Login/Logout

*
*  

ACA's journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General
Pakistan

Is the NSG Up to the Task?

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards. (Continue)

Daryl G. Kimball

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established 35 years ago to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) by establishing guidelines for nuclear supply. These voluntary guidelines were designed to prevent the transfer of the most sensitive nuclear technologies and block nuclear commerce with states that do not abide by basic nonproliferation standards.

Although the NSG has provided an important check on proliferation, in recent years it has failed to agree to tighter restrictions on the transfer of uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology. To their great discredit, a few leading NSG states have reversed or ignored NSG guidelines for commercial profit and improved bilateral ties with nuclear trading partners.

In 2001, Russia sold uranium to India and agreed to build two additional reactors for India in violation of NSG guidelines barring nuclear trade with non-NPT countries. In 2008 the NSG agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to India over the protestations of the governments of Austria, Ireland, and New Zealand. The exemption, which was initiated by the George W. Bush administration and strongly backed by France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, reversed the long-standing NSG and NPT policies barring nuclear trade with states that have not accepted comprehensive international safeguards.

Now, China is reportedly planning to sell two nuclear power reactors to NPT holdout and serial proliferator Pakistan, which would violate current NSG rules.

The NSG must respond appropriately or risk irrelevance. Responsible NSG governments should actively oppose the Chinese-Pakistani deal as a violation of NSG guidelines, work to mitigate the damage caused by the India exemption, and agree to tougher rules against the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, which can be used to produce fissile material for weapons.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that it was entitled to build a second one on the grounds that the second reactor project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. At the time, however, there was no declaration of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chashma.

States at the recent NPT review conference, including China, reaffirmed that “new supply arrangements” for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) “full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons.”

Nuclear trade with Pakistan or India would give those NPT nonmembers the rights and privileges reserved for NPT members that follow nonproliferation rules. Worse still, nuclear trade with either country would indirectly contribute to their weapons programs by freeing up domestic uranium reserves for the production of enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons purposes.

Recognizing this danger, NPT parties expressed concern about the negative effects of civil nuclear trade with the two countries. The NPT conference’s final document “urges all States parties to ensure that their nuclear-related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises.”

In response to the NSG’s 2008 India exemption, Israel and Pakistan, which are still subject to the NSG ban on nuclear trade, have sought similar exemptions—so far unsuccessfully. Also, Pakistan has accelerated its efforts to increase its capacity to produce enriched uranium and plutonium for weapons and has blocked the start of negotiations on a global treaty to ban the production of nuclear material for weapons purposes.

The NSG must hold firm and oppose nuclear trade with Israel, Pakistan, or any country that does not meet commonsense nonproliferation and disarmament standards.

Notwithstanding the 2008 NSG exemption for India, states such as Australia and Japan should resist commercial and political pressures for engaging in nuclear trade with India, at least until New Delhi complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1172, passed in June 1998, which calls on India and Pakistan to stop producing fissile material for weapons, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and undertake other nuclear risk reduction measures.

Those NSG governments that have decided to sell nuclear material and reactors to India should clarify that if India or any other state breaks its nonproliferation commitments and conducts a nuclear test explosion for any reason, they will immediately terminate nuclear trade with the offending state.

The NSG must address future proliferation risks as well. India and other states in regions of proliferation concern are seeking advanced enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology. In response, the United States and other NSG countries must overcome opposition from South Africa and Turkey and adopt tougher guidelines that would bar the transfer of such technology to those states that have not signed the NPT and do not have in place IAEA comprehensive safeguards and enhanced inspections under an additional protocol.

If the NSG is to remain effective and credible, member states must respect and uphold their own rules, avoid actions that feed the nuclear arms race, and strengthen their guidelines to prevent weapons-related nuclear technology from proliferating in the years ahead.

Op-ed: Time to Act Responsibly on Nukes

Sections:

Description: 

Op-ed in The Press by Zia Mian and Daryl Kimball

Body: 

Op-ed in The Press by Zia Mian and Daryl Kimball

"Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world's most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the sale of nuclear technology.

Too often, however, powerful states try to make exceptions from these rules, or simply ignore them, as a way to help their allies and to make money for their nuclear industries."

Click here to read the full op-ed.

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

Experts, Organizations from 14 Countries Call on Nuclear Suppliers Group to Uphold Rules Barring Chinese Sale of Reactors to Pakistan

Sections:

Description: 

In a letter sent this week to the 46-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a prestigious and broad array of more than 40 experts and nongovernmental organizations from 14 countries urged that these nations "reiterate to the Chinese government that it must not engage in nuclear trade with Pakistan in a way that violates nonproliferation obligations and norms."

Body: 

For Immediate Release: June 17, 2010

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, Arms Control Association 1-202-463-8270 x107; Philip White, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Tokyo 81-3-3357-3800

(Washington, D.C.-Tokyo, Japan-Christchurch, NZ): In a letter sent this week to the 46-member states of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), a prestigious and broad array of more than 40 experts and nongovernmental organizations from 14 countries urged that these nations "reiterate to the Chinese government that it must not engage in nuclear trade with Pakistan in a way that violates nonproliferation obligations and norms."

In recent weeks, credible reports have surfaced that the Government of China is planning to sell two additional nuclear power reactors to Pakistan, which would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China's commitments to the NSG.

The group argues that nuclear trade with Pakistan would not only give a state outside the nonproliferation mainstream the rights and privileges reserved for states that follow nonproliferation rules, but it would contribute to the arms race in South Asia.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group will convene on June 21-25 in Christchurch, New Zealand. The possible China-Pakistan nuclear reactor deal is expected to be a topic of discussion at the meeting.

Under the guidelines of the NSG, countries other than the five formally-recognized nuclear-weapon states-China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States-are not eligible to receive most nuclear exports from NSG members unless they have International Atomic Energy full-scope safeguards in place. Pakistan is one of only three states never to have signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Pakistan does not allow full-scope international safeguards and it continues to produce fissile material for its nuclear weapons program.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan's Chashma site. China claimed at the time that it was entitled to build a second reactor on the grounds that it was covered in the existing agreement with Pakistan. There was no declaration at that time of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chashma.

If China goes forward with the sale, it would be the second major breach of NSG standards in as many years. In September 2008, the NSG agreed on an exemption for nuclear transfers to India over the protestations of the governments of New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, and others. The exemption, which was initiated by the United States and strongly backed by France, Russia and the U.K., blew a hole in the NSG's long-standing policy against nuclear trade with non-NPT parties.

States at the recently concluded NPT Review Conference, including China, also reaffirmed that "new supply arrangements" for nuclear transfers should require that the recipient accept "IAEA full-scope safeguards and international legally-binding commitments not to acquire nuclear weapons."

In their letter, the experts and NGOs note that "The provision of uranium and/or nuclear fuel to Pakistan or India for safeguarded reactors can have the effect of increasing their respective capacity to produce enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons purposes in unsafeguarded facilities."

At the May 2010 Review Conference, NPT states parties also expressed concern about the negative effects of civil nuclear trade with these countries. The NPT conference final document "... urges all States parties to ensure that their nuclear-related exports do not directly or indirectly assist the development of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devises."

Among the former government officials and experts endorsing the letter is Amb. Jayantha Dhanapala, the former UN Undersecretary General for Disarmament Affairs and President of the 1995 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference. Other notable signatories include Henry Sokolski, former Deputy for Nonproliferation Policy in the U.S. Department of Defense, and Fred McGoldrick, the former U.S. official responsible for civilian nuclear trade negotiations.

NGOs and experts from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and elsewhere endorsed the letter, which was organized by the Washington-based Arms Control Association.

The letter urges NSG governments "to oppose nuclear trade with Pakistan and to refrain from engaging in nuclear trade with India until such time as it complies with UN Security Council Resolution 1172," which calls upon India and Pakistan to stop producing fissile material for weapons, to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and undertake other nuclear risk reduction measures.

The U.S. government "has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations," according to a news report published June 1 in the journal Arms Control Today.

Washington is also reportedly pressuring the Japanese government to change its policy against nuclear trade with India in to open the way for the sale of nuclear reactors built by GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse Electric, which a subsidiary of Japan's Toshiba.

For the full list of endorsers and the text of the letter, see:

http://www.armscontrol.org/pressroom/NSGComplianceLetter

Country Resources:

Subject Resources:

China, Pakistan Set Reactor Deal

China reportedly has reached a deal to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a country that does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Daniel Horner

China reportedly has reached a deal to sell two nuclear reactors to Pakistan, a country that does not open all its nuclear facilities to international inspections.

Under the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China joined in 2004, countries other than the five recognized nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are not eligible to receive most nuclear exports from NSG members unless they agree to accept such inspections, known as full-scope safeguards.

In an April 28 article, the Financial Times cited an interview with a Pakistani official and a statement on China National Nuclear Corporation’s Web site as confirming the deal, which has been the subject of conflicting information over the past few months. The Times also cited diplomats in China as saying Beijing had approved the deal, but that it had not been sealed.

The NSG, which is currently chaired by Hungary, is scheduled to hold its annual plenary meeting June 21-25 in New Zealand. In a May 26 e-mail to Arms Control Today, a Hungarian diplomat said that “the Chinese-Pakistani deal on nuclear reactors has not been formally discussed within NSG but we anticipate the issue will be raised” during the New Zealand meeting. The diplomat added, “We hope to learn more about the deal during the plenary after which the Group can formulate a well-informed position on the issue.”

When China joined the NSG, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan.

China made “a declaration of existing projects” that covered Chashma-1 and -2, which “were grandfathered as conditions of China’s NSG membership,” a U.S. official said in a recent e-mail to Arms Control Today.  “There was no declaration at that time, and subsequently no NSG approval, of any intention to build additional nuclear power plants at Chasma,” the official said.

“Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG,” the official said.

The U.S. government “has reiterated to the Chinese government that the United States expects Beijing to cooperate with Pakistan in ways consistent with Chinese nonproliferation obligations,” the official said.

In 2008 the NSG, led by the United States, granted an exemption making India, which also does not apply full-scope safeguards, eligible to receive nuclear exports from NSG members.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

 

Playing the Nuclear Game: Pakistan and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty

Since May 2009, Pakistan, largely alone, has blocked the start of international talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva.[1] The treaty would ban the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes; fissile materials, namely plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU), are the key ingredients in nuclear weapons. Pakistan has prevented these negotiations despite having accepted last year a CD program of work that included an FMCT.

Zia Mian and A.H. Nayyar

Since May 2009, Pakistan, largely alone, has blocked the start of international talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the 65-member Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva.[1] The treaty would ban the production of fissile materials for weapons purposes; fissile materials, namely plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU), are the key ingredients in nuclear weapons. Pakistan has prevented these negotiations despite having accepted last year a CD program of work that included an FMCT.

Pakistan’s ambassador at the CD, Zamir Akram, has indicated that his government may not easily be moved, saying, “We are not in a position to accept the beginning of negotiations on a cut-off treaty in the foreseeable future.”[2]

At the core of the concerns held by Pakistan’s national security managers is a long-running search for strategic parity with India. The most powerful of these managers are from the army, which also runs the nuclear weapons complex. They argue that Pakistan has fallen behind India in producing fissile materials and insist that this fissile material gap be addressed as part of any talks.

Yet, a larger set of issues is at play. These include Pakistan’s concerns about the long-term consequences of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal and the emerging strategic relationship between the two countries; the desire of military planners in Pakistan to move from larger, heavier nuclear weapons based on HEU to lighter, more compact plutonium-based weapons; the interest of nuclear production complex managers in Pakistan in realizing their investment over the past decade in a large expansion of fissile material production facilities and of the nuclear establishment more broadly in expanding its domestic economic and political clout; and, finally, a reluctance in Washington and other key capitals to press Pakistan on an FMCT because of the importance the United States attaches to Pakistan’s support for the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

The Evolution of Pakistan’s Position

Pakistan has historically taken an ambivalent position toward a possible FMCT. It supported the December 1993 UN General Assembly resolution calling for negotiations on a “non-discriminatory multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”[3] Having agreed to talk, Pakistan delayed the start of a negotiating process at the CD by debating the scope of the proposed treaty, insisting that the mandate for negotiating the treaty include constraints on existing stockpiles of fissile materials. The compromise agreed in the March 1995 Shannon mandate for talks at the CD on an FMCT was to finesse the issue by noting that the mandate did not preclude any state from raising the problem of existing stockpiles as part of the negotiations.

Work on an FMCT, however, did not start. In May 1995, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) was extended indefinitely and without conditions, raising concerns that the nuclear-weapon states might never uphold their obligation to eliminate their nuclear weapons. The following year, the CD pushed through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, despite objections by India, sending the treaty to the General Assembly for approval and opening it for signature. India and Pakistan refused to sign.

In May 1998, India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons. Within weeks, the UN Security Council responded to the tests by unanimously passing Resolution 1172, which called on India and Pakistan:

immediately to stop their nuclear weapon development programmes, to refrain from weaponization or from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, to confirm their policies not to export equipment, materials or technology that could contribute to weapons of mass destruction or missiles capable of delivering them and to undertake appropriate commitments in that regard.[4]

India and Pakistan ignored the resolution, but under pressure from the United States, Pakistan acquiesced to the fissile material talks.[5] Pakistan agreed to negotiate on the basis of the existing Shannon mandate, but made clear that it intended to “raise its concerns about and seek a solution to the problem of unequal stockpiles.”[6] Munir Akram, Pakistan’s CD ambassador, spelled out his country’s concerns in detail, saying, “We believe that a wide disparity in fissile material stockpiles of India and Pakistan could erode the stability of nuclear deterrence.”[7] In a later statement, he explained that Pakistan assumed “India will transform its large fissile material stocks into nuclear weapons” and thus Pakistan needed to “take into account both India’s nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles.” Pakistan “cannot therefore agree to freeze inequality,” he said.[8] To make clear its position, Pakistan’s ambassador objected even to the term FMCT, arguing that “my delegation does not agree to the Treaty being described as a Fissile Material ‘Cut-off’ Treaty, implying only a halt in future production. We cannot endorse the loose abbreviation—FMCT—in any formal description of the Treaty which is to be negotiated by the CD.”[9] He proposed instead the label “fissile material treaty,” or FMT, and a number of other countries and independent analysts adopted this usage.

