Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has sought access to civilian nuclear technology for his country that is enduring a crippling energy crisis, even as he allayed fears over the safety its atomic assets.
“Energy deficit is one of the most serious crises facing Pakistan,” Sharif told delegates at the third Nuclear Security Summit at the Hague in the Netherlands.
“As we revive our economy, we look forward to international cooperation and assistance for nuclear energy under IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards,” he said.
Ever since India signed a civil nuclear deal with the US, Pakistan has been seeking a similar agreement.
Sharif called for Pakistan’s inclusion in all international export control regimes, especially the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
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International treaties and forums, he said, should supplement national actions to fortify nuclear security.
Trying to allay global concerns over security of Pakistan’s nuclear programme, Sharif reiterated “the highest importance” that his country attached to nuclear security as it was directly linked to its national security.
“Pakistan is a responsible nuclear weapons state and pursues a policy of nuclear restraint, as well as credible minimum deterrence,” he said last night in his address.
“Our region needs peace and stability for economic development that benefits its people. That is why, I strongly advocate nuclear restraint, balance in conventional forces and ways to resolve conflicts,” the prime minister said.
The West has feared that Pakistan’s nuclear assets were in danger of falling into the hands of terrorists if unrest was not controlled in the country.
Pakistan has been running a safe, secure and safeguarded civil nuclear programme for more than 40 years and the country has the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy, he said.
Sharif said that Pakistan’s nuclear security is supported by five pillars – a strong command and control system led by the National Command Authority; an integrated intelligence system; a rigorous regulatory regime; a comprehensive export control regime; and active international cooperation.
“Looking back, we can say with confidence that our decisions and commitments have spurred national action, promoted international cooperation and fostered nuclear security culture,” he said, adding that Pakistan has constructively contributed to this process.
Sharif said Pakistan’s nuclear materials, facilities and assets were safe and secure and the country’s nuclear security regime was anchored in the principle of multi-layered defence for the entire spectrum – insider, outsider or cyber threats.