Amit Baruah

It is in fact an extension of the MoU signed in Lahore in 1999

NEW DELHI: The objective behind the Agreement on Reducing the Risk from Accidents Relating to Nuclear Weapons, signed between India and Pakistan on Wednesday is to promote a stable environment of peace and security in the region.

While committing themselves to the objective of global and non-discriminatory nuclear disarmament, the text of the Agreement obtained by The Hindu recognised that the "nuclear dimension of the security environment" added to "their responsibility for avoidance of conflict between the two countries."

The preamble to the Agreement made a reference to the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries in Lahore in February 1999, which committed them to undertaking national measures to reduce the risks of accidental or unauthorised use of nuclear weapons.

In Lahore, the two countries also undertook to notify each other immediately in the event of any accidental, unauthorised or unexplained incident that could create the risk of a fallout with adverse consequences for the sides or an outbreak of a nuclear war between the two countries.

Clearly, Wednesday's Agreement constitutes the implementation of the Lahore MoU, which itself was a mechanism to assure the rest of the world that after the nuclear weaponisation of May 1998, India and Pakistan would behave responsibly.

The document committed the two parties to maintain and improve, as it deemed necessary, existing national measures including organisational and technical arrangements, to "guard against accidents related to nuclear weapons under its control."

Article 2 of the Agreement said, "The parties shall notify each other immediately in the event of any accident relating to nuclear weapons, under their respective jurisdiction or control, which could create the risk of an outbreak of a nuclear war between the two countries."

"In the event of such an accident, the party within whose jurisdiction or control the accident has taken place will immediately take necessary measures to minimise the radiological consequences of such an accident," it stated.

However, the Agreement spelt out that the obligation of a party to notify the other shall be in respect of only such accidents that might result in international trans-boundary release of radiological safety significance or have security implications for the other party.

In the event of an accident, the parties committed themselves to reducing the possibilities of their actions being misinterpreted by the other and present the other party "forthwith" with relevant information.

"The parties shall make use of the hotline links between the two Foreign Secretaries and DGMOs [Directors-General of Military Operations] or any other appropriate communication link as mutually agreed upon ... for transmission of, or request for, urgent information in situations relating to the implementation of this Agreement," the text said.