A CD committee was set up to begin talks on an FMCT in late 1998, but made little progress and could not be re-established in 1999. For the following decade, the CD struggled to agree on a program of work. The United States under the Bush administration shifted priorities to its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and was ideologically opposed to multilateral arms control. At the CD, it insisted talks be confined to an FMCT, but without verification provisions, and rejected demands for discussions on other long-standing issues, such as nuclear disarmament, measures to prevent an arms race in outer space, and security assurances for non-nuclear-weapon states. Other states, unwilling to concede control of the CD agenda to the United States, tied talks on an FMCT to these other topics.

In the absence of CD negotiations, and taking advantage of the frustration among many non-nuclear-weapon states at Bush administration policies on nuclear weapons and nonproliferation and disarmament, Pakistan laid out an expansive vision for an FMCT. In 2006, Masood Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, argued that “[a] cut-off in the manufacturing of fissile material must be accompanied by a mandatory programme for the elimination of asymmetries in the possession of fissile material stockpiles by various states. Such transfer of fissile material to safeguards should be made first by states with huge stockpiles, both in the global and regional context.”[10] He explained what this meant: “A fissile material treaty must provide a schedule for a progressive transfer of existing stockpiles to civilian use and placing these stockpiles under safeguards so that the unsafeguarded stocks are equalized at the lowest level possible.”[11]

In May 2009, for the first time in 10 years, with Pakistan’s assent the CD adopted a program of work organized around four working groups, one of which was tasked with negotiating an FMCT on the basis of the Shannon mandate. The other groups were to manage discussions on nuclear disarmament, preventing an arms race in outer space, and security assurances. In addition, three special coordinators were to be appointed to elicit the views of states on other issues.

Nevertheless, agreement on a program of work was not sufficient to allow FMCT negotiations to begin. Pakistan demanded agreement on procedural issues, including that “[t]he allocation of time for the four Working Groups should be balanced so that the progress on each issue is ensured” and that “[t]he appointment of Chairs of the Working Groups should respect the principle of equal geographical representation.”[12] The ensuing dispute over how any talks would be managed, with China, Egypt, and Iran joining Pakistan in expressing concerns, prevented progress. The CD also failed to agree that the 2009 program of work would carry over into 2010.

Pakistan continued to obstruct the start of work at the CD in early 2010. In February, Zamir Akram explained that his country had agreed to the program of work in 2009 in the hope that some of Pakistan’s concerns would be addressed with the start of the Obama administration. Pakistan now believed that this would not be the case, he said.[13] Citing a January decision by Pakistan’s National Command Authority (NCA), which is responsible for its nuclear weapons, he said that Pakistan’s position at the CD on an FMCT would be based on “its national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia.”[14]

Pakistan rejected the CD plan of work proposed in early March. A number of countries associated with the CD Group of 21, including Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, North Korea, Sri Lanka, and Syria, have joined Pakistan in arguing for a more “balanced” program of work, highlighting in particular the need for talks on nuclear disarmament.[15] China also did not endorse the CD plan of work. Some states may simply be remaining silent about their opposition to the treaty and taking advantage of Pakistan’s refusal to permit talks on an FMCT. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Bill Clinton in 1999, “We will never sign the treaty, and do not delude yourselves—no pressure will help. We will not sign the treaty because we will not commit suicide.”[16] For its part, Pakistan is playing a waiting game, arguing that the time is not yet “ripe” for an FMCT.[17]

The Fissile Material Gap

Pakistan’s position clearly is determined by concern about parity with India. On October 26, 1998, Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz was quoted as saying, “Nuclear scientists have advised the government that there was no harm in signing the CTBT and FMCT at this stage as we had enough enriched nuclear material to maintain the power equilibrium in the region.”[18] This would seem to suggest that a decade ago policymakers in Pakistan believed that its fissile material stockpiles were sufficient to meet perceived needs. Similarly, in 2006, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Jahangir Karamat, a former army chief, seemed to indicate that Pakistan might consider a bilateral moratorium with India, suggesting that “if bilaterally, the U.S. can facilitate a moratorium on fissile material production or on testing: we are very happy to be part of that.”[19]

It has been estimated that as of 2009, Pakistan had accumulated a stock of about two metric tons of HEU for its nuclear weapons (enough for about 80 weapons, assuming 25 kilograms per warhead).[20] Pakistan also has about 100 kilograms of weapons plutonium, enough for about 20 warheads (assuming five kilograms per warhead) from its reactor at Khushab.[21] Altogether, Pakistan may have fissile material sufficient for perhaps 100 simple weapons. Advanced weapon designs, including those that use both uranium and plutonium in composite warheads, would allow it to produce significantly more weapons from its HEU. Pakistan also has about 1.2 metric tons of reactor-grade plutonium in the spent fuel from its two nuclear power reactors, but this material is under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Pakistan is expanding its fissile material production capacity and increasing its reliance on plutonium weapons. Two additional production reactors are under construction at Khushab.[22] Each of these new reactors could produce about 10 kilograms of plutonium a year, if they are the same size as the existing reactor at the site. Satellite imagery from late 2006 shows that Pakistan has also been working on one new reprocessing plant at its New Labs site near Islamabad and another at Chashma, presumably to reprocess the spent fuel from the new production reactors.[23] Pakistan is expanding its uranium processing operations to fuel these reactors.[24] It is estimated that, by 2020, Pakistan could have accumulated approximately 450 kilograms of plutonium from the Khushab reactors, enough for 90 weapons, and more than 2,500 kilograms of HEU, sufficient for perhaps 100 simple fission weapons.[25]

India is producing plutonium for weapons in two dedicated production reactors. It is estimated that India may have accumulated about 700 kilograms of plutonium by 2009, sufficient for about 140 weapons, and is producing more at the rate of about 30 kilograms per year.[26] India produces HEU, but this material is believed to be for its nuclear-powered submarine fleet and not for weapons. This would suggest that India and Pakistan today have roughly similar holdings of weapons material.

A large disparity in stocks of the kind emphasized by Pakistan emerges if India’s unsafeguarded power-reactor plutonium is included in the accounting. India may have separated almost seven metric tons of power-reactor plutonium by 2009.[27] Assuming that perhaps 10 kilograms of such reactor-grade plutonium may be sufficient for a weapon, this would amount to perhaps 700 weapons. There are reports that at least one Indian nuclear weapon test in 1998 used plutonium that was less than weapons grade.[28]

India claims its stockpile of reactor-grade plutonium is intended for fueling fast breeder reactors, the first of which (the 500-megawatt Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor) is expected to be completed in 2011.[29] This fast breeder reactor will consume reactor-grade plutonium as fuel, but will produce weapons-grade plutonium in the blankets that surround the reactor core. If it operates with a reasonable capacity factor, the reactor would be able to produce 90-140 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year, sufficient for almost 20-30 weapons per year.[30] It is estimated that India may have 1,000-1,500 kilograms of weapons plutonium by 2020.[31] India would not be the first country to use a breeder reactor for military purposes; France used its Phénix breeder reactor to produce plutonium for weapons.[32] The experience of many other breeder reactors around the world, however, suggests that operating a breeder reactor at such efficiency may not be easy because breeder reactors have proven susceptible to frequent breakdowns and need long repair times.[33]

Pakistan has explicitly raised the issue of reactor-grade plutonium stocks, with its CD ambassador in February 2010 expressing a concern that an FMCT might not “include other bomb making materials such as reactor grade Plutonium, U233, Neptunium or Americium.”[34]

Pakistan is also concerned about the implications of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal. Signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2008, it lifts 30-year-old restrictions on the sale of nuclear material, equipment, and technology to India. The United States and India convinced the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which has more than 40 members, to exempt India from similar international controls. Responding to the U.S.-Indian deal, Pakistan’s NCA declared in August 2007 that the agreement “would have implications on strategic stability as it would enable India to produce significant quantities of fissile material and nuclear weapons from un-safeguarded nuclear reactors.”[35]

As part of the deal, India is now free to import uranium for its civil program, easing constraints on uranium availability and enabling India to use more of its domestic uranium for its nuclear weapons program. It is estimated that this would enable India to produce up to 200 kilograms a year of weapons-grade plutonium in its unsafeguarded heavy-water power reactors, enough for 40 weapons per year, provided that it can overcome the associated practical problems of increased rates of spent fuel reprocessing and faster refueling.[36]

India has committed that it will declare eight of its indigenously built power reactors as civilian and open them for IAEA safeguarding by 2014 in a phased manner. It is estimated that these eight reactors could produce four metric tons of unsafeguarded plutonium by then.[37] India will keep eight power reactors outside safeguards, which together could produce about 1,250 kilograms of plutonium per year, not all of which India can currently separate.[38] All this plutonium is presumably intended for fueling breeder reactors, but could produce a large number of simple nuclear weapons. The deal allows India to continue to keep outside safeguards its stockpiles of accumulated power reactor spent fuel and separated power reactor plutonium. Furthermore, India can choose whether any future reactors it builds will be declared as military or civilian.

The Big Picture

The generals who command Pakistan’s army, dominate national security, and control nuclear policy and the nuclear weapon complex through the Strategic Plans Division, even when there is an elected civilian government, see a troubling future. Their military mind-sets, vested interests, and old habits lead them to find many reasons to continue to seek strategic parity with India and to produce more fissile material to support a larger nuclear arsenal.

One argument Pakistan has raised for building up fissile material stocks is the prospect of a large Indian arsenal. Zamir Akram claimed in February 2010 that India was aiming for an arsenal of 400 weapons. This arsenal would rely on a triad of platforms, the third leg of which is coming into view. In 2009, India launched its first nuclear-powered submarine.[39] It plans a fleet of three to five, each armed with 12 ballistic missiles.[40] There have been suggestions by former Pakistani officials that the country develop its own nuclear submarine and, in the meantime, lease a nuclear submarine from a friendly power, i.e., China; deploy nuclear-armed cruise missiles on its diesel submarines; and continue fissile material production for the “foreseeable future.”[41] Another justification being offered for a larger fissile material stockpile is India’s pursuit of ballistic missile defenses. (China has raised the same point with regard to U.S. strategic missile defenses.) In 2004 the military officer who serves as director of arms control and disarmament affairs at the Strategic Plans Division argued that India’s missile defense program is likely to “trigger an arms race” and that Pakistan could build more missiles and more warheads, requiring more fissile material; develop decoys and multiple warhead missiles; and move to an alert deployment posture.[42] In 2009, India carried out its third test of a missile interceptor.[43]

More broadly, India’s economy and military spending are now so large and growing so rapidly that Pakistan cannot expect to keep up. In January, India’s Defense Ministry announced plans to spend more than $10 billion this coming year on acquiring new weapons.[44] This was made possible by a 34 percent increase in India’s military budget for 2009-2010, to more than $35 billion; in Pakistan, it went up 15 percent, to just more than $4 billion. Pakistan has been able to buy major new weapons systems because of the large amounts of U.S. military and economic aid that have flowed since the September 11 attacks in return for Islamabad’s support for the U.S. war against al Qaeda and the Taliban, but President Barack Obama has announced that he intends to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 2011. U.S. military aid to Pakistan will not continue at current levels indefinitely, and aid likely will be increasingly for civilian purposes and more carefully audited. Even if China steps up its assistance, Pakistan’s generals believe they cannot keep up with India in a conventional arms race. They may want more nuclear weapons as a counter, while insisting on conventional weapons controls as a condition for progress on an FMCT.

To compound these concerns, Pakistan’s generals see an emerging U.S.-Indian strategic relationship. The U.S.-Indian nuclear deal forms part of a broader January 2004 agreement between the United States and India on “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership,” through which the United States committed to help India with its civilian space program, high-technology trade, missile defense, and civilian nuclear activities. The Obama administration seems as committed as its predecessor to pursuing this relationship with a view to maintaining U.S. primacy and containing China.

A High Price

Former senior officials in Pakistan have argued that, in exchange for talks on an FMCT, Pakistan should receive a nuclear deal like the one given to India, with a lifting of international restrictions by the NSG.[45] Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani claimed in February that “[t]alks between Pakistan and the US for cooperation on atomic programmes are under way and we want the US to have an agreement with us like the one it had with India on civil nuclear technology.”[46] After the U.S.-Indian deal was announced in 2005, U.S. officials repeatedly said the Indian situation was unique and the United States would not extend the same terms to Israel or Pakistan, the other NPT holdouts.[47] However, some U.S. analysts have been urging such a nuclear deal as a way to buy greater cooperation from Pakistan in the war against the Taliban and as a way to assure Pakistan of an enduring U.S. commitment.[48] For their part, U.S. Department of State officials have been cautious in answering questions about the possibility of a nuclear deal with Pakistan. Asked directly in February 2010 if the Obama administration was considering a nuclear deal with Pakistan, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley replied “I’m – I don’t know.”[49] At a March 24 press conference with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi after what was dubbed a U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked if the United States would discuss a nuclear deal with Pakistan. She indicated that the U.S. might consider it eventually, arguing “We have a broad agenda with many complicated issues like the one you referred to… this dialogue that we’re engaged in is helping us build the kind of partnership that can make progress over time on the most complicated of issues.”[50]

A lifting of the current international restrictions on the sale of nuclear reactors and fuel to Pakistan would further strain the nonproliferation regime, already seriously weakened by the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal. With Israel having sought a lifting of NSG restrictions to allow it to import nuclear reactors and fuel, there is a serious danger that the NPT will be rendered largely pointless. Pardoning all three states that chose to remain outside the NPT and develop nuclear weapons would make a mockery of the idea that the treaty offers a platform for moving to nuclear disarmament. Furthermore, by ending the distinction between NPT parties and nonparties with regard to their access to international nuclear trade and technology assistance, it could make countries question the value of being a party to the treaty.

