by Taimur Khan
Since the first use of nuclear weapons in 1945, the difficulties in forecasting nuclear weapons proliferation can be explained by only one key fact i.e. it is still unclear among academics and policymakers why exactly states start nuclear weapons programs or refrain from them. In spite of some vague predictions, currently, nine states are holding nuclear arsenals. Over the past 65 years, many experts have argued that approximately 39 states had ambitions to make nuclear weapons and they engaged themselves in developing nuclear weapons. However, 26 states have terminated their nuclear weapons programs. This process somehow slowed down during the second half of the 1980s.
In the contemporary era, there are approximately 22 countries around the globe that possess nuclear materials, that can be used to develop a nuclear bomb, and 154 other countries that do not have such materials but can serve as a staging ground and provide safe havens to those who have. Moreover, around 47 states have nuclear capabilities that could be at stake of sabotage, prompting a lethal release of radioactive materials. With the increased advancement and the evolving role of extremist groups, constant vigilance by governments, nuclear operators, and international organizations is required to keep a check in order to avoid a nuclear catastrophe with global implications.
For that reason, the NTI index was developed. From building accountability to promoting nuclear security priorities, NTI (Nuclear Security Index) is a globally recognized platform that keeps a check on the nuclear security conditions of countries around the globe. It assesses progress on nuclear security, highlights security gaps that states face, and recommends an action plan for governments to follow after assessing their security conditions. NTI helps states in strengthening their nuclear security and in building confidence. The reports of NTI show us the trends and progress states have been through. The Nuclear Security Index is produced biennially with the help of the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and created under the supervision and consultation of an international panel of experts.
The NTI Index is based on the information collected from the open sources about a state’s national nuclear security endeavors, their pledge to international treaties and conventions, and the transparency that is shown about their nuclear programs.
Nuclear competition is gradually driving South Asia towards greater uncertainty and instability. The introduction of new weapons systems in the region indicates an emerging trend in favor of war-fighting doctrines. The nuclear arms race is intensifying and with it the possibility of a nuclear standoff. India and Pakistan are developing new weaponry and considering more aggressive doctrine. In this environment, a small incident could lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration resulting in catastrophic destruction. Escalation control seems to be assumed by both sides, but the miscalculation of intentions and reactions could ignite a catastrophic nuclear war, both states added more than two dozen dual capable delivery systems and are adding counterforce capabilities and platforms to their arsenal, that in my point of view is burdensome on national resources and on the other hand these two states still wrestle with stability challenges and each perceives mischief by the other behind their mutual woes.
However, talking about Pakistan, it has emerged as the most improved country to have nuclear security credentials. The first NTI security index was given out in 2012 to recognize areas that could help improve nuclear securities worldwide, which were the focal point of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process under the Obama Administration. Ever since then, Pakistan’s score is the second-largest improvement score for regulations in the index; which makes it the most “improved” state possessing nuclear materials of 2020. One of the retired career diplomats from the US, Laura E Kennedy, also honored Pakistan’s commendable improvement in nuclear security ranking. She tweeted,
“One welcome bit of news reported by NTI index is that Pakistan ranked as most improved in security of those countries holding nuclear materials.”
Moreover, Pakistan also improved its position in theft ranking among states with weapons-usable nuclear materials. The NTI reports told that the main reason why Pakistan was able to score well was that it adopted new on-site physical protection & cyber security regulations, improving insider threat protection measures. Pakistan has been abiding by all international laws and is following security protocols.
When drawing a comparison between India and Pakistan; Pakistan is ahead of India in terms of ranking, according to NTI reports. There can be several reasons for this. Pakistan has independent regulatory bodies to oversee nuclear safety and security protocols; while India’s nuclear regulatory bodies are not independent. Moreover, India’s refusal of an independent regulatory body shows a lack of confidence in the maintenance of internationally recognized standards.
Over time, the institutional and organizational flaws in India have been observed. The system of the state fails to comply with the international norms of nuclear security. It is safe to say that projects related to nuclear energy in India are controversial, with nuclear scientists dying mysteriously. According to a report, there have been 197 deaths of nuclear scientists in India over the last 20 years. Not only is this, but the suspicious nuclear leakage at Kakrapar Atomic Power Station in the Indian state of Gujarat on 11th March 2016 is also still something that has never been disclosed explicitly.
Without taking nuclear safety conditions under consideration, international nuclear technology suppliers are interested in investing and finalizing nuclear deals with a state like India, which lacks transparency. It is surprising to see that despite all of this, many states still give support to India for its membership in the NSG while Pakistan still faces discrimination. Instead of Pakistan, India has been given status in “Nuclear Suppliers Group”.
All in all, ever since nuclear weapons have traditionally taken an important spot in any country’s national security system, the need for the NTI index has doubled. The whole world solely relies on this index to observe evolutions in nuclear security trends, to see red flags, and focus on the gaps and challenges that are being neglected, to promote action and accountability. Apart from these factors, the NTI index also assesses sustainability, health, and comprehensiveness of the nuclear security structure all around. Along with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it also includes international treaties on arms control and disarmament.