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Modi underscores need to combat N-attacks

  • In World
  • 00:00, 4 Apr
  • By Sudhir Vyas

Washington: The world has taken "concrete" steps to prevent nuclear terrorism, leaders of as many as 50 nations singularly endorsed at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit here in Washington. But the so-called Islamic State (IS) obtaining a nuclear weapon is "one of the greatest threats to global security," world statesmen opined. World leaders convening in Washington for the summit expressed concern about North Korea's nuclear weapons program and Russia's lack of attendance.

Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to attend the summit, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan cancelled his trip after the deadly bombing in Lahore. Both countries are nuclear-armed. As the summit closed, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to fight proliferation.

Speaking at the concluding session of the Nuclear Security Summit Prime Minister Narendra Modi made some telling interventions which underscored the need for the world to combat the growing threat of terrorists who may be trying to use improvised nuclear devices to carry out devastating attacks on cities.

As world leaders watched behind closed doors a video film of a dramatic but simulated scenario of such an attack by terrorists at the summit, Modi called for "proactive measures to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism through international cooperation." Addressing the summit Modi said India will continue to accord a high national priority to nuclear security through strong institutional framework, independent regulatory agency as well as trained and specialized manpower.

A senior official present in the room told this correspondent that Modi emphasized that "the only way to reduce the scope of terrorists using weapons of mass destruction was through greater cooperation including information sharing, intelligence exchange and developing human resources on a mass scale to tackle the threat". Modi suggested a unique way of starting the process of capacity building by "training the vast network of UN peacekeeping operations, which Indian troops also contribute to, in handling nuclear threats and attacks".

The Prime Minister also offered other significant solutions at the summit. He pointed out that India had reduced the threat of medical radiological devices being misused by employing technology to make them less harmful or accessible. He also talked about the need to reduce the vast amount of radiological waste generated by power plants by using "reprocessing techniques to reduce the size of such nuclear stockpiles and reuse them". In the progress report that India submitted at the summit, the statement highlighted the growing threat of cyber-attacks on nuclear plants and the need to build capacity and train people to counter such threats.

Earlier, during the various discussions especially at the working dinner, where Modi sat next to US President Barack Obama, the Prime Minister came out with some scathing observations of how the world had neglected tackling terrorism. Modi mentioned three main attributes of modern terrorists: their strategy of making a huge impact through massive attacks; that such terrorists no longer live in caves (alluding to Osama Bin Laden) but stay in cities and are technologically savvy; and that state actors working with nuclear traffickers and terrorists present the greatest risk (an indirect reference to Pakistan).

Modi had pointed out that, "While terrorists are using 21st century technology, our responses are rooted in the past. While terrorists are globally networked we still act only nationally to counter this threat. That while their reach and supply chains are global, genuine cooperation between nation states are not."

Modi announced some significant Indian contributions during the summit to enhance nuclear security worldwide including giving the International Atomic Energy Agency $1 million towards its Nuclear Security Fund for training and review services. India also joined the core group of 35 nations who would carry forward the legacy of the summit by strengthening the implementation of nuclear security measures. To reduce risk of such terrorism in India, he said India had set up a counter nuclear smuggling team headed by the Department of Atomic Energy to strengthen the monitoring of movement of nuclear material in the country and prevent any attempts to misuse it.

During his visit, Modi held bilateral meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Canadian Prime Minister M Justin Trudeau, Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, Swiss President Johann N Schneider-Ammann, Argentinian President Mauricio Macri and New Zealand PM John Key. At the summit, Prime Minister Modi also interacted with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev apart from a host of other leaders.

Earlier speaking at the White House dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama which kicked off the two-day summit, Modi underlined the need for maintaining highest level of vigil with regard to nuclear terrorism, and made a veiled attack on Pakistan, saying the "greatest risk" is from state actors working with nuclear traffickers.

President Obama cited progress in making large parts of the world free of nuclear materials. South America had already achieved this, and Central Europe and South East Asia were expected to do so later this year. "Together, we have removed the world's most deadly materials from nuclear facilities around the world," he said. Despite these gains, Obama said the Indian subcontinent and the Korean peninsula were areas where more could be done to combat proliferation.

Mr. Obama said the world cannot be "complacent" and must build on its progress in slowing the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. "There is no doubt that if these mad men ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many people as possible," he said.