Obama’s Nuclear Summit

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Madmen and wrong directions

President Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) is one of those same-agenda-every-time gatherings where everybody knows what everybody is going to say. They reiterate, first of all, the urgent need to keep nuclear weapons and dirty bombs away from ‘madmen’ from IS, al Qaeda, etc. This concern formed the basis of Obama’s Global Zero as far back as his first campaign trail and was the major thrust behind the ’10 launch of NSS. And events since – which prove that AQ tried to acquire small nuclear weapons and IS employed chemical agents in Syria – have obviously not gone unnoticed in Washington.

Then, ritually, they worry about increased production of small, tactical nuclear weapons. That, obviously, is where the Pak-India logjam comes under discussion. And then, before wrapping up, they vow to keep up the resolve and soon enough it’s back to business as usual. Intrinsically, it is not immediately clear how far each Summit might go towards Obama’s Global Zero. Sometimes some of the most important states just don’t show up – like Putin chose to stay away this time. Also, once controversial and now largely forgotten issues, like Israel’s deliberate policy of ‘nuclear ambiguity’, are never discussed.

Yet these photo ops are important and the NSS is an extremely important platform. And since Pak-India is a recurring theme, Islamabad should leverage the NSS to impress its position upon the international community once again. Unfortunately the PM could not attend, and Tariq Fatemi did what he could, but Islamabad needs to elaborate its program’s ‘reactionary’ nature; one that is mandated by India’s advances at every stage. And since both Pakistan and India are responsible nuclear states, let the international community engage Delhi for a responsible de-escalation and see if Islamabad downgrades its minimum deterrence proportionally. Not only would that change the usual Summit theme, it would also go some way in correcting the “wrong direction” that Obama noted in his speech.