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USA to have meaningful dialogue with Pakistan at a nuclear summit

24 March, 2016

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WASHINGTON: The US State Department has said it is looking forward to a “meaningful dialogue” with Pakistan at a nuclear summit next week.

As world leaders, including those from India and Pakistan, gather in Washington this week to discuss nuclear security issues, the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School released a report reviewing global security measures.

The report concluded that Pakistan’s nuclear security arrangements were stronger than India’s, although the country still faced significant threats from terrorist groups.

At the State Department, spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing that the United States “routinely discusses” issues of nuclear security with Pakistan.

“We look forward to having Pakistan represented at the Nuclear Security Summit coming up and to being able to continue to have meaningful dialogue about issues of nuclear security,” he added.

The two-day, fourth Nuclear Security Summit begins in Washington on March 31 and prime ministers of both India and Pakistan have pledged to attend it.

Their presence in the US capital, and subsequent comments by both Pakistani and Indian officials, have also raised hopes for a bilateral meeting between the two South Asian leaders.

While US officials have not confirmed or denied reports that they are encouraging the two prime ministers to meet, Mr Kirby said that the US had always welcomed moves aimed at reducing tensions between India and Pakistan.

“We welcome efforts that have been taken and efforts that may be taken in the future to work out those issues bilaterally between the two countries,” he said.

Last week, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller also told a congressional panel that Pakistan had “really done an excellent job” of establishing a programme for nuclear security. This programme was “not only serving Pakistan’s interests, but is also serving on a regional basis to provide training with the help of the IAEA,” she said.

Ms Gottemoeller noted that India was still “at an early stage” of establishing its own Centre of Excellence for nuclear security”.

Meanwhile, a report examining nuclear security worldwide suggests India’s “nuclear security measures may be weaker than those of Pakistan”, but says the risk “appears to be moderate”, while claiming risk of nuclear theft in Pakistan “appears to be high”.

“US officials have reportedly ranked Indian nuclear security measures as weaker than those of Pakistan and Russia,” the Harvard Kennedy School reported.

“US experts visiting the sensitive Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 2008 described the security arrangements there as extraordinarily low key,” the report added.

In a review of global measures for nuclear security, the report noted that while India’s security arrangements were weaker than Pakistan’s, adversary threats in India were also “less extreme” than those in Pakistan.

“Overall, the risk of nuclear theft in Pakistan appears to be high,” said the report, adding that the possibility of a government or an “extremist takeover in Pakistan cannot be entirely ruled out”.

Nuclear risks in Pakistan, the report noted, was also linked to an expansion in the country’s nuclear arsenal. A shift in Pakistan’s strategic doctrine towards tactical nuclear weapons also increased the risk, the report added.

Despite these risks, “Pakistan has substantially strengthened its nuclear security in the past two decades,” the report said. It also highlighted the measures Pakistan had taken to enhance security: Deployment of 25,000 troops to guard nuclear stocks and facilities; equipping sites with extensive barriers and detection systems, separating storage of nuclear weapons components, providing weapons with locks to prevent unauthorised use and extensive cooperation with the United States to improve nuclear security.

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