India has warned of the “catastrophic dangers” of terrorists getting weapons of mass destruction and said that nations have a responsibility to prevent nuclear material from falling into their hands.
Speaking at the UN Security Council debate on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) on Tuesday, India’s Deputy Permanent Representative Tanmaya Lal said: “We are fully cognizant of the catastrophic dangers that the transfer of Weapons of Mass Destruction to non-State actors and terrorists could entail.”
Therefore, he said, “The primary responsibility for ensuring nuclear security rests at the national level but national responsibility must be accompanied by responsible behaviour as well as sustained and effective international cooperation.”
At the same time, the focus on terrorists “should in no way diminish state accountability in combating terrorism and dismantling its support infrastructure and its linkages with Weapons of Mass Destruction,” he said.
Without mentioning any country, he said that “clandestine nuclear proliferation networks must be rolled back and their resurgence prevented.”
Pakistan ran an underground international nuclear bazaar overseen by the notorious scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan that transferred nuclear know-how and technology to North Korea.
Islamabad’s nuclear bases have come under attack from terrorists, who have even managed to enter one of them.
For its part, India has enacted several laws and set up mechanisms to ensure that terrorists don’t get access to WMD, Lal said. “Our recent steps taken to strengthen nuclear security include the setting up of a Counter Nuclear Smuggling Team (CNST).”
“India is committed to maintaining the highest international standards with reference to control of nuclear, chemical, biological and toxin weapons and their means of delivery and has strong and law-based national export controls consistent with the highest international standards,” he said.
New Delhi was committed to the ideal of the elimination of all nuclear weapons, Lal said. But for this to happen all nuclear-weapon states must hold “a meaningful dialogue to build trust and confidence by reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in international affairs and security doctrines,” he said.
“Increasing the restraints on the use of nuclear weapons is not only an essential first step, but it is also necessary in the current complex international environment in enhancing strategic trust globally,” he added.
India’s nuclear doctrine is built on a policy of credible minimum deterrence and a commitment to no-first use and to not using using the weapons against non-nuclear weapon states, he said, adding that New Delhi continues its “unilateral and voluntary moratorium on nuclear explosive testing.”
He cited the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) as examples of non-discriminatory treaties for the complete elimination of those types of WMD. Unlike the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which makes exceptions for certain nuclear powers, those treaties apply to all.
Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi asserted during the debate that Islamabad had implemented a comprehensive system to control exports and taken steps to improve nuclear security.
She took a swipe at the India-United States civil nuclear deal and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver for New Delhi to allow access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel, but did not name either country.
“A challenge to non-proliferation norms was the granting of discriminatory waivers, special arrangements which denoted double standards and opened the possibility of diverting material intended for peaceful use to military purposes,” she said.
While India’s attempts to join the NSG has been stalled mainly because of China’s opposition, Lodhi made a pitch for Pakistan’s membership. She said Islamabad met the criteria for membership and that “it expected that a non-discriminatory and criteria-based approach would be followed for extending such membership.”