For years India has run propaganda against Pakistan's nuclear program, asserting that it is endangering the world, while Pakistan made efforts on state-level to ensure that its nuclear assets are safe, secure, and far out of the reach of terrorist organizations.
On the other hand, not only India is expanding its nuclear program actively pursuing vertical nuclear proliferation post-1998, but the nuclear black market in the country is also thriving. A recent example of this is the recent arrest of two men by the Indian Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for illegally possessing over seven kilograms of highly radioactive natural uranium in the western Maharashtra state.
According to the Indian media, the arrestees were apprehended as ATS set a trap for them after gathering intel that they are looking to find buyers for the radioactive element.
This is not a one-time accident, which makes it even more alarming and raises credible suspicions about India becoming a hotspot for a potential illegal nuclear trade and a black market hub. In December 2016, the police seized around 9kg of depleted uranium (DU) in Thane, India. The consignment, costing almost Rs 27 crore, is believed to have been smuggled from a Gulf nation and was up for sale in the black market.
In July 2018, Kolkata police arrested five men with allegedly one kilogram of uranium stored in two plastic bags. It was revealed later that the substance was allegedly uranium resin that had come in contact with radioactive uranium previously.
In February 2021, four men in Indore were apprehended by the police while trying to find buyers for 2gm of uranium stored in three glass bottles and one plastic bag.
In March 2021, Four Nepalese nationals were arrested by the law and enforcement agencies in Khatmandu for possessing 2.5 kilograms of unprocessed highly radioactive uranium. The arrest was made after authorities received a tip that someone is trying to sell a radioactive element.
According to the details police shred with the media, the uranium was smuggled into Nepal by the father-in-law of an arrestee who "brought" it from India where he worked in a uranium mine some 20 years ago.
If all these instances indicate one thing, it is that India is a safe haven for the nuclear black market and illegal trade. The ease with which radioactive material is both smuggled in and out of the South Asian country should raise an alarm amongst the international community and a thorough investigation into India's nuclear/Uranium assets and the black market should be conducted.
While the amount of Uranium seized by the Indian police is not nearly enough to make an atomic bomb, it is more than enough to be used in a dirty bomb and do considerable damage. Considering that there have been many attempts by terrorist organizations in recent years to acquire radioactive material, the South Asian state must be held accountable by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international bodies, especially since it has been trying to be included in the Nuclear Supplier Group NSG despite being a non-signatory of nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
India currently has over 150 nuclear warheads and is rapidly making efforts to increase the number. According to a 2017 Belfer Center report, over the next decade, India will supersede China, France, and the UK in nuclear weapons stockpiles. This will allow the country to become the third country with the most nuclear warheads, just behind the U.S. and Russia.
India clearly is in violation of its 2008 agreement with the United States and IAEA -- which granted it a one-time exception from the NSG requirement for full-scope safeguards as a condition of export --because of the non-transparent nature of its alleged 'civilian' nuclear program as well as for expanding its for-the-use-of-military program and flourishing nuclear black market which it has failed to curb or contain. It is time that Pakistan takes up this case and asks the international community to demand transparency from India and access to its nuclear facilities for the safety and security of the entire region.