind the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks was also spying on a senior nuclear official in Belgium; since then many news sources reported that the threat of “nuclear terrorism” existed. Joe Cirincione in his write up for CNN stated: “Chills went down a lot of experts’ spines last month when we saw the news that the Brussels bombers, the ISIS terrorists who blew up the airport and attacked the metro, were secretly videotaping a Belgian nuclear official. This official worked at a facility that had radiological material that terrorists could use for a dirty bomb. Strange enough, such fears are being expressed in the countries that claim to have sound security systems.
Michael Kugelman a senior program associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, where he is responsible for research, programming and publications on South and Southeast Asia, had argued that Pakistani nukes may fall in the hands of terrorists attacking sensitive air bases in Pakistan. The absurd propaganda further asserted that “Pakistan was producing tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) meant for actual battlefield use with conventional forces (for short range use against India). Consequently, these will be removed from locked-down and secured bases, making them tremendously vulnerable to seizure, attack, or accident.” The aim of such propaganda is to depict Pakistan’s nukes as hazardous and risk prone. But it has been acknowledged by the IAEA as well as by the US that Pakistan’s nuclear assets are highly secured and under very responsible authority. These assets indeed help maintain minimum level of deterrence.
Though the US has not been consistent about its stance on Pakistani nukes, yet the US has assured the international community that Pakistan is capable of protecting its nuclear weapons. In a policy statement on Pakistan’s nuclear program, the US State Department said: “Islamabad is well aware of its responsibilities with respect to nuclear security and has secured its nuclear arsenal accordingly.” Few days before the summit, prestigious Harvard Kennedy School released a report reviewing global security measures, which stated: “US officials have reportedly ranked Indian nuclear security measures as weaker than those of Pakistan and Russia.” The report concluded that Pakistan’s nuclear security arrangements were stronger than India’s. Anyhow, it is an irrefutable fact that it was India that had misused its nuclear facility in 1974, and had also detonated nuclear devices in May 1998. Pakistan had to follow suit to show that Pakistan has the similar capability.
Lapse in security of India’s nuclear assets was revealed by international experts during a Nuclear Security Summit. The experts expressed severe reservations over India’s protection of its nuclear material. According to the details, experts of the international conference stated that there have been 5 cases of nuclear material theft in India over the past two decades. They added that the extent of security failure is so great that in 2013 guerrilla militants had stolen Uranium from the Army Complex, but the Indian army remained completely unaware of the incident. In April 2016, an independent US report by the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School declared the Indian nuclear program not only unsafe but also called for a satisfactory international oversight. The authors of the report titled ‘The Three Overlapping Streams of India’s Nuclear Program’ observed that “India is currently running three streams that include: civilian safeguarded, civilian un-safeguarded, and military.”
Authors recommended that India should achieve a cleaner separation of its civilian and military facilities by bringing eight unsafeguarded civilian facilities under safeguards. They also recommend that India should bring its fast breeder program as well as upcoming HEU facilities under safeguards. When U.S. officials made their first-ever visit to the restricted Bhabha Atomic Research Center in Mumbai, a complex where India makes plutonium for its nuclear weapons, their observations about its security practices were not reassuring. “Security at the site was moderate,” a cable from November 2008, approved by embassy Chargé d’Affaires Stephen White, told officials in Washington. He had also added that identification checks at the front gate were “quick but not thorough,” and visitor badges lacked photographs, meaning they were easy to replicate or pass around. One would not know if India has improved the system by now. —The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.