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The fourth Nuclear Security Summit

The fourth Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington DC on March 31and April 1.
This year’s summit was the fourth and final edition of the biennial affair. The first summit was held in Washington in 2010 which was followed by the summits in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014.
Nuclear state’s leaders gathered in Washington focused on the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. They proclaimed in communiqué it remains one of the greatest challenges to international security, and the threat is constantly evolving.
They underlined the importance of the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and promised to work toward their universalization and full implementation.
The summit also adopted a number of other documents, including the Action Plan in Support of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Action Plan in Support of the United Nations and a Joint Statement on Sustaining Action to Strengthen Global Nuclear Security.
The communiqué states: “More work remains to be done to prevent non-state actors from obtaining nuclear and other radioactive materials, which could be used for malicious purposes. We commit to fostering a peaceful and stable international environment by reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism and strengthening nuclear security…
Countering nuclear and radiological terrorism demands international cooperation, including sharing of information in accordance with States’ national laws and procedures. International cooperation can contribute to a more inclusive, coordinated, sustainable, and robust global nuclear security architecture for the common benefit and security of all”.
But success of the summit was limited. One great disappointment was the absence of Russia from the summit, claiming a lack of cooperation from the USA in the preliminary work. Given that the two countries between them possess 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, this means that progress towards disarmament – which itself would improve security by reducing the number of targets for interference – is likely to be limited. (However, U.S. officials have confirmed that, even outside the summit, constructive bilateral dialogue on nuclear security issues is continuing.)
In contrast, the relationship between China and the U.S. in nuclear security cooperation has shown a distinctively positive trend. Just recently, on March18, China and the U.S. inaugurated a bilateral center of excellence to establish best nuclear security practice, in Changyang industrial park near Beijing. This was originally agreed in 2011 and has now come to fruition, demonstrating that this series of summits produces tangible results.
India has finally decided to join “gift baskets” at the Fourth Nuclear Security Summit. Addressing a media briefing as the summit got underway, Amandeep Singh Gill, Indian joint secretary (disarmament and international security affairs), said that India has decided to join some gift baskets, including those on counter nuclear smuggling and sharing best practices.
Gift basket diplomacy involves an approach to a crucial issue where, if consensus is not reached till the lowest common denominator, then those willing can join in. In other words, it is a system of getting around the system of universal consensus at any multilateral summit.
The US had first introduced the gift basket diplomacy during negotiations in 2011 for the Second Nuclear Security Summit. Fourteen such gift baskets were put up in the summit held in Seoul next year. India, which had so far refrained from joining any of these gift baskets, has finally decided to go for it.
Gill said India would join the Trilateral Initiative which is the joint statement of the previous three co-chairs of the nuclear security summit which has been circulated in the form of a document in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ”So, this group of countries which India is joining are committed to holding the bar high on nuclear security,” the joint secretary said.
“We will also be joining three other gift baskets in priority areas like counter nuclear smuggling, the sharing of best practices through centres of excellence such as GCNEP (Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership), and finally NSS follow-up through contact group in Vienna,” he said. In Friday’s summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would underline that India would continue to reflect its nuclear obligations to the international community through its national actions, Gill said.
Despite of (or due to) its limited results the 2016 Summit marks the end of the Nuclear Security Summit process in this format.

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