Pakistan Proclaims Focus on Stronger Atomic Protections

Pakistan says it is focused on improving protections surrounding its nuclear arms sector, Asian News International reported on Sunday (see GSN, Feb. 22).

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is attending this week's Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea as a demonstration of Islamabad's commitment to preventing diversion of its atomic assets, Pakistani Ambassador to China Masood Khan said.

"Prime Minister Gilani's personal attendance illustrates continuity in Pakistan's commitment with the [Nuclear Security Summit] process, Pakistan's commitments to enhance nuclear security in our country, and our support to the international community to work for a common cause," Khan was quoted by The Nation as saying (Asian News International I/Yahoo!News, March 25).

The Seoul summit taking place on Monday and Tuesday is to include participation by leaders and top officials from more than 50 nations. It is a follow-on to the inaugural meeting organized by the United States in 2010 (see related GSN story, today).

International observers have repeatedly questioned Pakistan's nuclear security standards. A recent expert analysis by the U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative on overall security conditions among 32 countries that possess a threshold level of nuclear weapon-usable substances gave Pakistan the second-lowest ranking after North Korea (see GSN, Jan. 12).

Neighboring India has also frequently questioned Pakistan's ability to protect its nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists, ANI noted.

Indian State Defense Minister M.M. Pallam Raju in November said his government was worried that the Taliban, which has a sizable footprint in Pakistan, might exploit lax security around the nation's arsenal.

Diplomats and lawmakers from the United States in private meetings with Islamabad have reportedly raised similar concerns, but the U.S. government in official comments continues to voice its trust in the Pakistani security establishment's ability to safeguard its nuclear weapons (see GSN, Nov. 9, 2011).

Islamabad insists it maintains strong protections around its nuclear arsenal (Asian News International II/Yahoo!News, March 24).

"There shouldn't be any fear of any type. All our installations are well guarded. They are the best facilities," Pakistani Ambassador to South Korea Shaukat Mukadam said on Sunday in an Indo-Asian News Service report.

He added: "We are absolutely safe. We have the best command and control systems in place. There are no fears absolutely whatsoever."

No formal face-to-face meeting has been scheduled between Gilani and Indian Prime Minster Manmohan Singh at the Seoul summit, though there is a chance the two men could meet informally on the margins of the high-profile international forum, Mukadam said.

"No structured meeting is planned, but a pull aside is always possible," according to the diplomat.

Islamabad and New Delhi, longtime rivals and owners of atomic arsenals, last year agreed to resume a frozen peace process that includes discussions on nuclear-confidence building measures (Vishnu Makhijani, Indo-Asian News Service/New Indian Express, March 25).

New Delhi is not expected to pledge any notable nuclear security actions this week in Seoul, an Indian nuclear weapons analyst told the Korea Herald.

“I don’t think it’s going to do very much at this summit," International Panel on Fissile Materials co-Chairman Ramamurti Rajaraman said. "Since the last summit, they have started an international center but that’s easy."

The NTI index gave the South Asian nation the fifth-lowest score among the 32 ranked countries (see GSN, Jan. 13; Kim Yoon-mi, Korea Herald, March 25).

(Editor's Note: The Nuclear Threat Initiative is the sole sponsor of Global Security Newswire, which is published independently by the National Journal Group.)

March 26, 2012

Pakistan says it is focused on improving protections surrounding its nuclear arms sector, Asian News International reported on Sunday.