A nuclear deal for Pakistan would carry other costs. It would allow the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to become a much more powerful economic, political, and technological force in Pakistan. PAEC today is responsible for everything from uranium mining to building and operating plutonium-production reactors and reprocessing plants for the nuclear weapons program. It also operates two small power reactors: a 125-megawatt plant bought from Canada in the 1960s and a 300-megawatt plant purchased from China in the 1990s. A second 300-megawatt Chinese reactor is under construction. Pakistan’s plans call for a very large increase in nuclear power capacity, to 2,800 megawatts, by 2020, reaching 8,800 megawatts by 2030.[51] PAEC would become a key gatekeeper for managing the import and operation of the many large and very costly power reactors required to meet these energy targets. A large nuclear energy sector would offer Pakistan a means to mobilize and direct additional financial resources, technologies, material, and manpower to the weapons program. Moreover, Pakistan’s current electricity shortage could be addressed much more quickly and more economically by adding natural gas-fueled power plants, which take much less time to construct and require much less capital than comparable nuclear power plants.

The managers of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons production complex, the military’s Strategic Plans Division, have little incentive to begin talks on an FMCT and even less interest in reaching early agreement or acceding to an eventual treaty. As noted earlier, the complex is in the midst of a very large expansion. In May 2009, The Washington Post reported that the first of the two new production reactors under construction at Khushab may be ready to come online in 2010.[52] An official visit to the Khushab site by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and senior military and nuclear weapons officials in late February may have marked the completion of work on the reactor.[53] The prime minister congratulated Khushab engineers for completing important projects and announced one month’s bonus pay. Work on the third Khushab reactor seems to have started in 2005-2006 and may be completed in a few years. If FMCT talks begin and seem to go well, there may be international pressure for a production moratorium, which would involve suspending production at existing sites and halting work on new facilities. The large investment made in the new reactors and reprocessing plants would be seen to have been wasted. The Khushab reactors, which do not produce electricity, and the associated reprocessing plants would have little if any value for Pakistan’s civilian nuclear energy program.

Finally, Pakistan sees itself able to block progress on an FMCT at the CD because it has seen little sign that the United States or other states care about an FMCT or even about nuclear weapons in South Asia beyond wanting to be reassured about the security of Pakistan’s weapons. Ambassadors at the CD urge Pakistan to allow talks to start, and foreign ministries may send démarches to Islamabad, but Pakistan sees this as diplomacy as usual and not indicative of an international priority requiring Pakistan to undertake a serious policy review or adjust its position.

The view from Islamabad is that the stream of high-level officials arriving there comes to talk about the Taliban and al Qaeda, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. The key U.S. interlocutors have been Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has made 14 visits to Pakistan; Gen. David Petraeus, head of Central Command; and Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is notable that even during Clinton’s recent visit to Pakistan, nuclear weapons issues did not feature on the public agenda except for the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and materials. Even Abdul Qadeer Khan seems to have been forgotten. For now, the United States sees the war against the Taliban as more important than the nuclear arms race in South Asia, just as the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan was more important in the 1980s than stopping Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

Conclusion

When it comes to an FMCT, Pakistan’s security managers, predominantly the army, have been pursuing business as usual, which for the past five decades has meant trying to maintain strategic parity with India. Blocking talks on an FMCT enables them to continue to build up their fissile material stockpile and to highlight to the international community their concerns about a fissile material gap with India and the consequences of India’s current military buildup, especially India’s search for missile defenses, and the consequences of the U.S.-Indian nuclear deal. Holding up an FMCT also allows Pakistan’s nuclear establishment to keep open the prospect of a nuclear deal of its own, which, if granted, would give it dramatically greater power and influence in the energy sector and civilian economy and the means to channel additional resources to the weapons program.

At the CD, Zamir Akram has claimed Pakistan has adopted a principled position on an FMCT based on vital national interests and declared that “we are ready to stand in splendid isolation if we have to.”[54] So far, this has been possible because it has carried little consequence. The international community, led by the United States, has chosen to focus its relationship with Pakistan on fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda. To get started on an FMCT, the United States and other major states, including non-nuclear-weapon states, will need to put it much higher on the agenda. A useful first step might be for Obama and leaders from other countries that want to see an FMCT to put in a call to Islamabad.

Although Pakistan is the most insistent in wanting stocks to be addressed in an FMCT, it is not alone. Along with the Group of 21, countries such as Brazil, Japan, and New Zealand have raised this issue so that an FMCT can serve both nonproliferation and disarmament. These states and others wishing to begin work on an FMCT should assure Pakistan that they will work together with Islamabad in insisting that the treaty cover fissile material stockpiles in an effective way. This assurance could be strengthened at the forthcoming 2010 NPT Review Conference by states deciding to reaffirm the commitment made at the 2000 NPT Review Conference to the need for “[a]rrangements by all nuclear-weapon States to place, as soon as practicable, fissile material designated by each of them as no longer required for military purposes under IAEA or other relevant international verification and arrangements for the disposition of such material for peaceful purposes, to ensure that such material remains permanently outside of military programmes.”[55] One possible way for dealing with such stocks is offered by the draft FMCT developed by the International Panel on Fissile Materials.[56]

It is important for talks on an FMCT to start soon and not be dragged out indefinitely. Among the states still producing fissile material for weapons, Pakistan in particular may seek to delay agreement as a way to add to its fissile material stockpiles. States interested in achieving an FMCT should commit at the CD and as part of the 2010 NPT Review Conference to implement the 2000 review conference decision to begin talks on an FMCT and complete them within five years. To create and sustain real momentum for such negotiations and reach quickly a treaty that Pakistan and other potential holdout states will join, however, the nuclear-weapon states will need to put nuclear disarmament on the agenda. The NPT review conference offers an opportunity to do this.


Zia Mian directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at PrincetonUniversity’s Program on Science and Global Security (PSGS). He is a member of the core staff of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM). A.H. Nayyar is a visiting researcher with PSGS and a member of the IPFM from Pakistan.


ENDNOTES

This article is based on a chapter on Pakistan in Banning the Production of Fissile Materials for Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to a Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty, published in October 2008 and available at www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr08cv.pdf.

1. Jonathan Lynn, “Pakistan Blocks Agenda at U.N. Disarmament Conference,” Reuters, January 19, 2010, www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60I26U20100119.

2. Stephanie Nebehay, “Pakistan Rules Out Fissile Talks for Now–Diplomats,” Reuters, January 22, 2010, www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LDE60K2D9.htm.

3. UN General Assembly, Resolution 48/75L, December 16, 1993, www.un.org/documents/resga.htm.

4. UN Security Council, Resolution 1172, June 6, 1998, www.un.org/Docs/sc/unsc_resolutions.html.

5. “Ambassador Munir Akram’s Statement in the Conference on Disarmament on CTBT, FMCT Issues,” July 30, 1998, www.fas.org/nuke/control/fmct/docs/980730-cd-pak.htm.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. “‘Fissile Material Treaty,’ Statement From Munir Akram, Ambassador of Pakistan,” August 11, 1998, www.acronym.org.uk/fissban/pak.htm.

9. Ibid.

10. Pakistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations, “Statement by Ambassador Masood Khan, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative at the Conference on Disarmament: General Debate: ‘Fissile Material Treaty,’” Geneva, May 16, 2006, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/speeches06/statements%2016%20may/16MayPakistan.pdf.

11. Ibid.

12. “Statement by Ambassador Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN: Adoption of CD’s Programme of Work,” May 29, 2009, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/speeches09/2session/29may_pakistan.html.

13. Pakistan Permanent Mission to the United Nations, “Statement by Ambassador Zamir Akram, Permanent Representative of Pakistan at the Conference on Disarmament (CD),” Geneva, February 18, 2010, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/2010/statements/part1/18Feb_Pakistan.pdf (hereinafter Akram February 2010 statement).

14. Ibid.

15. Beatrice Fihn and Ray Acheson, “The CD Debates the Draft Programme of Work,” March 22, 2010, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/2010/reports.html. The Group of 21 at the CD includes Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe.

16. Avner Cohen and Marvin Miller, “Israel,” in Banning the Production of Fissile Materials for Nuclear Weapons: Country Perspectives on the Challenges to a Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty, International Panel on Fissile Materials, September 2008, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr08cv.pdf.

17. Reaching Critical Will, “Conference on Disarmament: Unofficial Transcript,” Geneva, March 11, 2010, www.reachingcriticalwill.org/political/cd/2010/statements/part1/11March_Pakistan.html (statement by Zamir Akram to the Conference on Disarmament).

18. “Pakistan Moves Closer to Sign Nuclear Treaty,” The Nation, October 26, 1998.

19. “Pakistan Totally Committed to Non-proliferation, Restraint Regime,” Associated Press of Pakistan, April 9, 2006.

20. International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), “Global Fissile Material Report 2009: A Path to Nuclear Disarmament,” October 2009, p.21, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr09.pdf.

21. IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2009,”p. 16.

22. Joby Warrick, “Pakistan Expanding Nuclear Program,” The Washington Post, July 24, 2006; “U.S. Disputes Report on New Pakistan Reactor,” The New York Times, August 3, 2006. Pictures of the third reactor were released in June 2007. David Albright and Paul Brannan, “Pakistan Appears to be Building a Third Plutonium Production Reactor at Khushab Nuclear Site,” Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), June 21, 2007.

23. David Albright and Paul Brannan, “Chashma Nuclear Site in Pakistan With Possible Reprocessing Plant,” ISIS, January 18, 2007; David Albright and Paul Brannan, “Pakistan Expanding Plutonium Separation Facility Near Rawalpindi,” ISIS, May 19, 2009.

24. David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, “Pakistan Expanding Dera Ghazi Khan Nuclear Site: Time for U.S. to Call for Limits,” ISIS, May 19, 2009.

25. Pakistan could potentially accumulate 2,500-6,000 kilograms of HEU by 2020. This range reflects the considerable uncertainty about the evolution of the number and separative work capacity of Pakistan’s centrifuges, as well as the limits on Pakistan’s supply of domestic uranium to feed its enrichment plants and reactors. See Zia Mian, A.H. Nayyar, and R. Rajaraman, “Exploring Uranium Resource Constraints on Fissile Material Production in Pakistan,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 17, No. 2 (2009), pp. 77-108.

26. IPFM, “Global Fissile Material Report 2009,” p. 16.

27. This assumes the power reactor spent fuel has had time to cool for three years and that India’s reprocessing plants operate with a capacity factor of 50 percent.

28. George Perkovich claims “knowledgeable Indian sources confirmed” use of non-weapons-grade plutonium in one of the 1998 nuclear tests. George Perkovich, India’s Nuclear Bomb: The Impact on Global Proliferation (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), pp. 428-430. Similarly, Raj Chengappa claims “one of the devices...used reactor grade or dirty plutonium.” Raj Chengappa, Weapons of Peace: The Secret Story of India’s Quest to Be a Nuclear Power (New Delhi: Harper Collins, 2000), pp. 414-418.

29. “Main Vessel of PFBR Installed, Reactor to Go Live in Sept 2011,” Times of India, December 7, 2009.

30. Alexander Glaser and M.V. Ramana, “Weapon-Grade Plutonium Production Potential in the Indian Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor,” Science & Global Security, Vol. 15, No.2, (2007), pp. 85-106. The amount of plutonium produced will depend on whether both the radial and axial blanket of the reactor, which contain weapon plutonium, will be reprocessed separately from the spent fuel in the reactor core.

31. R. Rajaraman, “Estimates of India’s Fissile Material Stocks,” Science and Global Security, Vol. 16, No. 3 (2008), pp. 74-87.

32. Mycle Schneider, “Fast Breeder Reactors in France,” in Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status, February 2010, www.fissilematerials.org/blog/rr08.pdf.

33. Thomas B. Cochran et al., Fast Breeder Reactor Programs: History and Status, February 2010, www.fissilematerials.org/blog/rr08.pdf.

34. Akram February 2010 statement.

35. “Press Release by Inter-Services Public Relations, No. 318/2007,” August 1, 2007.

36. Zia Mian et al., “Fissile Materials in South Asia: The Implications of the US-India Nuclear Deal,” September 2006, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/rr01.pdf.

37. Ibid.

38. Ibid.

39. “India Launches Nuclear Submarine,” BBC, July 26, 2009.

40. Sandeep Unnithan, “The Secret Undersea Weapon,” India Today, January 28, 2008.

41. Tariq Osman Hyder, “Strategic Stability in South Asia,” The News, August 1, 2009.

42. Khalid Banuri, “Missile Defences in South Asia: The Next Challenge,” South Asian Survey, Vol. 11, No. 2 (2004), pp. 193-203.

43. “India Tests Interceptor Missile,” Agence France-Presse, March 6, 2009.

44. “Armed Forces Modernization on Track: Defense Ministry,” The Hindu, January 1, 2010. www.hindu.com/2010/01/01/stories/2010010153331800.htm.

45. Asif Ezdi, “US Nuclear Duplicity,” The News, January 25, 2010, http://thenews.jang.com.pk/print1.asp?id=220571.

46. Zulqernain Tahir, “Talks Under Way for N-deal With US: Haqqani,” Dawn, February 15, 2010, www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/national/12-talks-under-way-for-ndeal-with-us-haqqani-520--bi-01.

