The US will be hosting the fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington D.C. from March 31 to April 1. This piece attempts to explain the dynamics of the NSS process and Pakistan’s association with it.

President Barack Obama in April 2009 set the following goals for nuclear security: secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world in four years; strengthen nuclear security; and prevent nuclear terrorism. These goals were reflected in the Communique of the first Nuclear Security Summit held in Washington in April 2010.

The Washington Communiqué succinctly gave an indication of how nations will promote measures to secure, account for and consolidate highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium; and convert reactors from HEU to LEU, where technically and economically feasible.

A formula was crafted to reaffirm the fundamental responsibility of states, consistent with their respective international obligations, to maintain effective security of all nuclear materials, which includes nuclear materials used in nuclear weapons. That formulation was preserved in The Seoul and Hague Communiqués with the addition of radioactive materials.

For international cooperation, a global nuclear security architecture was identified. This comprises the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), its 2005 Amendment to CPPNM, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and initiatives such as the G-8-led Global Partnership and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). This architecture is to be supplemented by capacity building for nuclear security at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels for the promotion of nuclear security culture through technology development, human resource development, education and training.

Many elements in the Washington Communiqué and Work Plan were fleshed out in the Seoul Communiqué. These included transportation security, information security, combating illicit trafficking, and nuclear forensics. In Washington, the focus on radioactive sources was tenuous. A few countries, however, argued that a potential radiological threat – the one posed by radiological dispersal devices or “dirty bombs”, as they are colloquially named, - might well be more real and imminent. The Seoul Communiqué devoted one full section to safety and security of radioactive sources. As the Seoul Summit took place one year after the Fukushima accident, its Communiqué recognised the interface between nuclear safety and nuclear security and called for effective emergency preparedness and response.

The Hague Communiqué had a new element: voluntary measures whereby nations showcase and publicise the steps they have taken to establish effective security of their nuclear materials and facilities while protecting sensitive information. The purpose is to build national and international confidence. This concept was a distillation, and dilution, of what was originally called nuclear security assurances, because that was considered potentially prescriptive and, for some, smacked of negative security assurances.

The Hague Summit experimented with two new ideas: a scenario-based policy discussion on a fictitious radiological terrorist threat and an informal plenary on the future of the NSS process attended by leaders only.

All the Summits held so far have developed a common strand: the emphasis on the essential responsibility and central role of the IAEA. In the heat of the NSS process back in 2009 and 2010, this obvious fact was accepted only grudgingly but by now it is embraced enthusiastically and, I hope, universally.

Some parameters were set by the negotiators right in the beginning: these Summits will not produce a new treaty regime or create new, parallel mechanisms. It was recognised that nuclear security is a national responsibility. Participants agreed that actions to be taken by nations would be voluntary.

Fears were also laid to rest about nuclear security being constructed as the fourth pillar of the global disarmament and non-proliferation regime to restrict access to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The format of the NSS process has been collegial, consensual and largely non-polemical. Successive chairs have tried to explore a common denominator and secure the essence without eviscerating the text of its key content. It has been a rare combination of technical and political dialogue in an endeavour to understand nuclear security, in all its dimensions, and come up with policy options and practical measures that will work.

The NSS process made a difference to the nuclear diplomacy in at least four ways. One, nuclear security has been pushed to the center of global agenda; two, it has locked in the attention of the world leaders of the nations that constitute the critical mass in regard to nuclear security; three, the process has acted as a catalyst for stimulating actions at the national level; and, four, it has involved nuclear industry, regulators, think tanks, academic institutions, and the relevant actors of civil society in the dialogue on ways to strengthen and ensure nuclear security.

Pakistan has constructively contributed to the NSS process. We consider nuclear security to be a national responsibility and a global priority.

At all the summits, Pakistan has highlighted its strong nuclear security regime supported by five pillars – a strong command and control system; an integrated intelligence system; an autonomous regulatory mechanism; a comprehensive export control regime; and active international cooperation. Our nuclear security regime covers material control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies.

At all summits, Pakistan has underlined that as a responsible nuclear weapon state, it pursues strategic strategic restraint in South Asia.

Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence on Nuclear Security, established in 2012, has already been recognised by international leaders as a cutting-edge institution. The Centre conducts specialised courses in nuclear security, physical protection and personnel reliability; and is hosting meetings and courses in collaboration with the IAEA and thus fast becoming a regional and international hub for nuclear security training.

Pakistan works closely with the IAEA on nuclear security, regularly submits reports to the UN Security Council 1540 Committee and participates in the work of the GICNT. On the eve of the 2016 Summit, Pakistan has ratified the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM.

The summit process could not have continued in perpetuity. Beyond 2016, NSS participants should avoid duplication, broaden the NSS base to make it inclusive, and devolve the process to a lower level for reabsorption of the nuclear security agenda by the relevant international organisations. In particular, the IAEA, because of its intergovernmental character and institutional base, should be given a synergising and coordinating role on nuclear security.

Pakistan would continue to harness nuclear energy to redress its energy deficit and address climate change. At the Nuclear Security Summits’ platform, Pakistan has highlighted our growing need for nuclear energy for growing industrial and consumer uses. We have asked for non-discriminatory access to nuclear technology and membership of export control regimes, especially the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.

In pursuing nuclear security, we should guard against both alarmism and complacency. The 2016 Summit in the United States will be the culmination of the previous three Summits. In the post-2016 phase, nations need to focus on implementation and trust building within and among nations, as well as develop better public communication to foster a resilient nuclear security culture.