Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Washington DC this week to attend the fourth and last Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) — the series was launched by US President Barack Obama in Washington in 2010. This year’s summit will be attended by 53 states and four global institutions, which cover 98 per cent of the nuclear material on the planet. Iran and North Korea are not invited, and Russian President Vladimir Putin will stay away due to his differences with Obama over Ukraine. The current edition will review the work done on nuclear security over the last six years. India has played an active role in these summits and made a voluntary contribution of $1 million to the Nuclear Security Fund. New Delhi has also established a Global Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Energy Partnership, where more than a dozen national and international training programmes have been conducted so far.
The NSS has also attracted much criticism. With the process limited to non-military purposes, 83 per cent of nuclear material is outside its ambit. Despite being projected as one of its initial goals, the NSS has not been able to amend the IAEA’s convention on nuclear safety. That there is no legally binding outcome at the end of six years of the NSS process is seen as a major drawback. The NSS has, instead, focused on asking countries to tighten their national laws, rules and capabilities on nuclear security. This has meant that military facilities are treated as national responsibilities and dealt with as per international obligations. Such criticism, nevertheless, cannot take away from other tangible achievements. Not only has the NSS raised awareness about the threat of nuclear terrorism, but its scenario-based threat analysis has led to the personal involvement of political leaders of major countries. Moreover, 15 MT of highly enriched uranium (HEU) has been down-blended to low-enriched uranium, while 24 countries have agreed to give up their stocks of HEU thanks to the NSS process.
Delhi has worked hard on the nuclear diplomatic agenda, which aims to establish India as a responsible nuclear-weapons state and ensure India’s participation in civilian international nuclear trade. India’s interests at the NSS lie in ensuring that all nuclear materials and facilities — in India and its neighbourhood — are subjected to the highest levels of security to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists. This edition of the NSS offers Modi another opportunity to pursue purposeful nuclear diplomacy.