A Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

Global Nuclear Detection Architecture: A Study of South Asia


Global Nuclear Detection Architecture: A Study of South Asia

Investigators: 

Project Details

Abstract: 

DNDO's Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (GNDA) clearly recognizes the international dimension of the problem of nuclear and radiological terrorism. US strategy for combating radiological and nuclear terrorism includes components for improving the security of nuclear and radiological material worldwide as well as monitoring transshipment points for goods destined for the United States. Implementing this strategy requires developing both bilateral and regional partnerships with key countries aimed at enhancing nuclear detection capabilities. The continued political differences between India and Pakistan have not prevented the adoption of confidence- and security-building measures in many areas designed to reduce the risk of armed conflict, including nuclear conflict. These precedents for cooperation can serve as a foundation for construction of the South Asian components of the GNDA if regional states can develop a common appreciation of its feasibility and benefits. This project build's understanding of nuclear terrorist threats and possibilities for reducing these threats through nuclear detection by exploring the potential of promoting regional cooperation for preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism.

Primary Findings: 

The problem of trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials remains acute in parts of South Asia. In recent years, there have been some cases of suspected trafficking of such illicit substances in the region. A variety of potential trafficking routes exist in the region, encompassing both land and sea-based pathways. Different groups, such as terrorist groups with a presence in Pakistan (including Al Qaida) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka, have expressed an interest in acquiring such devices. A number of deep-rooted factors impact on the capacity of governments to put in place comprehensive measures to detect and prevent trafficking of nuclear and radiological materials. Most crucially, terrorist and insurgent violence in various parts of Pakistan creates conditions that permit the activities of proliferation networks, while at the same time creating windows of opportunity for jihadist groups to consider acquiring nuclear/radiological substances. Increasing attacks in vicinity of nuclear-linked facilities and attempts to kidnap personnel within the Pakistani nuclear complex demonstrate vulnerabilities in the security framework. Given the transnational nature of the problem, the key to an effective framework for detecting and preventing such illicit transfers is enhanced and institutionalized cooperation between governments in the region. At the same, strengthening the authority of governments in their border territories is crucial. Moreover, South Asia cannot be considered in isolation from networks and pathways that connect it to other regions, such as Southeast Asia. South Asian authorities are increasingly developing capabilities for detecting and interdicting nuclear/radiological materials. Apart from these governments, other important actors include extra-regional powers such as the United States and China, that have provided (in the case of Pakistan) crucial technical assistance. The role of private sector companies is also important in this context.

Methodology: 

This project is based on analysis of open-source data collected from a variety of sources. They include primary-source documents, government documents and statements, and police/judicial records. Also consulted are news-reports and expert analyses, and statements of leaders of various terrorist entities to glean their intentions on nuclear and radiological materials. This project also uses case studies to highlight trends, threat perceptions, and the policies and steps taken by concerned authorities. These cases also help pinpoint trafficking routes and help outline conditions under which potential routes can emerge.

Timeframe

Project Period: 
October 2008 to September 2009

Selected Publications

News References

From South Korea to START (People Spotlight)