Welcome address by Foreign Secretary at Implementation and Assessment Group Meeting Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), New Delhi
February 08, 2017
Excellencies, distinguished delegates and participants, ladies and gentlemen.
- It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the 2017 edition of the Implementation and Assessment Group Meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. At the Nuclear Security Summit held in March 2016, Prime Minister Modi had announced that India would host this event. It is the first occasion that a GICNT meeting is being held in South Asia and my country is proud to be associated with this initiative.
- The power of the atom is wondrous. It has benefitted mankind in myriad ways. The scientific community has played a vital role in harnessing nuclear energy and radiological sources for societal needs. The ancient Indian philosopher and sage, Kanada, propounded the concept of ‘atom’ in the sixth century B.C. Today, two and a half millennia later, as a country possessing advanced nuclear technologies, India is at the forefront in promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We have actively associated with and contributed to the IAEA and other multilateral forums dealing with all aspects of nuclear material.
- As mankind confronts the challenges of climate change and inclusive growth, nuclear energy will continue to play an important role in our lives. India and many other nations have built their developmental strategies on this premise. In fact, it is our expectation of predictable and affordable access to civilian nuclear energy that is the basis for our commitments under the Paris Agreement for 40% non-fossil power generation capacity. On the other hand, the negative consequences of atomic power also cannot be ignored. The world has witnessed the immense destructive power of the atom. We hope that such horrors will never be repeated and cannot overstate the importance of countries with nuclear weapons to be responsible.
- Events that have unfolded around us, more so in the past couple of decades, have highlighted that terrorism remains the most pervasive and serious challenge to international security. If access to nuclear technology changes State behaviour, it is only to be expected that it would also impact on non-state calculations. Nuclear security, therefore, will be a continuing concern, especially as terrorist groups and non-state actors strike deeper roots and explore different avenues to spread terror. Developing a comprehensive global response is the highest priority. There are two aspects to this challenge, which was highlighted as early as 1974 by Mason Willrich and Theodore Taylor. The first is to clamp down on terrorism in general and the second to restrict unauthorised access to nuclear technology and material. Given its impressive membership of 86 partner countries and 5 international organisations, the GICNT is expected to play an important role in providing an effective international platform for consolidating and disseminating the technical expertise and best practices to respond to malicious acts by terrorists.
- Responsible States provide political commitments to assure each other that they will protect nuclear material under their control from falling into the wrong hands. Every year at the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, India co-sponsors a resolution on “Measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction” that has been adopted by consensus since 2002. However, political commitments alone cannot ensure the safety and security of nuclear material. Treaty instruments such as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its Amendment provide a firm basis for translating broader political commitments into legally binding measures. As a State Party to these instruments, India has demonstrated its faith in these instruments and believes that their universalisation is a global good. Effective implementation of the obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1373 is another important pillar in the fight against terrorism and proliferation of WMD.
- There are, I believe, 13 instruments that are widely accepted as benchmarks for a State’s commitment to combat terrorism. What is more important is that adhering parties display the required sincerity to implement their commitment. The dangers of discriminating among terrorists – good or bad or even yours and mine – are increasingly recognized. Terrorism is an international threat that should not serve national strategy. Nuclear terrorism even more so. A Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism was proposed by India in 1996. We hope that this critical Convention would be adopted soon. The existence of a number of conventions and treaties dealing with nuclear terrorism underscores the fact that there is no one instrument that can deal with this issue in a holistic manner. The march of globalisation means that combating nuclear terrorism in isolation or as part of a small group is unlikely to yield the desired results. This is where the GICNT plays an important role as it works towards building worldwide communities of experts and practitioners in order to have a consistent and coherent approach towards the issue of nuclear terrorism.
- The Implementation and Assessment Group (IAG) and the other working Groups of the GICNT, namely, Nuclear Detection Working Group (NDWG), Response and Mitigation Working Group (RMWG) and Nuclear and Forensics Working Group (NFWG) have established themselves as the drivers for taking forward the important work of the Global Initiative. The membership of these groups represent the entire spectrum of relevant stakeholders – the scientific community, law enforcement agencies, first responders to nuclear security events, prosecutors and the judicial fraternity and of course, key decision makers from the diplomatic community. Their collaboration has enriched the body of work of the GICNT. The emphasis on case studies, mock trials, scenario-based exercises and other tools has contributed to an interactive learning. More importantly it has built a network of experts and practitioners who are available to help each other at short notice. Indian experts have contributed positively and substantively to the drafting of various documents and playbooks of the GICNT. India remains committed to further the objectives of the Global Initiative. We have been contributing to the Nuclear Security Fund of the IAEA. India’s Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) is available to interested States for training courses and capacity building programmes in the field of nuclear and radiological security.
- I am confident that your deliberations over these three days will help prioritise future action plans of the working groups of the GICNT and prepare for the upcoming annual Plenary in Japan. I also hope that you have time to explore this historic city and experience its rich culture. In concluding, I would like to thank the co-Chairs, the Russian Federation and the United States, the IAG coordinator, The Netherlands and the GICNT Secretariat whose help in preparing for this event has been unstinted. I wish the meeting all success.