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Nuclear Terrorism and Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM)

Nuclear Terrorism has been a major challenge for nations in the 21 century. With an increase in the number of civilian nuclear power plants, the threat to nuclear material theft has increased phenomenally writes Dr. Roshan Khanijo

Nuclear Terrorism has been a major challenge for nations in the 21 century. With an increase in the number of civilian nuclear power plants, the threat to nuclear material theft has increased phenomenally. International community in order to address this challenge had drafted the treaty “Convention on the physical Protection of Nuclear Material” in 1979.  It was however; felt that the treaty needed to be amended as due to changed nuclear environment the issues of prevention of unauthorized possession of nuclear material and access to nuclear facilities needed to be addressed .The Amendment Conference on 8 July 2005 adopted the Amendment to the Convention and added new Article 2A which highlighted “Each State Party shall establish, implement and maintain an appropriate physical protection regime applicable to nuclear material and nuclear facilities under its jurisdiction”. In the caveat which dealt with the implementation and the obligations of nation-states the treaty emphasized the responsibilities of the state in forming-“Legislative and Regulatory Framework”, “Responsibilities During International Transport”, “Quality Assurance”, “Contingency Plans” etc.

United Nations has been a pioneer in recognizing and addressing this threat and India has consistently supported IAEA’s endeavors on strengthening nuclear security. First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations Mr. Abhishek Singh  in a statement on the annual report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at the UN General Assembly stated “There is widespread recognition that the threat of nuclear terrorism is one of the pressing challenges facing the international community. Responsible national action and effective international cooperation are therefore required for strengthening nuclear security to prevent vulnerable nuclear material falling into hands of non-state actors” and in this regard he further states “universal adherence to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and early entry into force of its 2005 Amendment would go a long way in strengthening global efforts in the area of nuclear security”

India is not only a party to the CPPNM but it is amongst the few countries which have ratified the 2005 amendment to the Convention. India wants to maintain high standards as far as nuclear safety is concerned and India has a system of “Peer Review” and conducts “follow up mission” of the IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART).

Pakistan on the other hand has been harping that “Pakistan attaches highest importance to nuclear security because it is directly linked to our national security,”  as stated by Khalil Hashmi, a minister in Pakistan’s UN Mission but then the question arises why is it not ratifying the amendments to treaty on “Convention  on the physical Protection  of Nuclear Material”. If Pakistan is seriously concerned in the safety and security of its nuclear installations then ratification will send a positive signal to the world community. The recent terrorist attack on Pakistani naval dockyard on 6 September 2014 is testimony to the fact that Pakistani defense and nuclear installations are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. I solicit your views on this important topic.

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