Friday, December 8, 2023

Pakistan’s Nuclear Security Achievements and Challenges: Insights from the Nuclear Security Index (NTI) 2023

Having nuclear material comes with great responsibility. States that possess nuclear material have to ensure the safety and security of critical materials, to prevent any disastrous results. It is thus extremely important to devise an effective mechanism to track the progress of such efforts and to identify and combat any gaps or loopholes that exist. The Nuclear Security Index was developed by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a Washington-based foreign policy think tank, in order to further the aims of strengthening nuclear security, protecting nuclear and radioactive materials and nuclear facilities, tracking progress, and holding states accountable for their efforts, to prevent disastrous results. The index analyzes nuclear and radiological security conditions in 175 countries and Taiwan.

The Nuclear Security Index also serves as a great resource for analyzing and tracking the progress on nuclear security, by underlining evolutions in the best practices, highlighting gaps that are important to address, and promoting accountability for states. It also analyzes the overall conditions of the global nuclear security architecture. This year’s results demonstrated concern regarding the deteriorating global nuclear security conditions in many states having nuclear facilities and weapon-usable nuclear material. It reiterated that the leaders had to work pragmatically to improve nuclear security, to prevent the world from a catastrophe.

Despite this, the Nuclear Security Index 2023 was very prominent for Pakistan, in that it acknowledged the improvements in the security of Pakistan’s nuclear material. The state had its nuclear status upgraded and was ranked three points higher than its previous score in 2020. The index ranked Pakistan above India, Iran, and North Korea, gaining the 19th position out of 22 states. Pakistan gained an overall score of 49 out of 100, in terms of the security of its material.

The report showed most improvements being related to the domestic security of materials and controls. Pakistan showed improvements in terms of its handling of hazardous material, while its security and control measures were also ranked higher than India, Israel, South Africa, North Korea, and Iran, with a score of 57. In terms of the security of its facilities, Pakistan was ranked 32, while its score was 61 out of 100. Another achievement was its score of 100 for domestic commitments and capacity. The areas worth further improvement were global norms and risk environment, with scores of 44 and 21, respectively.

States that possess nuclear weapons have a great responsibility to protect their nuclear weapons, related materials, and technologies. They have to ensure that the weapons are under strict control and are meant for deterrence and will be used only in extreme necessity. Thus every state has to demonstrate that it is a responsible nuclear state.

Over the years, Pakistan has been working to enhance the security of its nuclear program. These results demonstrate an upgrade in Pakistan’s nuclear security index and are going to have important implications for the state. Pakistan’s nuclear security has often been questioned. Many have raised concerns over the threats to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and material. However, the NTI Nuclear Security Index 2023 manifests Pakistan’s responsible behavior regarding its nuclear program. These results manifest the credibility of Pakistan’s efforts to strengthen its nuclear safety and security, and the state’s commitment to protect its nuclear arsenal.

The report also provides a way to show how Pakistan adheres to global norms and nuclear security measures. And that despite being a developing state, Pakistan does not compromise over ensuring the protection of its nuclear arsenal and related materials. The results of the index are going to alleviate a number of international concerns regarding Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and will improve its standing in the international system. This will also ensure that the international community appreciates Pakistan’s commitment to being a responsible nuclear state.

Despite constantly working towards strengthening and adopting effective laws and practices towards enhancing the security of its nuclear program, Pakistan will have to work further to improve its position in areas where it lags behind. The NTI Nuclear Security Index 2023 clearly shows the points that Pakistan can improve upon, working on these will strengthen the international community’s trust in Pakistan’s commitments and will improve its position further. The NTI Index 2023 has provided 10 data-driven recommendations for states to work on, in order to prevent a nuclear or radiological catastrophe. Pakistan, along with the other states, will have to work to further its commitments and nuclear security measures, to ensure secure and effective nuclear security practices, and to prevent a severe catastrophe.

Umair Aslam
Umair Aslam is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Global Defense Insight. He has worked as a defense journalist reporting on military modernization programs, nuclear non-proliferation, arms control, and the South Asian Arms race.

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