High risk of theft of Pakistan nuclear weapons: US report

Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, and is shifting toward tactical nuclear weapons, says US report.

By: PTI | Washington | Published: March 22, 2016 10:22 am
shaheed 2 missile, pakistan missile, indo-pak A Pakistani Shaheen II missile is displayed during the Pakistan National Day parade in Islamabad, Pakistan (Source: AP Photo)

With Pakistan moving towards tactical nuclear weapons, there is an increasingly higher risk of nuclear theft, a US think-tank report has warned ahead of the Nuclear Security Summit here later this month.

“Overall, the risk of nuclear theft in Pakistan appears to be high,” said the report ‘Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?’ released by the prestigious Harvard Kennedy School.

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“The trend seems to be toward increasing risk, as Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal expands and shifts toward tactical nuclear weapons, while adversary capabilities remain extremely high,” it said.

Over the longer term, the possibilities of state collapse or extremist takeover cannot be entirely ruled out, though the near-term probability of such events appears to be low.

The report from the Harvard Kennedy School comes a week after a top American diplomat had raised a similar concern.

“We’ve been very concerned about Pakistan’s deployment of battlefield nuclear weapons,” US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rise E Gottemoeller told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

“Battlefield nuclear weapons, by their very nature, pose security threat because you’re taking battlefield nuclear weapons out to the field where, as, you know, as a necessity, they cannot be made as secure,” Gottemoeller had said.

In Pakistan, a modest but rapidly growing nuclear stockpile, with substantial security measures, must be protected against some of the world’s most capable terrorist groups, in an environment of widespread corruption and extremist sympathies, said the Harvard Kennedy School.

By some estimates, the Strategic Plans Division, which manages Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, has 25,000 troops available to guard Pakistani nuclear stocks and facilities.

Pakistani officials report that sites are equipped with extensive barriers and detection systems, that the components of nuclear weapons are stored separately (though that may be changing as Pakistan moves toward tactical nuclear weapons intended to be rapidly deployed to the field), and that the weapons are equipped with locks to prevent unauthorised use.

It said there are negative trends, which may be related to the absence of recent US expressions of confidence.

“Pakistan has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, and is shifting toward tactical nuclear weapons intended to be dispersed to front-line forces early in a crisis, increasing the risks of nuclear theft in such a crisis,” it said.

“This increase in numbers of weapons is probably leading to an increase in numbers of locations as well,” it said, adding that terrorist groups continue to demonstrate that they are willing and able to launch complex, well-coordinated attacks on heavily-defended military targets within Pakistan.

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  1. Arvind Baba
    Mar 22, 2016 at 5:39 am
    our biased media failed to mention that report also pointed out huge flaws in India nuclear safety and security. Report said and I quote, “U.S. officials have reportedly ranked Indian nuclear security measures as weaker than those of stan and Russia, and U.S. experts visiting the sensitive Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in 2008 described the security arrangements there as “extraordinarily low key.”
    1. S
      Siraj Akbar
      Mar 29, 2016 at 5:39 am
      India's "nuclear security measures may be weaker than those of stan", but says the risk "appears to be moderate". The Harvard Kennedy Insute has raised serious concern that it is difficult to judge whether India's nuclear security is capable of protecting against the threats it faces, though it is likely adversary threats in India are "less extreme" than those in stan. According to a recent report Indian Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) has apprehended a mineral smuggling racket that involved exports of Beryl — an atomic mineral ore of Beryllium — to China. So if India not capable to handle nuclear material, than it should be banned and sanctions put in place to avoid any major incident in the world causing huge destruction. Extremist Hindu fanatics are already ruling the most fragmented country of the world.
      1. wijdan amar
        Mar 22, 2016 at 10:35 am
        The Indian Express, be kind enough to tell what report says about Indian nuclear program. India's nuclear material is equally vulnerable and there is significant threat. India has been extremely poor in nuclear safety and security and 2014 NTI index has already ranked Indian safety and security below stan.
        1. Alish Se
          Mar 22, 2016 at 1:47 pm
          Indian Cold Start doctrine has been check made by stan’s tactical nuclear weapons – so this news makes it clear that India wants to defame stan as much as possible. Now that India and U.S. are entering into close relations. Such reports are just way to pressurize stan or otherwise report also says Indian security and safety of nuclear weapons is extremely weak.
          1. L
            l s
            Mar 23, 2016 at 12:51 am
            After turning a blind eye for many decades, the US has just realised this. They will one day find nuclear weapons in the hands of islamic terorrists, all supplied by USA and China.. Still supply money, weapons etc to terorrist state Pak.
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