Pakistan’s modest nuclear programme has been ‘accident-free’ unlike other programmes such as that of India, said Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry on Friday.
Speaking at Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington on the sidelines of the summit hosted by US President Barack Obama, Aizaz said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had recorded 2,734 nuclear incidents worldwide, including five in India.
“Not a single breach or accident has happened in Pakistan, although our programme is 40 years old,” Aizaz said.
Pakistan, according to him, has a modest nuclear programme with the “full ownership of its people.” Islamabad’s nuclear programme, he insisted, is geared towards defence and “not to threaten anyone”.
“Pakistan’s nuclear installations are secure and the world also acknowledges that they are,” he said. “Pakistan has worked very hard to ensure their security.”
He took a swipe at India for its ambitious nuclear programme and equally ambitious conventional weapons programme, saying the threat posed by them determined Pakistan’s activity.
“If the threat level increases we have to meet that and their conventional and nuclear levels are increasing too.”
“Pakistan has short-range and long-range missiles, and the purpose behind both is to deter aggression.”
Later, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi highlighted the need to look at nuclear security beyond the lens of weapons, especially at vulnerabilities in non-military environments.
Speaking at the working dinner hosted by Obama at the White House, Fatemi said that greater interest in nuclear energy worldwide meant that more atomic materials and facilities required security.
“It is equally important to remain alive to the potential threat of radiological dispersal devices. This threat is not limited to states with significant nuclear programmes,” he said. Fatemi argued that radioactive sources today are being employed in various fields – especially in the private sector, hospitals, industry and research centres.
“Facilities hosting such [nuclear] materials are often more vulnerable. There is, therefore, the need for vigilance and preparedness in all places.”
Reiterating that Pakistan shares the global concern over nuclear material falling into the wrong hands, Fatemi highlighted the emergency response mechanism Islamabad had put in place including the nuclear emergency management system at the national level, along with a nuclear and radiological emergency support centre and a nuclear and radiological emergency coordination centre which run round the clock.
Obama has warned of a persistent threat of terrorists getting their hands on nuclear materials despite progress in reducing such risks and called on world leaders to do more to safeguard nuclear facilities against the “madmen” from extremist groups such as the Islamic State (Daesh).
“There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many people as possible,” he told the global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
Obama cited concerns about groups such as al Qaeda or Daesh trying to obtain nuclear materials, saying this was no time for the international community to be complacent. “Daesh has already used chemical weapons, including mustard gas, in Syria and Iraq,” Obama warned.