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Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear Weapons’

A Q Khan and some candid admissions

September 22, 2009 2 comments

The ISI and some elements from within the Pakistan government must be a worried lot, especially in the wake of some candid admissions by an “aggrieved, wounded and humiliated” A.Q. Khan, the erstwhile head of Pakistan’s nuclear program, disgraced and now reduced to a common criminal for his illegal proliferation of nuclear weapons technology through a vast network of people spread across many countries who hankered to enter the coveted list of those rare ones in possession of nuclear delivery.

His admission in letters dating to the year of his arrest, that his activities involving nuclear proliferation which included exchanging and passing nuclear blue-prints and equipment to countries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Libya were conducted with the complicity of the Pakistani government and military comes as no surprise, for all along the proceedings of his actions, it was well known that he had the blessings and the support of the Pakistani establishment.

The illegal proliferation network aided by Pakistan ensured its presence in many a nation willing to pay for entry into the nuclear club and was taken notice by the American CIA although information passed on later to the US State Department remained not acted upon for fear of upsetting what Americans saw as a strategic partner in the war on terror! Overlooking what it very well knew was not condonable, the United States allowed Pakistan to continue its game of misadventure, tracking its every move in extensive detail. Furthermore, the Americans were aware of this from a very early age which can be traced to the premiership of Benzair Bhutto. Therefore, to conclude that Pakistan’s activities involving nuclear proliferation is of recent times is blatantly foolish.

The Americans sat up and brought to light their knowledge after the 9/11 incidents which required them to see world terror and its assistants in a different light. Mounting severe pressure over Pakistan, post the world trade tower incidents, and also making it a partner in the war on terror, United States more than just nudged Pakistan into admitting to this ominous network. Suddenly then American First Citizen increased his tirade against an axis of evil, which included North Korea and Iran, both of whom co-incidentally were also part of the list of beneficiaries of Pakistan’s well charted nuclear proliferation network!

In a desperate attempt to save face, then head of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf looked within the establishment for a scapegoat that he could nail for the expose and showcase to the world, hoping to silence the Americans and cap the pressure emanating on him. Thus happened the disgrace of Abdul Qadeer Khan, who from 1976 was involved in Pakistan’s nuclear program until 2001, when he was sacked from his position as the Chairman of the Kahuta Research Laboratories! His scripted downfall came in 2002 when the United States called for examination of his role in Pakistan’s activities of nuclear proliferation, which the Pakistanis emphatically dismissed as concocted. Then in 2003, following revelations from Iran and Libya, his fate appeared to be sealed and he was forever removed from the ‘inner circle’ and was made to sign a confession detailing his activities pertinent to nuclear proliferation!

President Musharraf however granted him pardon while he continued to be held under house arrest. Perhaps this was Musharraf’s way of granting him a breather while having made him shoulder the blame for a foul game that the Pakistani establishment had willfully played for a very long time!

Though the media has over the past couple of days highlighted extensively the letters containing Khan’s assertions, it comes as no surprise for the role of the Pakistani establishment was always known to the world, at least the world of the US State Department and the CIA, both of whom considered it best to ignore it for the succession of better bilateral ties! Moreover the letter itself, that so lucidly describes many a happenstance in the Pakistani nuclear ambit was written in 2003 immediately after Khan’s arrest and is by no means a recent production!

That it has now been made public is probably the beginning of another dramatic orchestration of events that will not be known in full light until the passage of many years! But perhaps, Khan should have known better than to trust his masters and taken strong wind of the stern advice given to him by Li Chew, then minister and head of China’s nuclear-weapons program. For if he had done so then “The bastards first used us and are now playing dirty games with us,” would have been more of a passable collection of words with little or no significance whatsoever!

Pakistan's call to ban nuclear weapons – An Analysis

August 13, 2009 6 comments

One would need to take a very cautiously optimistic approach while welcoming Pakistan’s call to ban nuclear weapons! Cautiously optimistic approach because, it remains to be discerned whether its nuclear arsenal is well within the control of the elected government! Besides, the statement that it “subscribes to the goals of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation and has always played an active and constructive role in the conference” should be seen as one among the many last ditch face saving attempts by a desperate nation embroiled in a state of terror which was created, financed and proliferated by its own agencies, who now are, in part, working to control the menace.

Probably intended to convey to the world of a reviewed intention in the arena of nuclear politics, Pakistan has, with this statement too, been ineffective to assure the international community in convincing them of its intentions which largely remain unclear and uncharacteristic to the extent that they are unbelievable! British envoy to the Conference on Disarmament, John Duncan said, “Pakistan’s stand was disappointing as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council; the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain as well as Iran, North Korea and Israel, back the consensus.” Sweden, which is another member nation, currently in position of holding the European Union’s revolving presidency has termed Pakistan’s stand as a procedural maneuver, aimed at stalling any significant agreement on reducing weaponry, which in essence is a treaty to halt production of fissile material. One wonders if Pakistan is merely responding to a veiled comment by the Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi asking the forum to expedite talks on a treaty to halt production of fissile material used to make nuclear weapons, which has been seen as partly aimed at it?

Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions began largely as a measure to counter a perceived Indian threat and it continues to remain a non signatory of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). It is easy to see why Pakistan is playing ball in a forum, whose significance, rather insignificance so far has been non-achievement of consensus to chart a treaty to reduce production of fissile material. Pakistan is neither a nuclear power nor is it a signatory of the NPT, as mentioned before. However, given the current situation and flux that is has come to witness, it is important for it to take a stand on terrorism and associated concerns, nuclear weapons in particular. By calling for a ban on nuclear weapons, Pakistan has schemed a two fold objective, the first being a sound byte to the International Community on how its policies are focused on committing to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons and secondly a pressure on the Conference of Disarmament to further play footsie on the fissile treaty, opinions on which could now be divided, even though realistically speaking, the envisioning of a world free of nuclear weapons is largely Utopian, and cannot attain practical application! By echoing such a stand, Pakistan is doing nothing to change its current posture or policy, which unlike India’s does not hinge on a no-first strike! To make matters worse, the nuclear arsenal is controlled and commanded by the Pakistan army and not by the civilian government, which is unlike India, where such a system is overseen by the Nuclear Command Authority which comprises the Prime Minister and other key functionaries of the government, apart from echelons of the Armed Forces.

It is interesting to note Pakistan’s demands, at the Conference of Disarmament, which include general nuclear disarmament, guarantees from nuclear powers that they would not attack non-nuclear states, banning nuclear weapons from outer space, and the fissile cut-off pact. Given the stance that Pakistan has almost suddenly taken, one wonders, pondering over several questions that have arisen as a result. Is Pakistan firstly capable of weapons grade nuclear delivery? If so, is the nuclear arsenal in safe hands? Is there any threat to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal in the coming future?

As for the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament, which is a UN body, I would not attribute much to its actions until a concrete agreement has been hammered out, speaking of which I’d like to remind the readers of a series of timeless haggling over the past 12 years that have largely stalled its activities and agenda! Now, as I write this post, word is that ‘the way forward has been finally achieved,’ a path to begin negotiations that have been frozen for a long time now!

So much for hard bargained progress!

Nuclear politics and North Korea

June 23, 2009 2 comments

North Korea’s impending ICBM launch towards Hawaii scheduled to happen early in July is keeping more than the United States on toes! This communist nation, emboldened by the success of two successful weapons tests, has been making bold overtures and issuing warnings of a nuclear strike in the region. It claims that the United States has based several nuclear strike capable missiles in neighbouring South Korea in an attempt to threaten its existence, a claim that is yet to be verified!

Increasing isolated by the international community and losing grip over its already teetering financial state, North Korea must realize the importance to deviate from its current nuclear posture and concentrate more on the economic and social situation that currently prevails in the country, something that needs to be addressed very urgently.

Having pulled out of  the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003, North Korea put to operational track, its two reactor plants located at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center aimed at producing weapons grade plutonium. However due to outdated Russian technology and several other constraints, production was significantly low and could not aid in building what North Korea wanted as a full fledged, long range nuclear weapon.

And then came into light the Abdul Qadeer Khan proliferation network, which according to US intelligence admittedly gave huge amounts of technological knowledge and support to the red brigade, a claim that was reinforced following an admission by the the Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharaf, which stated that Khan had indeed provided centrifuges and their designs to North Korea.

Now, at the backdrop of two successive nuclear tests, US President Barack Obama has described the North Korean action as a threat to international peace, which is mature communication unlike the terming of it as a part of the axis of evil by his predecessor George Bush! Following his condemnation of the tests which he called were a blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, he said “The danger posed by North Korea’s threatening activities warrants action by the international community. We have been and will continue working with our allies and partners in the six-party talks as well as other members of the UN Security Council in the days ahead.”

Despite international pressure to abandon the nuclear weapons program, Pyongyang continues to embark upon the project citing that it is under threat from South Korea and its allies, which includes the United States. A statement that followed the May 29th tests, which reads “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of the measures to bolster up its nuclear deterrent for self-defence in every way as requested by its scientists and technicians. The current nuclear test was safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control and the results of the test helped satisfactorily settle the scientific and technological problems arising in further increasing the power of nuclear weapons and steadily developing nuclear technology”, indicates Pyongyang’s belief that it needs to add a nuclear force to its stable of weapons in order to neutralize a threat that it sees originating from the United States.

Currently, as the deadline for the launch of a new missile is around the corner, President Obama’s call for peace, saying “there is another path available to North Korea, a path that leads to peace and economic opportunity for North Korea” is an offer to Pyongyang to return to the talking table, which it must do, for nuclear engagement is certainly not a viable humanitarian option!

American Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s statement that “we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory” comes as a measure of American confidence in defending the United States in the event of a missile launch toward Hawaii. However, the problem lies in not just defending but also effectively containing the crisis which could outline to the world as to how the US administration counters a national security threat and also pulls it off with diplomatic effort rather than by force!