47. See, for example, R. Nicholas Burns and Robert G. Joseph, “The U.S. and India: An Emerging Entente,” Remarks as Prepared for the House International Relations Committee, September 8, 2005, www.nti.org/e_research/official_docs/dos/dos090805.pdf.

48. Stephen P. Cohen, “Addressing the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Relationship,” June 12, 2008 (testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs federal financial management subcommittee); C. Christine Fair, “Pakistan Needs Its Own Nuclear Deal,” Wall Street Journal, February 10, 2010.

49. Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State, “Daily Press Briefing,” Washington, D.C., February 18, 2010, www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2010/02/136915.htm.

50. Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Remarks With Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi After Their Meeting,” Washington, March 24, 2010, www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/03/138996.htm.

51. Zia Mian and A.H. Nayyar, “Pakistan and the Energy Challenge,” in International Perspectives on Energy Policy and the Role of Nuclear Power, ed. Lutz Mez, Mycle Schneider, and Steve Thomas (Brentwood, UK: Multi-Science Publishing, 2009), pp. 515-531.

52. R. Jeffrey Smith and Joby Warrick, “Nuclear Aims by Pakistan, India Prompt U.S. Concern,” The Washington Post, May 28, 2009.

53. Zia Mian, “Pakistan May Have Completed New Plutonium Production Reactor, Khushab-II,” IPFM Web log, February 28, 2010, www.fissilematerials.org/blog/2010/02/pakistan_may_have_complet.html. Satellite imagery from December 2009 has shown steam from the cooling towers at Khushab-2. Paul Brannan, “Steam Emitted From Second Khushab Reactor Cooling Towers; Pakistan May Be Operating Second Reactor,” ISIS, March 24, 2010.

54. Akram February 2010 statement.

55. “2000 NPT Review Conference Final Document,” www.armscontrol.org/act/2000_06/docjun.asp.

56. IPFM, “A Fissile Material (Cut-Off) Treaty: A Treaty Banning the Production of Fissile Materials for Nuclear Weapons or Other Nuclear Explosive Devices,” September 2, 2009, www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/fmct-ipfm-sep2009.pdf.

 

 

Pakistan Presses Case for U.S. Nuclear Deal

As part of a wide-ranging, high-level dialogue between Pakistani and U.S. leaders held in Washington last month, Pakistan reportedly proposed a civilian nuclear trade arrangement similar to the one granted to India, but received a noncommittal response from senior U.S. officials.

Since India and the United States announced plans in 2005 to lift U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with New Delhi, Pakistani officials have argued for such an arrangement.

Daryl G. Kimball

As part of a wide-ranging, high-level dialogue between Pakistani and U.S. leaders held in Washington last month, Pakistan reportedly proposed a civilian nuclear trade arrangement similar to the one granted to India, but received a noncommittal response from senior U.S. officials.

Since India and the United States announced plans in 2005 to lift U.S. and international restrictions on nuclear trade with New Delhi, Pakistani officials have argued for such an arrangement.

Ahead of the March 24-25 talks involving Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that were focused primarily on strategic cooperation on security and energy issues and the war in Afghanistan, Pakistani officials once again raised the possibility of civil nuclear cooperation and recognition of Pakistan’s status as a state possessing nuclear weapons.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari told reporters following a March 16 meeting in Islamabad with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair that U.S. assistance with “[c]ivilian nuclear technology will help Pakistan meet its growing energy demand.”

In an interview with the Los Angeles-based newspaper Pakistan Link published on March 19, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson was quoted as saying the United States is “beginning to have a discussion” with the Pakistani government on the country’s desire to tap nuclear energy. “We are going to have working-level talks” on the issue in Washington, she said.

Patterson said in the interview that U.S. “non-proliferation concerns were quite severe,” but she added, “I think we are beginning to pass those and this is a scenario that we are going to explore.”

Her comments quickly prompted speculation in Pakistan and India and in Washington that the United States might be prepared to reverse existing U.S. policy and law barring civil nuclear trade with Pakistan, which is not a member of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has tested nuclear weapons, and does not accept comprehensive international safeguards for its extensive nuclear infrastructure.

The same is true of India, but the United States created an exception for New Delhi through a process that involved congressional approval for an exemption from the requirements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act, the negotiation of a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement subject to congressional review and approval, and the consensus approval of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). A nuclear deal with Pakistan would have to go through a similar process.

Clinton Cautious

In an interview with Pakistan’s Express TV March 22, Clinton was more circumspect than Patterson about the prospects for nuclear trade. “I’m sure that that’s going to be raised, and we’re going to be considering it, but I can’t prejudge or pre-empt what the outcome of our discussions will be,” Clinton said, adding that the civil nuclear cooperation deal with India “was the result of many, many years of strategic dialogue.”

In September 2008, the NSG, which has more than 40 members, made an India-specific exemption to long-standing guidelines barring civil nuclear trade with states that do not have a comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). (See ACT, October 2008.) The NSG is a voluntary group that coordinates its nuclear export policies in order to prevent the spread of materials and technologies that could aid nuclear weapons programs. In 1992 the group adopted a rule significantly restricting nuclear trade with any non-nuclear-weapon state that does not open all its nuclear facilities and activities to the IAEA. India, Israel, North Korea, and Pakistan are classified as non-nuclear-weapon states under the NPT.

Since the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation initiative was first announced in July 2005, the United States and other key NSG states have rejected repeated suggestions from Pakistan and an overture to the NSG from Israel that they too should be eligible for civil nuclear trade. In March 2007, Israel circulated a “non-paper” to NSG members outlining a criteria-based approach for nuclear supply eligibility that would allow nuclear trade with Israel.

According to a report published in The Wall Street Journal March 22, Pakistan sent a 56-page document to U.S. officials ahead of the strategic talks in Washington. The document reportedly focused on proposals for expanded military and economic aid, but according to the Journal, it also reiterated its request for U.S. support for Pakistan’s civilian nuclear program.

“We want the U.S. to recognize Pakistan’s nuclear status and give us assurances not to undermine the (weapons) program,” a senior Pakistani military officer who serves as an aide to the head of Pakistan’s army, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, told the Journal. “Energy security is crucial, and we need U.S. help,” he said.

On March 23, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters in Washington that “we have not been talking to Pakistan about a civilian nuclear deal. If Pakistan brings it up during the course of the meetings the next two days, we’ll be happy to listen.”

A “Complicated” Issue

In response to a question about the U.S. response to the Pakistani request for civil nuclear cooperation at a joint news conference ahead of the formal talks March 24, Clinton demurred, calling the matter “complicated.”

Qureshi responded by saying that “the most important thing is recognizing that there is a need to fulfill the energy gap, that our indigenous resources that can be exploited, and we also have the option of civilian nuclear technology.”

Following the conclusion of his formal talks with Clinton, Qureshi told Reuters March 25, “I am quite satisfied with the discussions we had” about the nuclear cooperation issue, but declined to elaborate.

The joint communiqué issued March 25 does not reference nuclear energy cooperation specifically, but rather says that “[t]he United States recognized the importance of assisting Pakistan to overcome its energy deficit and committed to further intensify and expand comprehensive cooperation in the energy sector.”

Two senior U.S. lawmakers who met with the Pakistani delegation to Washington called the idea of civil nuclear trade with Pakistan “premature.” In a March 25 interview with The Cable, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) said, “I don’t think it’s on the table right now considering all the other issues we have to confront.”

“There are countless things that they would have to do in order to achieve it. If they’re willing to do all those things, we’ll see,” Kerry said. “There are a lot of things that come first before that. It’s really premature,” he added. “It’s appropriate as something for them to aspire to and have as a goal out there, but I don’t think it’s realistic in the near term.”

In the same article, The Cable also quoted Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the committee’s ranking member, as saying talks on civil nuclear trade with Pakistan would be “premature.”

Khan Concerns

One likely reason for the lawmakers’ reluctance to consider the issue is the unresolved questions surrounding Pakistan’s disgraced former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan. Just days ahead of the high-level U.S.-Pakistani talks in Washington, Pakistani government lawyers sought court permission to investigate new reports concerning Khan’s illicit transfers of nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran and other states.

The petition was filed in the Lahore High Court on March 22 after The Washington Post published an article about alleged notes written by Khan in which he claims that he provided assistance with the knowledge of the Pakistani government to Iran and Iraq to develop nuclear weapons. Since then, Khan has disputed the media account. The Pakistani government has asserted since 2004 that Khan acted without official government knowledge.

In a March 29 decision, the court turned down the government’s request. Reuters quoted Soofi Amar Bilal, a government lawyer, as saying the judge had ruled that “it’s up [to] the government” to decide whether to pursue the investigation.

Khan has been under house arrest since he publicly apologized for his role in a black market nuclear trade network that was finally disrupted but not fully dismantled in 2004. Khan has been barred from meeting with foreigners or traveling abroad. He has been appealing to the public and Pakistan’s courts for relief from the restrictions. In another March 29 decision, the court left the restrictions largely intact, Reuters reported.

A U.S. military and development aid package for Pakistan approved by Congress last September requires that some of the aid shall be withheld until President Barack Obama certifies that Islamabad has provided “relevant information from or direct access to Pakistani nationals” involved in past nuclear commerce. The Pakistani government has so far refused to allow U.S. officials to interview Khan about his role in the nuclear trade network and insists that the matter is “closed.”

 

Pakistan Raises New Issues at Stalled CD

Pakistan has raised a new set of concerns in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the UN body responsible for negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

Islamabad’s objections are holding up the CD’s approval of a program of work on an FMCT and other issues.

Eric Auner

Pakistan has raised a new set of concerns in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the UN body responsible for negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT).

Islamabad’s objections are holding up the CD’s approval of a program of work on an FMCT and other issues.

The stalemate prompted a comment from CD Secretary-General Sergey Ordzhonikidze. Speaking Feb. 11 on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Ordzhonikidze expressed “great disappointment” with the body’s lack of progress, according to an official meeting summary. He described progress in the CD as “not even zero, it was minus.”

The 65-nation CD had been deadlocked since the conclusion of Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty negotiations in 1996. The CD, which operates through consensus, agreed on a work plan in May 2009. Pakistan did not block the plan, although Zamir Akram, Pakistani ambassador to the CD, said at the time it was “not perfect.” The plan included negotiations on an FMCT, as well as substantive discussions on progress toward nuclear disarmament, the prevention of an arms race in space, and the provision of negative security assurances to states not possessing nuclear weapons. (See ACT, June 2009.) The CD failed to adopt a framework to implement that work plan by the end of 2009, due in part to Pakistani concerns.

In January, Akram temporarily blocked the adoption of an agenda for the year as he suggested expanding the issues that it addresses. In a Jan. 19 statement to a CD plenary meeting, he said the “international arms control architecture is incomplete” without a “global regime on missiles.” He went on to say that “the issues of conventional arms control at regional levels and missiles are now pressing problems for the international community.”

The Indian delegation to the CD responded in a statement later that day, opposing the consideration of regional arms control issues at the CD. But the delegation said the CD could address some aspects of a global missile control regime.

In addition, the Pakistani government recently restated its opposition to an FMCT, citing regional security concerns. “Pakistan’s position [on an FMCT] will be determined by its national security interests and the objectives of strategic stability in South Asia. Selective and discriminatory measures that perpetuate regional instability…cannot be accepted or endorsed,” Pakistan’s National Command Authority said in a press release issued after a Jan. 13 meeting. The authority is the body responsible for formulating all aspects of Pakistani nuclear policy.

One of the issues surrounding the proposed FMCT is whether it should cover existing stockpiles as well as future production.

Akram communicated the country’s position to the CD in a Feb. 18 statement. “The FMCT that has been proposed will only ban future production of fissile material” and will “increase the existing asymmetry in fissile materials stockpiles between Pakistan and [India].” Akram said that India would be able to increase its fissile material stockpiles as a result of the 2008 waiver it received from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). (See ACT, October 2008.)

India does not allow international inspections of all its nuclear facilities. Acceptance of full-scope safeguards, as they are known, is a key requirement under NSG export guidelines. The 2008 decision made an exception for India, allowing New Delhi to import nuclear material, equipment, and technology. Critics of the move have said that India’s access to the international uranium market will allow India to devote more of its limited domestic uranium supply to building up its nuclear arsenal.

“We must ensure that the asymmetry” arising from an Indian stockpile increase “does not erode the credibility of our deterrence,” Akram said.

The NSG, which includes more than 40 countries, proceeded with the waiver “because their greed got the better of their principles or they simply lacked the courage of their convictions,” he said.

Ordzhonikidze responded to the Pakistani ambassador later that day. “[I]t is very hard to imagine that a program of work…will hamper [in] any way the strategic security of any member state,” he said.

Hamid Ali Rao, India’s ambassador to the CD, said Feb. 18 that “[t]he CD is not the forum to address bilateral or regional issues.” He urged the Pakistanis to avoid bringing up “extraneous” issues in the CD.

 

 

Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Now Under PM

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari turned over formal control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in November amid continuing political upheaval and doubts about the future of his presidency.

Zardari’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) “was not taken in isolation or under any pressure, rather [it was] meant to decentralize the powers” of the president, Press Secretary to the President Taimur Azmat Osman said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government-run news agency. The text of the Nov. 27 ordinance implementing the decision was not available at press time.

Eric Auner

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari turned over formal control of the nation’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in November amid continuing political upheaval and doubts about the future of his presidency.

Zardari’s decision to give up the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) “was not taken in isolation or under any pressure, rather [it was] meant to decentralize the powers” of the president, Press Secretary to the President Taimur Azmat Osman said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan, a government-run news agency. The text of the Nov. 27 ordinance implementing the decision was not available at press time.

