Existing in nuclear age

ByUmair Jalali

Teaches in The Royal Colosseum and is an avid sports fan


February 26, 2023

Existing in nuclear age

Umair Jalali draws attention towards a Existing in nuclear age

The extremely polarised social media keeps out churning stories that have no sound basis and rationale. The recent hullaballoo started with the overactive social media of a political group spreading the impression that the visit of DG International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was related to pursuing some negative designs about Pakistan’s Existing in nuclear ageassets. It is widely recognised that Existing in nuclear age and their preservation is a sensitive issue in Pakistan and any negative perception about them becomes a problematic matter in the country.

It was therefore quite obvious that the visit of representative of IAEA was a matter full of possibilities of exploitation and it was exploited with alacrity by the rumour mills in the country. The negativity associated with this rumour campaign was so widely spread that actual purpose of this visit was clarified officially.

It was officially described that the Director General of the IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Pakistan and held discussions focused on further enhancement of cooperation between Pakistan and IAEA in the areas of peaceful applications of nuclear technology specifically its role for mitigating the impacts of climate change.

He was briefed about the nuclear security and regulatory regime and it was explained that Pakistan has five decades of experience of safe and secure operations of civil nuclear power plants which follow the IAEA standards and guidelines. Grossi also visited nuclear related agencies of the country to witness the safe and secure applications of nuclear technologies in the area of public health, industry, agriculture, food security and power generation.

Nuclear Reduction And Inspection

The DG IAEA inaugurated the CyberKnife and spent fuel dry storage facilities respectively announcing that he also announced that Pakistan will serve, under ‘Ray of Hope’ initiative, as IAEA’s Regional Center for cancer treatment. Moreover, he inaugurated the ZODIAC Lab and designated the institute as IAEA’s Collaborating Center in agriculture and biotechnology.

He delivered a key note address at a seminar on the topic “Climate Change Mitigation and the Role of Nuclear Energy” in Islamabad highlighting the importance of nuclear energy, as a clean source of energy, in countering the adverse impacts of climate change.

It was mentioned that since 1957, Pakistan, being a founding member of the IAEA, enjoys a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with the Agency and as member of the IAEA Board of Governors, Pakistan is also contributing to Agency’s decision making.

It was specifically mentioned such visits are a regular feature of Pakistan-IAEA interaction and in this respect former Director General of IAEA Yukia Amano visited Pakistan twice during his tenure and that Grossi’s visit had been pending due to COVID-19 pandemic.

The beginning of global efforts to design and implement nuclear reduction and inspection regimes, started in 1950s as high-level diplomacy under a United Nations framework managed to establish a moratorium or suspension on nuclear testing by the United States and the Soviet Union.

However, by 1961 a climate of mistrust and heightened tensions between the two nations caused testing to resume. One year later, in 1962, the world came to the brink of nuclear war in what is now known as the Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviet Union sought to place nuclear warheads in Cuba.

Existing In Nuclear Age Crisis

Cuban leader Fidel Castro had requested the weapons to deter the United States from meddling in Cuban politics following a failed US-sponsored invasion by anti-Castro forces in 1961. After pushing each other to the brink, US president John F. Kennedy and Khrushchev found that via diplomacy they could agree to a compromise that satisfied the basic security needs of both.

Over a series of negotiations Soviet missiles were removed from Cuba in return for the United States removing missiles they had deployed in Turkey and Italy. The most potent outcome of this nuclear crisis was that international diplomacy succeeded to initiate the principle of verification by the United Nations which independently checked for compliance.

Building further on the momentum in 1963 the Partial Test Ban Treaty was agreed confining nuclear testing to underground sites only. It was not a perfect solution but it was progress that continued. Although early moves to regulate nuclear weapons were a mixed affair but the faith was put in building diplomacy was pivotal in the course of the Cold War and facilitated further progress in finding areas of agreement.

In the years that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cold War diplomacy entered a high watermark phase in what became known as a period of détente between the superpowers as they sought to engage diplomatically with each other on a variety of issues, including a major arms limitation treaty. In that climate, progress was also made on nuclear proliferation.

Building on earlier progress, the 1970s opened with the entering into force of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1970. The Treaty sought to channel existing in nuclear age technology into civilian uses and to recognise the destabilising effect of further nuclear weapons proliferation on the international community.

Non-Proliferation Treaty Sought

The genius of the treaty was that it was aware of the realities of the international politics therefore it was not a disarmament treaty as great powers would simply not give up their nuclear weapons. So, instead of pursuing an impossible goal of eliminating nuclear weapons, the Non-Proliferation Treaty sought to freeze the number of countries that had nuclear weapons.

Simultaneously, those countries were encouraged to share non-military nuclear technology with other countries such as civilian nuclear energy so that those countries would not feel tempted to pursue nuclear weapons. Due to the well-considered design of the treaty and its enforcement, it has been deemed highly successful.

Following the end of the Cold War, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was permanently extended in 1995. Though it was acknowledged that NPT has not been able to keep the number of nuclear countries to five but there are still fewer than ten – which is far from the twenty or more projected by diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic before the treaty entered into force in 1970.

The non-proliferation regime is not considered perfect of course as is evident from the nuclear quest of North Korea’s to proliferate despite international will. It is also a system with an inherent bias since a number of nations are allowed to have nuclear weapons simply because they were first to develop them and this continues to be the case regardless of their behaviour. Yet, the attendant risk of nuclear weapons has been greatly mitigated by diplomacy.

When a country is rumoured to be developing a nuclear bomb, as in the case of Iran, the reaction of the international community is always one of common alarm but due to skilful diplomacy has ensured that non-proliferation remains a crucial norm of international system. The Weekender


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