Courage of Conviction


April 12 and 13, 2010 saw an unprecedented Global Nuclear Security Summit being organised in Washington. Leaders and top officials from 47 countries attended the largest summit hosted by a US President in more than six decades, agreeing to strengthen existing international safeguards for nuclear material and to enhance security. The countries that participated in the deliberations including the leaders of Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Germany, Spain and France.

Starting with his presidential campaign, Obama has pushed for a tighter safeguarding regime to secure all vulnerable nuclear stockpiles and material within four years, breaking up black markets, using financial leverage and interdicting transport of dangerous nuclear material. As part part of a series of efforts in his administration to reduce the nuclear threat, President Barack Obama set out the contours of  disarmament and outlined his vision for a nuclear-free world in a speech at Prague. This Summit took place a year after that famous speech.

Nuclear technology has long been recognized as capable of both tremendous benefits and tremendous destruction. His predecessor George Bush, had launched the the Proliferation Security Initiative or PSI in 2003. More than 90 countries currently support PSI. These countries resolved to cooperate in intercepting illicit shipments of nuclear technology and other dangerous items. President Obama strengthened  the PSI and the International efforts to curb the danger of nuclear material winding up in the wrong hands and to bring other international initiatives together to take a more comprehensive approach toward addressing the threat.

But the Non Proliferation lobby that advocate for a reduction in nuclear arms and enhanced security believe the goals of the Summit fall short of thoroughly addressing the real problem. But while applauding the effort, the general feeling at the Summit is that more stringent measures are needed to prevent terrorists from accessing nuclear material and launching a potentially devastating attack. When both US and Russia continue to have stockpile of thousands of kilogrammes of highly enriched uranium, it makes it more difficult to persuade smaller countries to abandon their stockpiles. The tendency is for other countries to say “don’t tell us to get rid of ours, you need to do more to get rid of yours.”

And the debate will go on and it’s only fair. But what goes unnoticed is the conviction with President Obama has achieved a drastic shift in US defence policy with a pledge broaden the long standing efforts to take back the dangerous fuel and convert civilian reactors to low-enriched uranium, to give a greater role in the effort to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear monitoring body and pushing the policy not use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them.

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