Many analysts in the region and in the United States say the transfer will not have a significant effect on the practical control of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. In an op-ed published in Pakistan’s Daily Times, journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote that changes to the NCA would not affect the army’s control over the country’s nuclear weapons because “[c]ivilians have never controlled Pakistan’s nuclear program.” Smruti S. Pattanaik, a research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, wrote on the institute’s Web site, “An elected President (and now the Prime Minister) chairing the NCA gives him notional control over nuclear weapons and thus creates a sense of civilian ownership.… Such a change of guard from President to Prime Minister does not portend any major shift in civilian control over the Army.”

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the HenryL.StimsonCenter in Washington, wrote on the center’s Web site that it is unclear whether “changes in the NCA and public releases of information about them [are] helpful or harmful to nuclear stabilization on the subcontinent.”

In 2000, Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf created the NCA to oversee Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and formulate nuclear policy. The precise function and role of the NCA were clarified in the 2007 National Command Authority Ordinance. According to that ordinance, the NCA is intended to exercise “complete command and control over research, development, production and use of nuclear and space technologies…and to provide for the safety and security of all personnel, facilities, information, installations or organisations” relating to the nuclear and space programs.

According to Krepon, Musharraf’s creation of the NCA gave Pakistan “a stable, institutional structure for Pakistan’s nuclear decision making.” Zardari replaced Musharraf as president in 2008, inheriting many of the broad powers that Musharraf had claimed for himself as president.

In the 2007 NCA ordinance, the president is named as NCA chairman and the prime minister is named as vice chairman.

The transfer of nuclear authority occurred the day before the expiration of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a 2007 ordinance that had granted Zardari immunity from prosecution. The expiration of the NRO, which was declared void “ab initio,” meaning that the ordinance was not legal in the first place, by the Pakistani Supreme Court Dec. 16, has caused a political firestorm in Pakistan. The NRO had protected many important Pakistani political figures from prosecution on charges ranging from corruption to murder. Although Zardari is still immune from prosecution as president, there have been calls for him to resign. According to the Indian newspaper The Hindu, former Prime Minister and current opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has called for all NRO beneficiaries to resign, although he did not mention Zardari by name.

The NCA chairmanship is just one of the powers that Zardari has given away as part of what many observers see as a bid to maintain his troubled presidency. However, according to Rashid, “There is enormous political speculation as to whether that will satisfy the army or only embolden it to press further for Zardari’s resignation.”

In a Dec. 9 New York Times op-ed, Zardari framed the change in the context of “mov[ing] forcefully to re-establish the traditional powers of the presidency as defined in the parliamentary model on which our Constitution is based.” He said the change in nuclear leadership is “not a sign of weakness, but rather a demonstration of the vitality of Pakistani democracy.”

 

 

Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Separating Myth From Reality

Pakistan is passing through an extremely delicate phase in its history. Recent instability in Pakistan, including the Taliban's advance into settled areas, prompted the Pakistani military to undertake large-scale military operations in the Swat Valley. As military and Taliban forces fight in the rugged tribal terrain, several Western analysts have raised concerns about the future of nuclear Pakistan. (Continue)

Feroz Hassan Khan

Pakistan is passing through an extremely delicate phase in its history. Recent instability in Pakistan, including the Taliban's advance into settled areas, prompted the Pakistani military to undertake large-scale military operations in the Swat Valley. As military and Taliban forces fight in the rugged tribal terrain, several Western analysts have raised concerns about the future of nuclear Pakistan.[1]

The nightmare specter of nuclear weapons, nuclear material, or a whole country falling into al Qaeda or Taliban hands is invoked, creating fear and mistrust between critical allies in the war against terrorism. The risk of a dangerous policy outcome in the United States, based on flawed assumptions, is now far greater than the probability either of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Taliban and other extremists or of the disintegration of Pakistan itself. Any misstep against a nervous nuclear-armed country would be a greater mistake than any made in Iraq. Fortunately, the current top leadership in the United States can distinguish reality from myth.[2] Nevertheless, misperceptions about weapons of mass destruction have influenced U.S. decisions too recently to be ignored in a discussion of the current situation in Pakistan.

Western fears about Pakistani nuclear security range from valid to bizarre. The more valid concerns involve theft of material, sabotage, unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, and insider-outsider collaboration. The potential for terrorist infiltration into the program is a concern for Western analysts and the Pakistani nuclear establishment. The bizarre fear involves the allegation that Pakistani armed forces and intelligence agencies, who are the custodians and guardians of the nuclear arsenal, could be accomplices to such an act as Taliban sympathizers.[3] An alternate scenario posits that the inability of the armed forces to defeat the Taliban extremists would result in abdication of the Pakistani state to the Taliban.[4] Gen. Tariq Majid, chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, called such scenarios "plain mischievous" and said they "need to be contemptuously dismissed."[5]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."[6] His words aptly describe the prevalent fears in regard to the situation in Pakistan today. Two main dangers emanate from the hype on nuclear insecurity in Pakistan. The first danger is that the grossly exaggerated threat perception in the West may prompt the United States into policy choices it would later regret.[7] The second danger is that continuing media focus on this issue stokes Pakistani paranoia about U.S. intentions. These fears and suspicions about U.S. intervention inside Pakistan could provoke that country to take defensive actions against foreign intervention rather than focusing on the possibility of reducing internal threats to nuclear security and could further fan anti-U.S. public sentiment. It is true that stability in Pakistan is shaky, its fledgling democracy is in transition, and it is facing internal threats from extremists. Until recently, decision-makers in Pakistan were in a state of denial and reacted only when the Taliban threat exploded in their faces. Therefore, it is justified to worry and ask questions about the security of a nuclear-armed country undergoing such a traumatic experience. It would be equally correct to weigh the seriousness of the threat against the ability of the state's security apparatus and its nuclear security measures to prevent the worst from happening.

This article examines the nuclear security of Pakistan in light of recent developments: the increasing threat of the Taliban and reports of Pakistan's expanding nuclear arsenal. The article will explore the backdrop of Pakistan's nuclear development in relation to U.S. policy. It will then examine the perceptions of insecurity and explain how Pakistan's threat priorities differ from U.S. concerns. Next, it will explain Pakistani efforts to establish a nuclear management system and the development of nuclear security culture. The article will conclude by examining the U.S. role in the evolving Pakistani nuclear security regime.

Backdrop: Regional Security

The nuclear dimension of regional security in South Asia is essentially a deterrence construct between India and Pakistan.[8] Although little has changed between India and Pakistan in the decade following their 1998 nuclear tests, the regional security landscape has been completely altered. [9] The region now faces new forms of asymmetric threat, the likes of which have never been experienced.

The war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, has metastasized into a classic insurgency and expanded into Pakistan. The impact of the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s, insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir, and domestic changes brought about during the Zia ul-Haq era have had a deleterious impact on the social fabric of Pakistan. New forms of religious-based militancy and an ethos of jihad were introduced in Pakistan at a time when the country was politically abandoned by its Western allies and slapped with nuclear sanctions.[10] Thus began a bitter history of distrust between Pakistan and the United States.[11]

Under these challenging and often unhealthy circumstances, Pakistan's covert nuclear program incubated and matured into an operational deterrent. The United States and Pakistan never saw eye to eye with regard to the latter's nuclear ambitions. Since the mid-1970s, every effort the United States undertook to block, stymie, and dissuade Pakistan eventually failed to stop Pakistan in its quest to acquire a nuclear deterrent.[12] The story of Pakistan's clandestine means of acquisition is widely known,[13] but less is known about the context, which involves domestic national politics, regional security, and intense geopolitical engagement with the United States.[14] By the turn of the century, the U.S. policy of rolling back Pakistan's nuclear capability had become an unrealistic objective. The United States instead sought to restrict Pakistan's nuclear capability to a minimum deterrence posture and dampen the security competition with India.

During the 1980s and 1990s, while Pakistan was building its nuclear program, issues of nuclear security and command and control were not the prime concern. That changed after Afghanistan-based terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, and news spread about a meeting in the summer of 2001 of two retired Pakistani scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majeed, with Osama bin Laden. Until then, concerns about "loose nukes" and nuclear material smuggling were focused on the former Soviet Union. Three years later, the shocking revelations about Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear smuggling network made Pakistan's nuclear program even more controversial.

Perceptions of Insecurity

States managing a nuclear weapons program typically have three main types of nuclear security concerns. First, every nuclear-capable state worries about the external threat of a preventive strike by hostile powers against its nuclear facilities. Second, such states worry about physical invasion of the state by a hostile neighbor. The third and probably the most dangerous concern is insider-outsider collaboration. Pakistan has lived with all three categories of threats since the inception of its nuclear program. Like every state, Pakistan's program places great emphasis on secrecy and compartmentalization. In the past, no single office, organization, or authority held ultimate responsibility for supervision. For the past decade, there has been a National Command Authority (NCA) with a dedicated secretariat (the Strategic Plans Division, or SPD), which is responsible for all nuclear-related activities.[15] Since these institutions were established, events, controversies, and deterioration of the regional and domestic environment have forced Pakistan to tighten its oversight and control.

The Taliban threat within Pakistan is a new phenomenon. The militant group led by Baitullah Mehsud belonging to the tribal belt in Waziristan calls itself the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP). The TTP is an extremist fringe whose activities have now expanded from the tribal areas into the settled areas of Pakistan. This provoked military operations that continue today and have resulted in the displacement of millions of people. The exact size of the Taliban in Pakistan is not known, but estimates range from 5,000 to 15,000. Grisly practices such as the public flogging of a young woman in April, against a backdrop of kidnapping, bombings of schools and mosques, and general killing of innocent civilians, turned the Pakistani public against any accommodation with the TTP or any other religious extremist organization. The tipping point arrived when the TTP exploited the "peace deal" and advanced further inland. The Pakistani public was shocked at the actions of an elected government that abdicated to such a force by negotiating a deal.[16]

Pakistan's armed forces are a half-million strong, and the country has a moderate Muslim populace with a history of repeatedly rejecting religious political parties.[17] The country has reacted forcefully against the Taliban, so the fear that Pakistani nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of the Taliban is totally misplaced.[18] As explained by Naeem Salik in a recent op-ed, there is "no causal relationship between the military operations against the Taliban and the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal."[19]

Nuclear security is a function of nuclear management, which covers both the nuclear arsenal and peaceful nuclear energy. The force goals and the size of the nuclear arsenal are determined by a comprehensive examination of national threats and responses to them. Meanwhile, nuclear energy requirements are based on long-term national development planning. Mixing the two together as a general expansion of nuclear capacity confuses the issue. Further, the terms "proliferation" and "nuclear security" are often used interchangeably. For example, Pakistani purchase of light-water power reactors under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards should not be a proliferation concern.[20] The security of this expanding nuclear infrastructure requires an examination of the state's nuclear security regime, explained below.

External and Internal Threats

Pakistan does not have an enviable geography. It is surrounded by giant nuclear-armed neighbors Russia, China, and India. Its elongated shape lacks depth, making lines of communication vulnerable to India. Pakistan's western provinces consist of territories that are volatile because of border disputes (the Durand Line with Afghanistan) or internal tribal unrest, leaving the security managers of the state with extremely difficult choices. Pakistan's strategic planners are acutely aware of these structural vulnerabilities and account for them when selecting sites for sensitive nuclear and strategic organizations. They balance external threats, internal volatility, technical requirements, resource availability, and the secrecy requirements of every sensitive site. Therefore, generalized statements about nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban are disconnected from the reality on the ground.

Since the late 1970s, Pakistan's perceptions of threats to its nuclear program were externally oriented. Preventive strikes or sabotage of the program were hypothetical considerations until Israel successfully struck Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981. Pakistan quickly assessed that India would mimic Israel. The proximity of Pakistan's centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant at Kahuta to the Indian border forced Pakistan to secure it and other strategic sites with air and ground defenses.[21] In the mid-1980s, Indian plans for a preventive strike were leaked to the press, confirming Pakistani fears. India later shelved the plan, but the notion never died in the minds of the Indian military. In the winter of 1986-1987, the Indian military planned Brass Tacks, a provocative military exercise designed to give India an excuse to strike at Kahuta.[22] By then, the new mysterious site tucked in the foothills of Islamabad had become a source of curiosity to spies and diplomats. Layers of security were added to protect the program not only from external attacks but also from spies and news reporters. Around this period, the Afghan jihad against the Soviets expanded, as did Pakistani nuclear infrastructure.

The nuclear security culture was originally designed to protect the autonomy of the scientists so that their work could continue unhindered. Because of the significance of the cause, managers of the program had no authority to question the motives and practices of the scientists. This enabled Khan to take advantage of the lack of proper accountability. Another reason that Pakistan wanted to avoid publicizing the program was the risk of losing U.S. aid by triggering various U.S. laws designed to stop Pakistani efforts.[23]

Physical Invasion of the Country

Pakistan has existed under the threat of invasion throughout its existence. Several wars were fought with India, one of which resulted in Pakistani national dismemberment. Even during the British Raj, the Indian subcontinent lived under the threat of physical invasion, especially from armies using historical routes such as the Khyber and Bolan Passes. New doctrines of wars to defeat and destroy Pakistan continue to be contemplated, practiced, and exercised in India.[24] Since the mid-1980s, six major military crises of varying degrees of intensity have forced Pakistan to consider physical invasion from India an existential threat in perpetuity. This perception cannot be wished away unless India and Pakistan undertake a structured and sustained program of conflict resolution, in conjunction with conventional and nuclear arms control measures. The Pakistani armed forces must balance three dimensions: India, Afghanistan's threat to the western border, and internal extremist threats.[25] When selecting strategic sites, Pakistan carefully takes these threats into account. Material storage, missile silos, and movement of sensitive material and personnel are being carefully and professionally watched, and best practices are being developed to prevent security breaches.[26] Details of such procedures cannot be publicly shared for obvious security reasons. No state with nuclear weapons is likely to discuss its operational management; it is always shrouded in secrecy.[27]

Insider-Outsider Collusion

Insiders in the program could have one of several motives. Some could be driven by economic incentives. Others may see an opportunity for political gain. Some may be driven by revenge, grudges, jealousies, psychiatric disorders, and so on. Also, moles or spies could reveal nuclear secrets to outside powers, help sabotage or destroy the program from within, or disclose a site's location to facilitate outside attacks. U.S. media reports and publications from authors widely known to base their writings on U.S. government leaks have reinforced perceptions in Pakistan that its nuclear infrastructure must be protected as much from allies as from hostile groups.[28]

Finally, there is the danger from religious fanatics. In the case of Pakistan, it is not just the proximity of terrorist groups but also trends in some segments of society that are under the influence of religious cults.[29] These factors have made the managers of nuclear security more alert than ever as details in the next section explain.

