Mr. Arun Gupta
It is surprising that inernational media did not give appropriate coverage to the recent cases of uranium theft in India, which are likely to endanger global security. In this regard, Indian police arrested seven people in Jharkhand on June 3, this year and seized more than 6 kilos of uranium from two of the accused, as they were trying to sell it in the market.
Police Superintendent Chandan Kumar Jha stated: “The uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons…Seven mobile phones and a motorbike were also seized.” The uranium seizure is the second such incident in India in less than a month, after the Indian police’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) had arrested two men with at least seven kilogrammes of natural uranium in Mumbai on May 7. One of the suspects, a uranium dealer, also tried to sell the material.
In this respect, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson ZahidHafeezChaudhri said in a statement that Pakistan has demanded a thorough investigation into the reports of illegal uranium trade in India, after seven more people were arrested for possessing radioactive material. He elaborated that these incidents are “a matter of deep concern as they point to lax controls, poor regulatory and enforcement mechanisms, as well as possible existence of a black market for nuclear materials inside India.” The FO statement added that Pakistan reiterated its call “for strengthening the security of nuclear materials to prevent their diversion…to ascertain the intent use of the attempted uranium sale, its relevance to international peace and security as well as the sanctity of the global non-proliferation regime.”
Notably, The United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) makes it binding on states to ensure stringent measures to prevent nuclear material from falling into wrong hands.
While, India’s past record proves various kinds of incidents of safety lapses regarding various nuclear plants and sites—leakage and theft, including smuggling of the related sensitive materials. Indian media reported on July 5, 2018 that the Kolkata police arrested five men with 1 kilogramme of uranium. In 2016, police confiscated almost 9 kilogrammes of depleted uranium in the Thane area of Maharashtra.
In October 8, 2014, at Kalpakkam, a soldier of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) responsible for protecting nuclear materials, went on a rampage to destroy the security of the facility, leading to nuclear material theft by criminals. Besides other similar events, in July 1998, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) seized 8 kilogrammes of nuclear material from three engineers in Chennai, which was stolen from an atomic research centre.
On November 7, 2000, IAEA disclosed that Indian police had seized 57 pounds of uranium and arrested two men for illicit trafficking of radioactive material. IAEA had revealed that Indian civil nuclear facilities were vulnerable to thefts. On January 26, 2003, CNN pointed out that Indian company, NEC Engineers Private Ltd. shipped 10 consignments to Iraq, containing highly sensitive equipment entailing titanium vessels and centrifugal pumps. In December 2006, a container packed with radioactive material had been stolen from an Indian fortified research atomic facility near Mumbai.
However, such events continued in India, putting the security of atomic components and their related materials at high stake.
It is notable that during his first visit to New Delhi on November 6, 2010, the then US President Barack Obama announced the measures America would take regarding removal of Indian space and defence companies from a restricted “entities list”, and supported Indian demand for membership of four key global nuclear non-proliferation regimes.
As part of the double standards in relation to India and Pakistan, America set aside India’s poor record regarding the safety of nuclear weapons and their related materials. Despite, Indian violations of various international agreements and its refusal to sign Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Additional Protocol with the IAEA, Washington signed a pact of nuclear civil technology with New Delhi in 2008.
During President Obama’s visit to India, on January 25, 2016, the US and India announced a breakthrough on the pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology. America also pressurised IAEA and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to grant a waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on a larger scale. Evidence indicates that India has not fulfilled the conditions of the NSG waiver. At least, eight of India’s nuclear reactors are outside safeguards which are a big question mark on the credibility of its nuclear safety and security standards. In fact, the US supports Indian nuclear programme in the pretext of an anti-China and anti-Pakistan approach.
In this connection, in November, 2020 at a joint press conference and a joint press briefing, Director General of ISPR Major-General Babar Iftikhar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi unveiled a dossier containing “irrefutable evidence” of India’s sponsorship of terrorism in Pakistan. They revealed: “We have apprehended a RAW-sponsored sleeper cell in Karachi, which wants to create unrest in the country…India united Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] with banned dissident [Terror] organizations…Indian intelligence agencies are also trying to establish Daesh-e-Pakistan…has recently shifted 30 terrorists of Daesh to Pakistan.”
Afterwards, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN MunirAkram handed over the dossier to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In its 27th report, dated February 3, 2021, the UN Security Council’s monitoring team for tracking terrorist groups verified Pakistan’s dossier, while acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts in arresting individuals engaging in terrorism financing and noting the threat from the TTP—the reunification of splinter groups [of TTP] in Afghanistan, which enhanced the threat of terrorism not only to Pakistan but the entire region.