There are several challenges that will be faced by this young administration in this process, the most significant of all being, the need to deter North Korea from carrying out the threat that it so emphatically claims to do! In the event that the launch takes place, the United States needs to work in close coordination with the United Nations to determine the kind of consequences that Pyongyang would need to face for such an action. This action should not be aimed at the civilian population who continiue to struggle in poverty. The United States also needs to reshape its policy, based on talks and exertion of diplomatic pressure, rather than apply the same old and spent formula that past governments have been applying on Pyongyang! Most importantly, America needs to reiterate its commitment to the process of achieving a nuclear free zone in the region and help promote a healthier relationship between the neighbours by creating a conducive arena for bilateral talks aimed at stamping out many deadlocks that have risen in the past and stayed on!

About two hours and fifty seven minutes ago, Pyongyang issued warning statements asking ships to avoid parts of its eastern waters beginning 25th June, for a period of 16 days, citing that it is in the process of conducting a military drill. Now this worries me a lot! Warnings of such nature in the past have indicated heavy military activity as was seen recently during two subsequent events,  the test launch of a short range missile and the nuclear test that followed!

I’m wondering if the 4rth of July celebrations across the United States are going to witness what might come to be known as a North Korean display of fireworks?

The menace of the Taliban

Bill Casey and Gen Zia Ul Huq would have had a lot of questions to answer had they been alive, particularly uncomfortable ones at that! Casey, in all probably, might have wanted to forget that he ever made the “We will know that we have succeeded when everything the public believes is false” statement. Success in falsehood have since come to haunt Pakistan and the NWFP ever since, with the creation and proliferation of the ominous Taliban which have dented the United States with the 9/11 incident and continue to bog them down along with their Pakistani counterparts elsewhere in Afghanistan, not to forget the significant damage they continue to wreck upon the ever turbulent Islamic republic of Pakistan!

The war on terror is far from over and the Taliban is anything but defeated with the United States shaping one strategy or another, inclusive of conditional aid to Pakistan. CIA Director Leon Panetta can afford to think aloud about Bin-Laden’s whereabouts but that is not getting him any closer to nabbing the world’s most wanted notorious element of terror soon! Repeated drone-aided pounding of the Af-Pak region in the hopes of distancing and dismantling the Taliban is obviously not proving to yield any desired results, and, on the contrary is making the place more deadly and volatile than ever before.

What is lacking on the part of the United States is a well coordinated HUMINT effort along with their Pakistani supports to understand the ground level situation and counter the same. Presently, a great deal of resources and efforts are being directed towards TECHINT efforts which are yet to bring results to the table. Worse still, the repeated uncoordinated attacks initiated by the United States Army in the region are causing more of the locals to join hands with the Taliban in what they see as an infidel violation of their scared land. If anything, this is making the US Army sweat more in the deadlock of not being able to reign in the fighters who have better knowledge of the terrain, much to the chagrin of their Corps Commanders and bosses ensconced in Washington. Observers in Washington couldn’t be more naive than providing repeated financial assistance to the government of Pakistan as part of what they call a systematic effort to fight the war on terror.

What is urgently needed is that the United States coordinate with the Pakistani Army in engaging in joint operations to first sanitize the regions and free it from the warring brigades of Taliban and help establish outposts that are jointly manned and protected. This ensures that the scourge does not spill over to other parts of Pakistan. Secondly, the ultra porous border that Pakistan shares with its neighbor Afghanistan needs urgent monitoring and securing. Though this may seem a marathon task, which it certainly is, it can be attained with the help of UAVs that can be deployed to track the movement of people across the border. Detachments need to be posted at strategic points to monitor people crossing over and their supply routes need to be checked from time to time, thereby preventing mass trafficking of weapons and other war material. However, before any concrete action is taken on this front, the United States needs to ensure that the ISI is not actually aiding separatist factions by supplying them weapons and resources which find safe cover in many madarassas and local safe houses belonging to chieftains in the area.

The Pakistani President’s recent statement that the nation is committed to fight the Taliban has been one of the many that has been repeated from time to time given the instances of terrorism that continue to plague the region. An informed observer would assign very insignificant importance to such echoes that are meant only for the comfort of the prying ears in Washington and the International Community. The truth is that Pakistan now stands at the brink of collapse given the rapidly escalating situation, if it not were to take any concrete measures to arrest the proliferation of the Taliban. And then, there is always the looming danger of nuclear weapons in Pakistan falling into the hands of terror elements, such an act capable of bringing unspeakable disaster to surrounding nations, India in particular!

Now that the Taliban is regrouping in nations such as Yemen and Somalia, where governments have been weak for sometime now, the threat of multi-locational terror operations being staged over a huge geography suddenly seems very real! Fighting an adept enemy who has no permanent base of operations along with the advantage of being highly mobile and possessive of a fluid structure could prove very costly to the United States and Pakistan.

I’m wondering if, in hindsight, some people ponder over the mistake they have made in creating a Frankenstein  which has now grown significantly, both, in numbers and in ideology!

Is this another classic illustration of the cause and effect theory?