Institutional Changes

After the nuclear tests in 1998, the Pakistani nuclear program faced three major needs: to review national security policies, institutionalize the management of the nuclear program, and develop a prudent strategy for a robust strategic force.[30] The first challenge required Pakistan to have a national security apparatus capable of comprehensively analyzing national security policy in changing times. This challenge is being tackled nationally at the political level. The remaining two challenges involve the NCA, which comprises the top civilian, military, and scientific decision-makers in the country. The SPD, formed in 1999, provides institutional oversight on nuclear decision-making.

Pakistan's strategic force goals are designed to redress the vulnerabilities described above and to restore strategic balance. Matching warhead to warhead or accumulating fissile stocks for military purposes is not the goal. The objective is to ensure deterrence stability by calculating a minimum deterrence posture that is related to the increasing capabilities of its adversary, namely India.

Next, nuclear technology is for civilian use as well. Pakistan's 25-year plan calls for an installed capacity of 8,800 megawatts of nuclear energy.[31] Nuclear force goals and nuclear energy will thus remain essential national priorities.

As the nuclear program expands, Pakistan's nuclear security regime must meet a higher qualitative and quantitative standard. The armed forces, widely acknowledged to be Pakistan's most stable institution, are responsible for the custody and development of Pakistan's nuclear safety regime. In fact, Pakistan's nuclear management, including nuclear security and safety, has been more widely discussed and scrutinized than that of any other power. The professional and technical ability of Pakistan ought to be encouraged rather than disparaged.

Evolution of Security Culture

Nuclear security culture evolved in Pakistan after the September 11 attacks.[32] Pakistan improved its supervisory procedure for military and scientific manpower. The security division of the SPD established a reporting system for monitoring the movements of all officials. Two identical programs for employment security were created: the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) and the Human Reliability Program (HRP), for military and civilian personnel, respectively. A security clearance system of annual, semiannual, and quarterly review was created. Counter Intelligence Teams were created to act as the daily eyes and ears of the SPD. Weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports for the security of all organizations are maintained by the SPD to prevent theft, loss, or accident.

Next, a system of sensitive material control and accounting was introduced. The system was derived from modern training, possibly modeled on U.S. national laboratory procedures. The system involved regular and surprise inspections to tally material production and waste in order to maintain transparency and accountability. Under a careful, secret plan instituted by the SPD, professional guards at static sites and escorts with tight security procedures are involved during transportation. Special theft- and tamper-proof vehicles and containers are used.[33] In peacetime, nuclear weapons are not mated with their delivery systems and are not operationally deployed. Operational secrecy precludes specific discussion of management of nuclear arsenals, but a two-man rule and, in some cases, a three-man rule is followed, with physical safety and firewalls built into the weapon system to prevent any unauthorized launch.[34]

The inception of the Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP), organized by the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA), was a very important development in Pakistan's nuclear security management. The PNRA is an independent body responsible for civilian programs, but it coordinates closely with the SPD. The two organizations complement each other by sharing best practices.

The main task of the NSAP is to manage all nuclear activities and radioactive sources that are under regulatory control and to develop a sustainable national system. Nuclear security emergency centers and procedures to secure orphan radioactive sources and to secure borders against any illicit trafficking have been put in place. Rigorous inspections are one key element of the PNRA's activities to strengthen controls. Another is the training of a wide variety of personnel from all major organizations. The training involves nuclear security, physical protection, emergency preparedness, detection equipment, recovery operations, and border monitoring. The organizations involved in training are the Coast Guard, Frontier Corps, Pakistan Rangers, Customs, Emergency & Rescue Services, National Disaster Management Cell, intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, and all strategic organizations including offices from the SPD.[35]

A Nuclear Security Emergency Coordination Center has been established in Islamabad, which is the focal point of coordination, by all the government agencies mentioned above. In addition, regional offices in all major cities have been established, creating a network of six emergency-response mobile laboratories. The primary job of this network, which was completed in December 2008, is to track and respond to any threat of illicit nuclear material, a radioactive source, or a radiological dispersion device ("dirty bomb"). Finally, the NSAP has established border controls at major crossing points with state-of-the-art screening procedures with the help of the IAEA and the U.S. Department of Energy.[36]

The U.S. Role

The recent hype and, at times, irresponsible writing by U.S. academics with serious credentials has created a sense of cynicism in Islamabad, reinforcing beliefs that the recent chatter is a prelude to aggressive counterproliferation measures by the United States.[37]

Many claims, such as those in a recent Boston Globe article[38] alleging the existence of a secret joint Pakistani-U.S. strategy for U.S. access to Pakistan, are baseless.[39] Pakistan is very careful in seeking assistance on nuclear technology from the United States, especially if the assistance is perceived to be of an intrusive nature. Like other nuclear-capable states, Pakistan jealously guards its locations and nuclear best practices from any outside influence or knowledge.[40] However, it is always keen to learn of other countries' nuclear security measures and to acquire detection equipment at seaports, airports, and other border crossings.

In 2001, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell offered nuclear security assistance to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The SPD carefully examined the offer and accepted training but declined technology transfers, which they perceived as intrusive or likely to compromise program secrecy. Since then, Pakistan has benefited from advanced-level training from U.S. national laboratories and has improved its best practices in accordance with its own security culture.[41] There has been no further acceptance by Pakistan of any assistance from the United States, especially permissive action links (PALs), the coded mechanical or electrical locks designed to prevent unauthorized arming or detonation of a nuclear weapon.

There are two issues regarding cooperation on PALs. First, the U.S. export control laws restrict sharing PAL technology with other countries, especially with countries that are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).[42] Second, transferring PALs not only helps prevent unauthorized use, but also can encourage the recipient state to deploy and disperse the weapons, thus facilitating nuclear use. There are objections from the proposed recipient as well. The recipient state would have to share details of its nuclear weapons design for the technology transfer to work.[43] No country shares such secrets.

In fact, alarmist stories in the U.S. media actually undermine any possibility of positive U.S. assistance.[44] U.S. speculation about contingency plans and pre-emptive weapons seizure leads to greater Pakistani distrust of the United States. Referring to conjecture on U.S. plans to seize nuclear sites, Michael Krepon accurately summed up Pakistani anxieties: "I think these plans-if they exist and I'm not sure that they do-[are] unlikely to be successfully executed and would result in multiple mushroom clouds. So I think this is a bad idea, and it's a bad idea even to talk about it."[45]

What the United States can do is explain to Pakistan its own experience with nuclear security management. The United States cannot boast of a perfect security record itself.[46] Nevertheless, as the most experienced nuclear power, the United States can share its nuclear security practices, performances of the system, and the likelihood of mishaps.

Pakistan has three decades of experience in producing, transferring, and storing fissile stocks and weapons. Pakistani security managers have also learned to put in place detection equipment and security barriers, as well as set up checkpoints and customs posts. Such types of performance are easily measurable and can be improved with little assistance required.

The effectiveness of the nuclear security culture is difficult to measure, which is true for all nuclear powers, including the United States. It involves institutionalization of standing operating procedures and practices beyond individuals. No matter how good a system is, it will require constant improvement. Other countries cannot measure the effectiveness of Pakistan's system, but generic training and the sharing of experience will help improve it. The efficacy of any system is tested only when a mishap or near-miss occurs. It is important for any organization to learn the ways by which a clever and determined criminal might overcome security. Only then can the physical and technical limitations of the system be evaluated. For example, managers may have confidence in existing detection sensors, but a clever criminal can manipulate them by rigging the system or discerning the alarm threshold and stealing quantities below that threshold.

The United States has produced sensitive sensors and software that can detect radiation at an extremely low level. Pakistan is unlikely to accept foreign-made sensors in any of its sensitive sites, but it can use these devices at major geographical chokepoints. By utilizing its elaborate network of river systems and canals, which restrict movement, Pakistan can make broader security improvements. The United States can help Pakistan modernize its NSAP by installing modern sensors and radiation monitors for portal monitoring at locations acceptable to Pakistan. This would help prevent terrorist transport of conventional explosives as well as illicit radiological material. Modern sensors at key bridges on Indus River systems, for example, will help nuclear security and internal security against suicide bombers.

The most difficult aspect of measuring effectiveness comes from the unpredictability of human motivations. Motivated individuals can always elude effective barriers. Therefore, Pakistan must constantly maintain a very close watch over the system, in addition to upgrading and improving the PRP and HRP. Simply adding more guards and security personnel will not suffice; Pakistan must constantly evaluate its system to detect potential failures. The security divisions of the SPD and intelligence services have layers of security and counterintelligence mechanisms for all sensitive sites. They are highly active and alert in updating, monitoring, and keeping a vigilant watch to detect and respond to any undesirable proclivities within the system. Western countries can share their experience with Pakistan to help improve the screening and certification procedures of its PRP and HRP. The implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which establishes a requirement for countries to take measures to prevent proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their delivery systems, is extremely important, and Pakistan is believed to have taken serious steps to enforce international standards. National security considerations, however, prevent the SPD from publishing its results. Notably, Pakistani safeguards have always been in good standing with the IAEA, and Pakistan is a member of almost all international safety and security conventions.

Conclusion

Pakistan lives in a security-intensive environment, with internal and external threats. Nuclear weapons form an essential ingredient of its national security. Pakistan's pursuit of a nuclear capability is fraught with a history of friction with the United States. Pakistan has refused to be coerced on the nuclear question and views U.S. concern over nuclear security as "deliberate misinformation" and a "vicious campaign unleashed to malign and discredit" its achievement.[47]

Despite widely known limitations, Pakistan has done remarkably well in establishing a nuclear security regime and an evolving nuclear security culture that requires encouragement and support. It has been quite liberal in briefing U.S. officials, academics, and even journalists about its nuclear management. Over several years, Pakistan has sent officials, technicians, and administrators to receive training on modern technical solutions and management under the aegis of mutually acceptable arrangements that cater to each side's sensitivities.

Veiled threats and unsubstantiated criticism of its efforts can push an important nuclear-armed country in distress into directions highly undesirable for Pakistan and the United States. As critical allies in the war against violent extremism, the two countries have more pressing issues to tackle. Majid sums up the Pakistani perceptions of external or internal threats and the country's likely response: "Let it be known that Pakistan is confident but not complacent. Our security apparatus prepares and practices contingencies to meet all such eventualities and would not be deterred from taking any action whatsoever in ensuring that our strategic assets are jealously safeguarded. Any attempt to undermine our core capability will be strongly resisted and defeated."[48]


Retired Brig. Gen. Feroz Hassan Khan is a former director of arms control and disarmament affairs in the Strategic Plans Division of the Joint Services Headquarters of Pakistan. He is currently on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The author is grateful to Paul Faris for his research and editing assistance.


ENDNOTES

1. See Bruce Riedel, "Pakistan and the Bomb," The Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2009; Bryan Bender, "Pakistan, US in Talks on Nuclear Security," Boston Globe, May 5, 2009, www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/05/05/pakistan_us_in_talks_on_nuclear_security/; Andrea Shalal-Esa, "U.S. Lawmaker Worried by Sag in Support for Defense," Reuters, June 24, 2009 (quoting Representative John Murtha [D-Pa.] about U.S. airstrikes against Pakistani nuclear targets).

2. Statements from President Barack Obama and senior U.S. political and military leaders have provided assurances on the security of the Pakistani nuclear program, even though they have recognized the internal instability and weak governance. See http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/29/obama.transcript/ (Obama's statement on the occasion of 100 days in office).

3. See Leonard Spector, "Pakistan, Taliban and Global Security - Part I," YaleGlobal, May 8, 2009; Riedel, "Pakistan and the Bomb"; David Albright, Paul Brannan, and Robert Kelley, "Pakistan Expanding Dera Ghazi Khan Nuclear Site: Time for U.S. to Call for Limits," ISIS Imagery Brief, May 19, 2009, p. 4.

4. Bender, "Pakistan, US in Talks on Nuclear Security."

5. See "No Compromise on Nukes: Pakistan," Indo-Asian News Service, June 18, 2009, http://in.news.yahoo.com/43/20090618/876/twl-no-compromise-on-nukes-pakistan.html.

6. Franklin D. Roosevelt, first inaugural address, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1933, http://bartelby.org/124/pres49.html.

7. See Simon Tisdall, "Pakistan Nuclear Projects Raise US Fears," The Guardian, May 3, 2009 (quoting Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani).

8. For details, see Feroz Hassan Khan, "The Independence/Dependence Paradox: Stability Dilemmas in South Asia," Arms Control Today, October 2003, pp. 15-19.

9. India and Pakistan have failed to resolve their conflict, and the United States continues to intervene to defuse crises but shies away from mediation because of Indian sensitivity.

10. For Zia ul-Haq's policy, see Robert G. Wirsing, Pakistan's Security Under Zia, 1977-1988 (London: MacMillan, 1991). For the ethos of jihad, see Zahid Hussain, Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), pp. 12-32.

