Although it was due in February 2018, the month of September marked the launch of the volume of 2018 Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) index report following the subsequent volumes of 2012, 2014 and 2016 indexes. The report is a subject of unease, followed by heated and frenzied debates among the analysts of many countries, worldwide. The same has come into view this year, predominantly in South Asia, where debates over nuclear security remain litigious. Despite Pakistan’s improved nuclear security and safety performance, the 2018 NTI index is not expected to be taken well in Islamabad. In order to focus on security against the so-called loose nukes, an organization with the name of Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) was established back in 2001. It calls itself as a non-profit and a non-partisan organization. The NTI was founded by a US Senator and a Georgia Democrat, Sam Nunn and CNN founder the broadcast executive, Ted Turner. The NTI and the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) collectively prepares NTI’s index reports— a bi-annual report assessing nuclear theft and threat, globally. The report predominantly reviews and evaluates the existing gaps and relevant problems regarding the nuclear security. Previously in 2012 and 2014, the first and second edition of the NTI index focused the theft ranking, i.e. the threat of theft of sensitive technology primarily nuclear related technology on country to country basis. The third edition of NTI nuclear materials security index 2016 introduced a framework of analyzing the threat of sabotage of nuclear material along with a focus on cyber security. Hitherto, in the contemporary 2018 NTI Index, a new section of cyber threat has been spotlighted by the report’s compilers. The NTI and the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) collectively prepares NTI’s index reports — a bi-annual report assessing nuclear theft and threat, globally. The report predominantly reviews and evaluates the existing gaps and relevant problems regarding the nuclear security Overall trend in the 2018 Index could be probed in that the security of nuclear material and nuclear sites has improved in the majority of countries since 2012. Focusing in cyber-security section there are four more states that have established the “top score 5, totalling 13 countries”. Erin Dumbacher, NTI Program Officer for Science and Technical Affairs said: “The Index shows that 15 countries are listed with a 0 rating, meaning that there has been little to no regulation put into place to provide cyber-security to nuclear energy and weapons infrastructure however, in 2016 the number of countries with a 0 rating was 19, so improvements are being made.” The former Energy Secretary who is now co-chair and CEO of the think tank, alongside Nunn Ernest Moniz said that the “Cyber-attacks can facilitate the theft of nuclear materials or an act of sabotage that could result in catastrophic health consequences for the public.” Besides, the termination of the series of the four nuclear security summits since 2016, is taken as a problem of waning focus of the country towards the risk of nuclear theft and sabotage. Although, the nuclear security summits were not of much gain, they did instil trust and confidence which was gathered by the summit process that could be adversely affected by these biased index documents. The NTI index is often taken to re-establish the old divide and could even exhibit counterproductive for nuclear security. Critically enough, according to the 2018 report, around 11-12 countries having civilian nuclear facilities are reported at an increased risk of nuclear theft and sabotage. The methodology of NTI metrics is often criticized by many scholars since the first launch of the index, back in 2012. It involves surveying several countries and scoring them on the base of the chances of nuclear theft and sabotage ranking. Ironically, the NTI index reckons that just because a country has an increased number of nuclear usable materials or nuclear stockpiles, its security risks increase. Paradoxically, the NTI should have addressed the security or the safety of nuclear related material instead of its quantity. It is pertinent to confess that the analysts involved in state’s scoring/ranking process are credible authorities on the subject matter however; political analysts have been critical of the procedure and have articulated concerns over the “control and leadership exercised on the project by known non-proliferation activists.” Besides the above mentioned loopholes, generally there is a perception in South Asia at large that the NTI Security Index is an anti-south Asian, Western non-proliferation document, due to its biased calculations on some accounts. South Asian nuclear countries; primarily India is against the nuclear threat index calculation mechanism because it feels that the Index is pursuing the Global threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) agenda, which is an American initiative and it is methodologically faulty to presume that not joining the GTRI is bad for nuclear security. Since the NTI Index focuses only on the nuclear weapons material and ignores the radiological sources, it can be criticized to this escape as well. In South Asia the above criteria does not fits-in appropriately, particularly in case of Pakistan. Due to the Indian conventional asymmetry, both states in one or the other way are involved in technological advances of their nuclear capabilities. Pakistan is too believed to have a fair number of nuclear related materials but it reportedly has taken considerable steps to secure it satisfactorily. “Consequently, there is a probability that a state’s nuclear security measures are rigorous and more reliable than the sum of material held by a particular country. This is something that NTI’s measurements could not address even after the launch of its fourth report. On terms of the ranking for nuclear weapon usable material, in South Asia, Pakistan has been placed at the bottom of the global indices while India has been placed on the second last position. Nevertheless, Pakistan’s quest for nuclear and missile technology in response to Indian developments has always been aimed at countering Indian offensive capabilities, especially missiles and nuclear weapons. To be fair it is pertinent for Pakistan to keep its diplomatic face active on all fronts. Admittedly, it needs to be acknowledged that the index is a unique and a distinctive assessment of sensitive technologies with a focus on nuclear materials security conditions among the 176 countries. However, in order to recommend a way forward for the Nuclear Threat Index to become more plausible and authentic, three proposals can be worked on, including: building an effective global nuclear security system; improving state stewardship of nuclear material and facilities and lastly defensive strategies to defend against the risk of cyber-attack. The writer is associated with the Strategic Vision Institute and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, December 2nd 2018.