A United States study on worldwide nuclear materials safety and security for 2020 has positively benchmarked Pakistan (in the ranking for countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials) as the “most improved country” after increasing its overall score.

The responsibility for nuclear security within a state (a sine qua non- condition) rests entirely with the state– ensuring the security of nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities and activities under its jurisdiction. A comprehensive nuclear security regime is, therefore, much more than the physical aspects of nuclear security. Being a de facto nuclear South Asian state since 1998, Pakistan has improved its overall score by 7 points, moving to the overall rank of 19 in the 2020 NTI Index (beating India by a reasonable margin of 9 points).

NTI, a nonpartisan, nonprofit global security organization– focused on reducing nuclear and biological threats imperiling humanity–has been working since 2001. In its 2020 assessment, the Nuclear Security Index said Pakistan’s improvements, because of its passage of new regulations, provide ‘sustainable security benefits’. For Pakistan, it is a noteworthy development that while the US non-proliferation watchdog Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) has inferred that progress on global security has stalled considerably, Pakistan has been ranked as the most improved country in its overall score after it adopted “new on-site physical protection and cybersecurity regulations and improving insider threat protection measures”.

Pakistan remains ardently committed to enhancing the objective of nuclear security and has been proactively engaged with the international community to promote nuclear safety and security. It has ensured that nuclear and radioactive materials and all related facilities are secured in all places. Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is based on the national legislative, regulatory and administrative framework. Needless to say, Pakistan has a broad and well-developed nuclear infrastructure that has been systematically assisted variously by the US, by Europe, and most significantly by China.

The elements of nuclear security in Pakistan include robust command and control system monitored and suprivised by the National Command Authority (NCA), rigorous regulatory regime, comprehensive export controls and international cooperation. The regulatory regime encompasses all matters related to nuclear safety and security, including physical protection of materials and facilities, material control and accounting, transport security, prevention of illicit trafficking, border controls, and plans to deal with possible radiological emergencies through an elaborate Nuclear Emergency Management System (NEMS). The NCA – SPD roles have also been important in changing mindsets inside the Pakistani nuclear structure, especially among individuals and facilities that previously operated with minimal oversight.

The IAEA safety standards reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation. The process of developing, reviewing and establishing the IAEA standards involves the IAEA Secretariat and all Member States, many of which are represented on the four IAEA safety standards committees and the IAEA Commission on Safety Standards. In order to satisfy the safety principles, it is required to ensure that for all operational states of a nuclear power plant and for any associated activities, doses from exposure to radiation within the installation or exposure due to any planned radioactive release from the installation are kept below the dose limits and kept as low as reasonably achievable.

Virtually, Pakistan has deployed modern technological solutions (ÔÇ£), such as intrusion detection systems, access control systems, delay barriers and search systems and a central alarm station. In addition, land-based and sea-borne response capabilities of response forces have also been strengthened, ÔÇØ it adds. With this Pakistan sets a new trend of information sharing in the nuclear domain. Pakistan is confident that several top officials and scholars have acknowledged its nuclear safety schemes worldwide. Pakistan has developed an organized and successful national nuclear safety system that is consistent with global standards and regulations. Its nuclear programme and formulated policy are focused on a specific statutory and set of regulations for nuclear material and radioactive substances protection as well as installations, infrastructure and operational facilities.

Compared with other countries’ score improvements in the Security and Control Measures category, Pakistan’s increase of +25 is the second-largest improvement of any country since the Index first launched in 2012

Pakistan’s clean record of accidents shows that its nuclear program is backed up by powerful entities and bodies with relevant agencies, expertise and qualified manpower. Pakistan’s nuclear Center of Excellence and other associated institutes on nuclear security became global drivers for teaching and exchanging of Security solutions in the field of nuclear security. The IAEA has also supported the procurement of essential communication infrastructure – such as internet-connecting devices and equipment for the maintenance of an industry-wide intranet – to allow for information to move more seamlessly between government institutions, departments and agencies.

Pakistan has steadily improved in the Security and Control Measures category over time with the passage of new regulations, improving by +8 in 2014, +2 in 2016, and +6 in 2018. Its score in 2014 improved owing to new regulations for on-site physical protection. In 2016, it passed new cybersecurity regulations. In 2018, it improved its insider threat protection. Its newest regulations mark a much larger shift. Compared with other countries’ score improvements in the Security and Control Measures category, Pakistan’s increase of +25 is the second-largest improvement of any country since the Index first launched in 2012. As per the NTI report, ‘’Pakistan’s improvements in the Security and Control Measures… result in durable boosts in Pakistan’s score as well as provide sustainable security benefits”. As compared to Pakistan, India ranks a lowly 28th in overall security, below North Korea in terms of societal factors, and below Pakistan in regards to domestic commitments and capacity.

Credit goes to Pakistan that with its widely known limitations notwithstanding, the NCA has done remarkably well in establishing a nuclear security regime and an evolving nuclear security culture that requires encouragement and support. Over several years, Pakistan has sent officials, technicians, and administrators to the US to receive training on modern technical solutions and management under the aegis of mutually acceptable arrangements that cater to each side’s sensitivities. The implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which establishes a requirement for countries to take measures to prevent the 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.

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 including the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). By any yardstick, the NTI current raking has uplifted Pakistan’s image in the global nuclear community. while the IAEA has recently ensured to streamline its support for Pakistan’s emerging energy needs since Islamabad intends to expand its nuclear power generating capacity more than six-fold over the next decade, from 1430 MW to 8800 MW, the current rating will boost mutual trust between the two sides.

Originally published at : dailytimes