11. See Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (New York: Penguin, 2004).

12. Feroz Hassan Khan, "Nuclear Proliferation Motivations: Lessons From Pakistan," in Nuclear Weapons Proliferation in the Next Decade, ed. Peter Lavoy (New York: Routledge, 2008), pp. 69-85.

13. See Mark Fitzpatrick, ed., "Nuclear Black Markets: Pakistan, A.Q. Khan and the Rise of Proliferation Networks," IISS Strategic Dossier, May 2007.

14. See Peter Lavoy, "Nuclear Proliferation Over the Next Decade: Causes, Warning Signs, and Policy Responses," The Nonproliferation Review (November 2006), pp. 441-442; Feroz Hassan Khan, "Nuclear Proliferation Motivations: Lessons From Pakistan," The Nonproliferation Review (November 2006), pp. 501-517.

15. Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, lecture at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, October 27, 2006 (hereinafter Kidwai lecture). See Fitzpatrick, "Nuclear Black Markets."

16. The term "abdication" to the terrorists was used by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose view was echoed by Obama in the April 29, 2009, speech marking his 100th day in office. For the transcript, see http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/29/obama.transcript/.

17. The only exception was in the 2002 elections, when a coalition of religious parties won a plurality in the North West Frontier Province to form a provincial government. The coalition was routed in the 2008 elections.

18. See Tisdall, "Pakistan Nuclear Projects Raise US Fears."

19. Naeem Salik,"Comment: Riedel and the Pakistani Bomb," Daily Times, June 18, 2009, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C06%5C18%5Cstory_18-6-2009_pg3_2.

20. Ibid.

21. Feroz Hassan Khan and Peter Lavoy, "Pakistan: The Dilemma of Nuclear Deterrence," in The Long Shadow: Nuclear Weapons and Security in 21st Century Asia, ed. Muthiah Alagappa (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pp. 220-221.

22. Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003), pp. 93-95. See Scott D. Sagan, "The Perils of Proliferation," in South Asia in 2020: Future Strategic Balances and Alliances, ed. Michael R. Chambers (Carlisle, Pa.: Strategic Studies War College, 2002), pp. 198-199.

23. See the 1977 Glenn and Symington Amendments and the 1985 Pakistan-specific Pressler Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.

24. See, for example, Walter Carl Ladwig III, "A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army's New Limited War Doctrine," International Security, Winter 2007/08, pp. 158-190.

25. Ladwig, "A Cold Start for Hot Wars?" pp. 158-190; S. Paul Kapur, "India and Pakistan's Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia Is Not Like Cold War Europe," International Security, Fall 2005, pp. 138-139.

26. See Zafar Ali, "Pakistan's Nuclear Assets and Threats of Terrorism: How Grave Is the Danger?" Henry L. Stimson Center, July 2007, www.stimson.org/southasia/pdf/PakistanNuclearAssets-070607-ZafarAli-FINAL.pdf; Abdul Mannan, "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan: Sabotage of a Spent Fuel Cask or a Commercial Irradiation Source in Transport," Henry L. Stimson Center, April 2007, www.stimson.org/southasia/pdf/VFMannan.pdf.

27. See Ashton B. Carter, John D. Steinbruner, and Charles A Zraket, Managing Nuclear Operations (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1987), p. 1.

28. Seymour Hersh, "Watching the Warheads: The Risk to Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal," The New Yorker Magazine, November 5, 2001, pp. 48-54. Hersh alleges that "an elite Pentagon undercover unit [has been] trained to slip into foreign countries and find suspected nuclear weapons, and disarm them if necessary.... [The unit] has explored plans for an operation in Pakistan." See David Albright, "Securing Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons Complex" (paper for the 42nd Strategy for Peace Conference, Warrenton, Virginia, October 25-27, 2001), www.isis-online.org/publications/terrorism/stanleypaper.html; Nigel Hawkes, "The Nuclear Threat: Pakistan Could Lose Control of Its Arsenal," Times Online, September 20, 2001.

29. See Hasan-Askari Rizvi "Re-socialising Pakistan," Daily Times, June 7, 2009, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2009%5C06%5C07%5Cstory_7-6-2009_pg3_2.

30. Kidwai lecture.

31. Pakistan's energy requirement for the next 25 years is about 163,000 megawatts. Nuclear energy's share will be 8,800 megawatts, necessitating a twenty-fold increase in its current civilian nuclear capacity. For a description of Pakistan's Vision 2030 project, see Zafar Bhutta, "Nuclear Power Plants of 1280MW: Pakistan to Seek Financing From China," Daily Times, September 4, 2008, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\04\09\story_9-4-2008_pg5_1.

32. Pakistan's definition of nuclear security is "[t]he prevention and detection of, and response to, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities." Jamshed Hashmi, presentation at a workshop by the Partnership for Global Security, Washington, D.C., February 21-22, 2008 (hereinafter Hashmi presentation).

33. Kidwai lecture; Mannan, "Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in Pakistan," pp. 30-31.

34. For further details, see Kenneth N. Luongo and Naeem Salik, "Building Confidence in Pakistan's Nuclear Security," Arms Control Today, December 2007, www.armscontrol.org/act/2007_12/Luongo.

35. Hashmi presentation.

36. Luongo and Salik, "Building Confidence in Pakistan's Nuclear Security."

37. For example, assertions in The Wall Street Journal by former CIA official Bruce Riedel, who is also one of the senior advisers on Obama's "AfPak" policy, are not viewed in Pakistan as academic but rather quasi-official U.S. views. See Salik, "Comment"; S.M. Hali, "Why Bruce Riedel Has Lost My Respect," The Nation (Pakistan), June 3, 2009.

38. Bender, "Pakistan, US in Talks on Nuclear Security."

39. Air Cmdr. Khalid Banuri, communication with author, June 5, 2009 and June 29, 2009. The Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a media briefing on May 7, 2009, and said there was no truth to the Boston Globe assertions.

40. Kidwai lecture; Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai, interview with author, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, April 19, 2009.

41. Strategic Plans Division, briefing to Naval Postgraduate School team, Islamabad, February 25, 2007. The briefing was part of the U.S.-Pakistan Track II Strategic Dialogue for Long-Term Partnership.

42. U.S. laws make an exception for sharing such technology only with NPT nuclear-weapon states. Pakistan is not a party to the NPT.

43. Garima Singh, "Interview With Brig Feroz Hassan Khan," Strategic Insights, Vol. 4, No. 7 (July 2005), www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/si/2005/Jul/khanJul05.asp.

44. For a perfect example of reinforcing Islamabad's concerns, see Riedel, "Pakistan and the Bomb." His selective historical account and characterization of the security of nuclear arsenals is shaky and a sad example of deliberate alarmism.

45. Elaine M. Grossman, "Talk of U.S. Plans to Secure Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Called 'Wildly Hypothetical,'" Global Security Newswire, June 10, 2009.

46. In October 2006, classified documents were stolen from Los Alamos National Laboratory and found in a trailer park. This led to the resignation of National Nuclear Security Administration head Linton Brooks. See Adam Zagorin, "A Breach in Nuclear Security," TIME, April 19, 2007. In August 2007, a U.S. Air Force B-52 mistakenly carried nuclear warheads across the country.

47. "No Compromise on Nukes: Pakistan."

48. Ibid.

 

Nuclear Security in Pakistan: Reducing the Risks of Nuclear Terrorism

Today's frightening instability in Pakistan comes in a world in which global terrorists are actively seeking nuclear weapons and the materials and expertise needed to make them, a quest that has been underway for more than a decade. Rapid action is needed to keep the Taliban's advances in Pakistan from creating new opportunities for these deadly adversaries. (Continue)

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

Today's frightening instability in Pakistan comes in a world in which global terrorists are actively seeking nuclear weapons and the materials and expertise needed to make them, a quest that has been underway for more than a decade. Rapid action is needed to keep the Taliban's advances in Pakistan from creating new opportunities for these deadly adversaries.

Yet, assessing nuclear security in Pakistan should not be viewed in isolation. The challenges faced by Pakistani authorities must be seen in their broader context to be properly understood and effectively countered. All countries in possession of nuclear weapons are concerned about the possibility of losing control over a bomb or weapons-related material. Consequently, states must pay utmost attention to securing these means of mass destruction. Recent years have seen increased international cooperation on nuclear security, improvements in international material protection control and accounting procedures, and increased funding for nuclear security-related initiatives. Despite increases in the scope and sophistication of security measures, much work remains to be done in order to lock down all nuclear materials to a Fort Knox standard. The fact remains that missing weapons-usable material turns up regularly on the nuclear black market.[1] The most worrisome aspect of these recurring incidents is that facilities from which the materials originated did not report them missing. In addition, there have been some notable lapses in warhead security, even in the United States.[2]

Despite such troubling developments, global security efforts until now have been good enough to avert a nuclear catastrophe. The bad news is that nuclear threats are growing.

According to former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel, "Pakistan is the most dangerous country in today's world."[3]

Daunting Security Task

Ensuring complete control over nuclear equipment, material, and technology is more difficult now than at any time in the past. There is a burgeoning global interest in all things nuclear. More states are seeking nuclear technologies, power, and weapons. Production, transportation, and storage of nuclear materials will expand throughout the 21st century. The presence of more material in more places increases the odds of a security breach leading to the loss of a bomb or the theft of materials to make a bomb. The anticipated global renaissance in nuclear energy will pose new challenges in this regard unless the associated proliferation risks are fully taken into account in decisions on materials processing, transportation, and storage. In this light, it is essential to secure not only weapons-grade plutonium and uranium from military programs, but also plutonium, highly enriched uranium, and other materials from civilian programs. Materials that would not meet the standards required for a nuclear weapon developed by a state might be usable in a terrorist's yield-producing bomb.[4]

Thus, a zero tolerance standard must be adopted for the loss of any nuclear weapon or of materials that may be fashioned into a bomb. Terrorists know that they can exploit any vulnerability to their advantage. In December 1998, Osama bin Laden expressed al Qaeda's intent when he stated in an interview, "Acquiring weapons [of mass destruction] for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty."[5] In November 2001, he added, "I wish to declare that if America used chemical or nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical or nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as deterrent."[6]

In its efforts to achieve the stature of a state, a terrorist group is most interested in producing a nuclear yield-a mushroom cloud. Consequently, a terrorist group would improvise a nuclear device or essentially build a crude nuclear bomb, one that has a low yield and may be unpredictable, inefficient, and unsafe in comparison with the complicated weapons systems in a national nuclear arsenal. To counter this qualitatively new threshold of nuclear-related threats, states must ensure that terrorists do not acquire any nuclear materials. This risk increases the demands that must be placed on security measures for materials at all stages of their use, i.e., production, processing, transportation, and storage, in research reactors as well as weapons facilities. The bottom line is that it is not enough to preclude terrorists from getting their hands on a bomb. States must eliminate any possibility that terrorists will acquire sufficient materials to build a bomb or successfully attack or take over a facility containing weapons or materials.

After the September 11 attacks, for example, the United States raised the level of the security for nuclear weapons and nuclear materials. As a centerpiece of this effort, President George W. Bush signed a National Security Directive in August 2006 establishing the U.S. government's Nuclear Materials Information Program. This program directed the consolidation of all U.S. information pertaining to all nuclear materials worldwide, in all forms and at all levels of enrichment. It included radioactive sources that could be fashioned into a dirty bomb. Every country was considered as a potential source of a crude terrorist weapon, including the United States. The directive prescribed a systematic approach to assessing the security status of all nuclear materials in facilities and in transit. It required the construction of a forensics database containing all U.S. holdings.[7]

In addition, substantial new investments were made in upgrading security throughout the U.S. nuclear establishment. To that end, security planners in the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission made assumptions about the likelihood that malicious insiders at nuclear sites would work with outsiders to allow access to facilities and materials. The Energy Department and the FBI dramatically increased intelligence and counterintelligence efforts to mitigate threats posed by malicious insiders. Defense in depth-multiple, reinforcing layers of security-was strengthened to catch any leakage of materials or information that could enable an outside group in its pursuit of a bomb.

In spite of such upgrades, serious security lapses have occurred in the U.S. nuclear establishment over the past several years.[8] Others will surely happen in the future because no security is perfect. Thus, constant vigilance is required; it is important to strive continuously toward the elimination of nuclear threats, knowing that it may never be possible to achieve this ideal standard. The surest way to fail is to become complacent, to believe it cannot happen here.

That is certainly true in Pakistan. Nevertheless, all signs indicate that the professional and disciplined Pakistani military establishment that maintains control over the nuclear arsenal understands the dangers of a breakdown in nuclear security. Senior Pakistani military officers have consistently expressed a high degree of confidence that they are prepared to counter a range of plausible threats in this regard.

These officers have a lot to worry about, notwithstanding high-level reassurances from Pakistani authorities that everything is under control. Three worrisome trends are exerting mounting pressure on the Pakistani military's ability to secure its nuclear assets and prevent a nuclear catastrophe. First, growing extremism in Pakistan increases the odds of insiders in the nuclear establishment collaborating with outsiders to access weapons, materials, or facilities. Second, the rapid expansion of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program will introduce new vulnerabilities into the security system. Finally, growing instability within the country could lead to unanticipated challenges to nuclear command and control procedures, resulting in a "loose nuke" scenario, a takeover of a facility by outsiders, or, in the worst case, a coup leading to Taliban control over the nuclear arsenal.

