A Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Materials Security Index, dubbed as a first-of-its-kind public benchmarking project of nuclear materials security conditions on a country-by-country basis was launched on January this year. The NTI Index makers say that it was prepared with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and an international panel of experts. The aim is to “spark an international discussion about priorities required to strengthen security, and, most importantly, encourage governments to provide assurances and take actions to reduce risks.” The report has evaluated 32 countries possessing more than one kilo of usable weapons grade material with parameters like quantities, sites, security, control measures, global norms, domestic commitments, capacity and societal factors.
The report ranked India on the 28th spot, which means that India is in high threat area. It ranked India good on on-site physical protection of nuclear materials, response capabilities and control, its commitment on UNSCR 1540 implementation and accounting procedures. At the same time, rampant corruption, opaqueness in procedures and extraneous societal factors are a threat to Indian nuclear materials security.
Recently a SIPRI report (Secrecy in nuclear weapon governance persist) too lamented “A clear and widespread deficit of democratic oversight and accountability exists across the entire nuclear weapon life cycle, even in open and democratic societies.”
A lack of transparency is the hallmark of most nuclear weapon powers. It arises out of restrictive and monopolistic practices of certain countries which promote the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT), Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) among others. Lack of transparency, which is touted by such international organisations as a bad parameter, might be actually good for the country and may not necessarily mean a threat. The greater the need for nuclear weapons, the greater the need for secrecy. Comparing India with states like Australia and Europe which lack nuclear threat or North Korea and Pakistan, which are high on international concern, is ridiculous. Interestingly, the states which are high on NTI Index have a history of proliferation violations via corruption and societal factors. How else could the Pakistani Nuclear Smuggler Abdul Qadeer Khan operate in Europe? Does this reflect in the NTI Index?
NTI Index is just another index launched with no foresight or thought. It is time India engages these kinds of institutions and steer them away from their cold war lethargy.