U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference to close the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC, April 13, 2010.
"Building a Strategic U.S.- Pakistan Nuclear Relationship"
Journal Article, CTC Sentinel, volume 3, issue 4
April 21, 2010
Author: Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
On April 12-13, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the Washington Nuclear Security Summit. The final communiqué released from the summit, and agreed to by the 47 countries in attendance, stated that "nuclear terrorism is one of the most challenging threats to international security, and strong nuclear security measures are the most effective means to prevent terrorists, criminals, or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials." With this commitment, the bar has been raised for all countries to reassess their current levels of engagement with one another in an effort to achieve a greater level of nuclear security. As President Obama stated in Prague on April 5, 2009, "one nuclear weapon exploded in one city- be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad, or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague-could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be-for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival."
The United States and Pakistan recently initiated a promising series of high level talks to develop a strategic relationship between the two countries. Even in pursuit of such an expanded bilateral agenda, however, lowering the risks associated with Pakistan's nuclear weapons must stand at the top of the list of priorities. Indeed, a key test of whether the two countries are able to develop a genuine partnership is whether the current levels of extreme sensitivity and mutual mistrust can be reduced, if not eliminated. In turn, this might lead to a shared sense of purpose that the proliferation and terrorism risks associated with nuclear weapons can be mitigated in ways that are less opaque, yet fully respectful of Pakistan's sovereignty.
In this spirit, the nuclear-related agenda for joint cooperation should concentrate on four strategic areas of engagement: understanding the risks associated with Pakistan's nuclear weapons program; considering broader trends that could impact Pakistan's nuclear security posture negatively; strengthening communications in case of a nuclear crisis; and increasing public outreach in Pakistan that counters the mysteries surrounding cooperation in this area of great national sensitivity.
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