Collaboration Scenarios

The greatest threat of a loose nuke scenario stems from insiders in the nuclear establishment working with outsiders, people seeking a bomb or material to make a bomb. Nowhere in the world is this threat greater than in Pakistan. Pakistani authorities have a dismal track record in thwarting insider threats. For example, the network run by the father of the Pakistani bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, channeled sensitive nuclear technologies to Iran, Libya, and North Korea for years under the noses of the establishment before it was taken down in 2003, to the best of our knowledge.[9] The Umma-Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), founded by Pakistani nuclear scientists with close ties to al Qaeda and the Taliban, was headed by Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, who had been in charge of Pakistan's Khushab reactor.[10] He discussed al Qaeda's nuclear aspirations with bin Laden. According to Mahmood, bin Laden asked him how he could construct a bomb if the group already had the material.[11] It is stunning to consider that two of the founding fathers of Pakistan's weapons program embarked independently on clandestine efforts to organize networks to sell their country's most precious secrets for profit.

Although the UTN network apparently was neutralized before it had a chance to fulfill al Qaeda's long-held aspirations to obtain what bin Laden has called a "Hiroshima bomb," this was the first known case in which a "WMD for hire" network had been created specifically to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorist and extremist groups. In this context, members of the UTN group represented the broad set of scientific- and engineering-related capabilities necessary to construct an improvised nuclear device. They had an international reach. Most importantly, some prominent members of the group had once held positions in the Pakistani establishment and had connections to people on the inside with access to nuclear materials. It is not certain that this group had the wherewithal to have succeeded in its desire to enable al Qaeda's quest for a bomb, but it is encouraging that resolute Pakistani and U.S. follow-up action apparently nipped in the bud a potentially serious threat.[12]

There are troubling indications that these insider threats are not anomalies. In the Khan and UTN cases, the rogue senior officers and their cohorts in the nuclear establishment were not caught by Pakistan's security establishment. It would be foolhardy to assume that such lapses could not happen again. The Pakistani military, intelligence, and nuclear establishments are not immune to rising levels of extremism in the country. There is a lethal proximity between terrorists, extremists, and nuclear weapons insiders. Insiders have facilitated terrorist attacks.[13] Suicide bombings have occurred at air force bases that reportedly serve as nuclear weapons storage sites.[14] It is difficult to ignore such trends. Purely in actuarial terms, there is a strong possibility that bad apples in the nuclear establishment are willing to cooperate with outsiders for personal gain or out of sympathy for their cause.

Relying on Secrecy

Pakistani authorities certainly recognize the gravity of this problem. One of the ways they are coping is to emphasize secrecy and clandestinity over the more visible manifestations of nuclear security. The U.S. and Russian model of nuclear security relies on redundant layers of high walls, gates, and guards at sites in order to produce a highly visible image of impenetrability that will deter those seeking to gain access to them. Essentially, Pakistan has sacrificed some of the advantages of the traditional approach to security in favor of reducing unique vulnerabilities and threats arising from the circumstances in which it finds itself.

The thrust of the Pakistani military's strategy is to reduce its vulnerability to a nuclear security incident by systematically denying outsiders opportunities to gain illicit access to nuclear weapons. Consequently, the nuclear establishment is distributed geographically: Materials processing and weapons production facilities are consolidated in sites near Islamabad in areas under tight government control. Special nuclear material is reportedly stored apart from the weapons themselves. Warheads are reportedly stored separately from delivery systems.[15]

Another precaution taken by the Pakistani military is to maintain strict secrecy over the location of storage sites and to transport and deploy weapons clandestinely rather than in convoys that have a stronger, highly visible security profile. These security precautions produce fewer visible signs of movements, thereby lowering the risks associated with possible theft of or attack on weapons at their most vulnerable point, in transit.[16]

Paradoxically, this dependence on secrecy over physical security could backfire in the event a malicious insider gained access to locations of weapons storage sites, transportation routes, and similar insider information, especially because more moving parts are involved in assembling weapons when they are being deployed. In such a case, there would be fewer barriers between an outside group and the bomb.

The emphasis on maintaining clandestinity and secrecy in nuclear activity may hold other unintended consequences. For instance, Pakistan's development of indigenous weapons-use controls-permissive action links (PALs)-for partially disassembled weapons systems is more challenging than for PALs built into a fully integrated weapons system.[17] Moreover, although unpredictability in nuclear-related movements and activity is good from the standpoint of frustrating would-be attackers, it could conceivably increase the chances of a dangerous miscalculation of Pakistan's actions by India, especially in a crisis in which Pakistan's archrival interpreted a nuclear terrorist incident as a threat against its security.

Another trend that militates against achieving perfect nuclear security is the rapid expansion of the Pakistani nuclear program. Pakistan's nuclear arsenal roughly doubled from 1998 to today's total of a hundred weapons, in round numbers.[18] In the coming years, as new plutonium-production capacity at the Khushab site comes online, the total number of nuclear weapons could increase dramatically.[19] Using plutonium as the nuclear-explosive material also would allow Pakistan to build smaller nuclear weapons.

The expansion of the nuclear weapons program will mean more material, more construction of facilities for processing material and manufacturing weapons and delivery systems, and more demands for waste storage and transportation. More of everything means more vulnerabilities, more places for something to go wrong.

Finally, Pakistan's expanding nuclear program and the insider threat that accompanies it is taking place in the context of the broader trend of increasing instability in the country. In terms of assigning probabilities to a potential nuclear meltdown, the most likely scenario that Pakistan may confront is not a loss of control over one of its nuclear weapons, although that risk certainly must be addressed. Rather, threats are more likely to emerge from the increasing number of potential pathways to a bomb, specifically, the increasing threats posed by a slow hemorrhaging over time of technology, design, and construction knowledge and materials that might ultimately cross the threshold and produce a terrorist bomb. This phenomenon is more complicated and subtle and more difficult to counter than the scary, well-hyped scenarios involving loose nukes stolen by terrorists from a storage site or in transit.

Rising Risks

Unfortunately, there is growing rationale and shared motivation for insiders and outsiders to cooperate out of shared hatred toward the United States. This kind of externally directed hostility may not be readily recognized in its formative stages by those guarding the nuclear weapons arsenal, because these threats are not being directed against the Pakistani government. Countering such insidious trends will require not only a strengthening of defenses, but also a weakening of the threats, the sources of anti-U.S. antipathy that contributes to the possibility that al Qaeda will be able to convince an insider to help its cause. In terms of assessing any spike in these risks, the overall direction of pro-Taliban and anti-Taliban sentiment in the country should be closely watched.

The National Command Authority (NCA) that controls the use of nuclear weapons remains under the tight reins of the Pakistani military, not the civilian leadership. It is not obvious how effectively the military might respond to unprecedented challenges to its nuclear command and control procedures. The bifurcation of civilian and military roles seems to have been left deliberately ambiguous under the NCA; certain responsibilities that nominally have been given to the civilian leadership may be carried out by the military. The potential discrepancy between constitutional authorities and actual execution of those authorities raises the risks of uncertainty and confusion in a crisis. For example, the Pakistan civilian leadership, especially if a more extreme government assumed power, might issue orders or make statements concerning the status and control of nuclear forces contradicting those made by the Pakistani military commander-in-chief.[20]

Confusing and chaotic conditions would likely accompany a deterioration of the general security situation in Pakistan. One can only imagine how difficult it might be for the military to respond effectively to an unanticipated challenge to command and control communications that results from a surging Taliban offensive. Worse yet would be the potential uncertainties caused by an extremist bid to seize power. In such cases, some elements of the military's loyalties might be divided, even in the event that overall control over nuclear forces continues to be assured. By way of example, if a colonel in charge of hundreds of troops decided to take over a nuclear weapons site, would the military be able to resolve such a situation in a way that did not lead to catastrophe?

It is not likely that the Pakistani military and nuclear security establishment can fully consider all such challenges to its authority in advance or, even if it can, that such scenarios would unfold precisely as anticipated. For example, how would the military be able to respond to a breakdown of security involving a loose nuke, an ambushed convoy, or a takeover of a nuclear facility? Even if the military managed to resolve any threats on the ground immediately, there are questions concerning the military and civilian roles in the NCA that are not well understood outside Pakistan or perhaps even within the country. It is possible that, in extreme circumstances, the Pakistani government would be hard-pressed to reassure the outside world, especially India, that all its nuclear assets are under the full and authoritative control of the military.

Fortunately, it appears that the odds of such a security breakdown are very low, at least from an assessment based on the current realities of the security situation in Pakistan. The authorities appear to be serious about countering Taliban advances in the country. That is vital because ensuring continued stability and law and order is the most important factor in averting the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe. As Pakistan moves forward to face an uncertain future, the government faces an ongoing challenge to its authority and myriad threats against which it must defend. With the passage of time, the odds steadily increase that Pakistan will face a serious test of its nuclear security.

For its part, the United States must be fully prepared to respond to this eventuality. The United States should continue to do all it can to assist Pakistan in upgrading its nuclear security. U.S. government assistance to Pakistan has been a wise investment, even without full transparency into the expenditure of funds. The United States should be satisfied that anything that helps upgrade Pakistan's nuclear security is an investment in its own security. No country, including Pakistan, can be expected to risk exposing the details of its nuclear security posture and readiness to another country. Most importantly, U.S. assistance has improved bilateral nuclear ties between Washington and Islamabad, engendered trust, established more reliable lines of communication, and enhanced the possibility of more effective consultation and coordination in a crisis.[21]

Pakistan and the United States should be prepared to take cooperation one level higher. Both countries should consider unprecedented ways to address the more extreme contingencies on a cooperative basis to the extent that such action is feasible and realistic. In the interest of bridging gaps in nuclear security planning, senior-level officials should use existing channels of communication to discuss, behind closed doors, their specific concerns, including various security vulnerabilities that may emerge. Having such a dialogue early on, before an incident occurs, might help lower the risks of either side making a serious misstep based on miscalculations arising from inadequate information, misplaced assumptions, or the sensitivities that inevitably accompany nuclear-related decision-making. In addition, Pakistan should receive high-level reassurances concerning U.S. nonintervention in a crisis, possible means of assistance, and so on. Moreover, senior officials in both countries should agree to pursue specific joint actions and special communications mechanisms to be activated during a crisis, such as responses to a stolen or missing nuclear weapon or takeover of a nuclear facility.

Finally, increasing the level of transparency and predictability between India and Pakistan is absolutely vital. Neither party can afford to make a miscalculation in the heat of the moment that might escalate into a nuclear confrontation.


Rolf Mowatt-Larssen is a senior fellow at Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Until January 2009, he headed the U.S. Department of Energy's intelligence and counterintelligence office and before that served as a CIA officer for 23 years in various domestic and international posts.


ENDNOTES

1. Council on Foreign Relations, "Loose Nukes," Backgrounder, January 2006, www.cfr.org/publication/9549/#3.

2. Zachary Hosford, "Congress, Pentagon Probe Nuke Overflight," Arms Control Today, October 2007, p. 48.

3. John Barry, "How to Fight Al-Qaeda Now: An Ex-CIA Analyst Talks About the Terrorists' Power and Their Vulnerabilities," Newsweek, October 27, 2008, www.newsweek.com/id/165952.

4. Michael Levi, Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security, July 27, 2006, www.cfr.org/publication/1116.

5. Rahimullah Yusufzai, "Conversations With Terror," TIME, January 11, 1999, www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,174550,00.html.

6. Hamid Mir, "Osama Claims He Has Nukes: If US Uses N-arms It Will Get Same Response," Dawn, November 10, 2001, www.dawn.com/2001/11/10/top1.htm.

7. Steven Aoki, "Testimony on H.R. 2631, the Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act," Washington, D.C., October 10, 2007 (testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security).

8. "Tennessee: Plea Deal in Nuclear Case," Associated Press, January 27, 2009.

9. John Lancaster and Kamran Khan, "Musharraf Named in Nuclear Probe; Senior Pakistani Army Officers Were Aware of Technology Transfers, Scientist Says," The Washington Post, February 3, 2004, p. A13.

10. Dennis Overbye and James Glanz, "Pakistani Atomic Expert, Arrested Last Week, Had Strong Pro-Taliban Views," The New York Times, November 2, 2001, www.nytimes.com/2001/11/02/world/nation-challenged-nuclear-fears-pakistani-atomic-expert-arrested-last-week-had.html?pagewanted=all.

11. George Tenet, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA (New York: Harper Collins, 2007), pp. 264, 268.

12. Steve Coll, "What Bin Laden Sees in Hiroshima," The Washington Post, February 6, 2005, p. B1.

13. Omar Waraich, "Cricket Attack: Suspicions Grow That Ambush Was an 'Inside Job,'" The Huffington Post, March 5, 2009, www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/03/05/cricket-attack-suspicions_n_172281.html.

14. Bill Roggio, "Suicide Attack at Pakistani Nuclear Weapons Complex," The Long War Journal, December 10, 2007, www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2007/12/suicide_attack_at_pa.php.

15. Steven Mufson, "U.S. Worries About Pakistan Nuclear Arms," The Washington Post, November 4, 2001, p. A27.

16. Chaim Braun, Pakistan's Nuclear Future: Worries Beyond War, ed. Henry D. Sokolski (Carlisle Barracks, PA : Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2008), pp. 261-262.

17. Gordon Correra, "How Secure Is Pakistan's Bomb?" BBC News, February 4, 2008, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7225175.stm.

18. Heather Maher, "Expert Says Pakistan Improving Quality of Nuclear Arsenal," Radio Free Liberty Radio Europe, www.rferl.org/content/Expert_Says_Pakistan_Improving_Quality_Of_Nuclear_Arsenal/1736019.html.

19. Ibid.

20. Mark Thompson, "Does Pakistan's Taliban Surge Raise a Nuclear Threat?" TIME, April 24, 2009, www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1893685,00.html.

21. Bryan Bender, "Pakistan, U.S. in Talks on Nuclear Security," The Boston Globe, May 5, 2009, www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2009/05/05/pakistan_us_in_talks_on_nuclear_security.

 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Pakistan