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What to expect from the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit

March 26, 2012 11:14 IST
The '2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit', which starts in Seoul today, is the largest summit in the nuclear security sector to discuss international cooperative measures to protect nuclear materials and facilities from terrorist groups. Srikanth Kondapalli, professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, explains what to expect from two-day long deliberations at Seoul 

The two-day long Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea, that started today, is important for India because it is discussing the threat posed by nuclear terrorism.

India has many concerns on nuclear-related issues. The safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is the main issue. India is, currently, also worried about the fuel import from Iran. Iran is facing pressure from the world over its nuclear ambitions. It is facing serious sanctions that can wreck its economy. India is worried about the import bill if the sanctions against Iran work. The price of a barrel of oil is expected to go up and is likely to cross the $100 mark. If it happens it is going to pinch India's growth rate. India will like to see how the leaders of more than 50 countries are debating the ongoing Iran nuclear crisis.

In 2005, when Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the United States, he had a certain kind of understanding with the US over the Iran issue in his meeting with President George Bush. America wanted China to change its stance over Iran. There was the allegation that China was helping Iran in its Isfahan nuclear project by providing certain gases. America wanted China to dilute its stance on Iran and as quid pro quo China wanted advanced nuclear technologies from America. As a result we saw China accepting four UN resolutions on Iran related to sanctions.

China has so far not joined the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project. After the two-day summit in South Korea, many experts believe that more stringent sanctions will be imposed on Iran. Due to this Iran may not be in a position to export oil or gas. As a result, OPEC countries, in view of the reduced supply of oil, would raise prices.

Secondly, soon after India got the clearance from the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the International Atomic Energy Agency after the Indo-US 123 agreement, China, too, got the clearance to help Pakistan in developing its Chashma 3 and 4 projects for civil nuclear energy. Many see this as China's attempt to counterbalance the US-India relationship.

It is a long-term development. The so-called "grandfathering clause" of Chashma 3 and 4 projects will continue for the next 15 to 20 years. China says it planned the export of Chashma 3 and 4 nuclear reactors to Pakistan under the "grandfathering" clause of the NSG because the deal with Pakistan was agreed before China joined the NSG in 2004.

By this one act we see the balance being imposed in South Asia by China. For the foreseeable future India will see China's role in Pakistan's nuclear activity. Along with this, we read the news, recently, of how Pakistan's prime minister and defence minister have talked about the possibility of China taking over the Gwadar port as its naval base.

As the NSS is being hosted by South Korea, the issue of nuclearisation of North Korea will come into focus too. The six-party talks have not been heading anywhere. The issue is now more confined to the US-North Korea. A good thing is that North Korea has not made any caustic comment on increasing its nuclear stockpiles or about ballistic missiles. The new and young leadership of North Korea is reticent, so far. China wants the US to recognise North Korea.
Srikanth Kondapalli