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Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’s Nuclear Ambitions’

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 nuclear agenda – The compelling problem!

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

News about Pakistan’s modification of the Harpoon missiles aimed to possibly launch on Indian targets comes as a somber reminder of a dreaded neighbour whose intentions can many a times be very misleading, contrary to what is thought of. History has rightly indicated how bitterly Indian overtures for dialogue and peace have been met with counter productive misadventures, Kargil being among the many such gaffes on the part of Pakistan.

Breaking the news, New York Times carried a feature that detailed how Pakistan had illegally modified Harpoon anti-ship missiles, that it had acquired from the United States, in order to now give it the ability to strike land targets in India. While American intelligence agencies got wind of this through information acquired from a test conducted by Pakistan on April 23rd, this year, Pakistan itself claims that such is not the case. It states that no modifications have been done to the Harpoon and that the previous tests, claimed by US agencies pertain to an altogether different missile developed indigenously by Pakistan.

Americans on the other hand claim that Pakistan stands in violation of the Arms Control Export Act, under which encumbrance the Harpoon sale had been effected. It will not immediately be known if the missile in question is the Harpoon itself or a home grown technology or if it has been bought over from China. But the general concern is that such a technology now presents Pakistan with a new ability, one that will enable it to launch strikes on Indian targets which were hitherto out of reach or considered to be so!

Interestingly, this allegation comes at a time when President Obama’s administration sought congressional approval of a staggering $7.5 billion in aid to Pakistan over the next couple of years, which it says is a measure to arm an ally in its concerted efforts in the war against terror!

The sooner the Americans come to terms with the fact, one that they already know about, that Pakistan has been siphoning off money and arms supplied to it to aide illicit operations, the war on terror stands won on many grounds!

Barely, hours after this report, an American scientist, Hans M Kristensen, belong to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), reported that Pakistan has increased its number of ready-to-use nuclear warheads to a staggering 90 in number! His article on the FAS page that Pakistan has stored nuclear warheads in fully assembled condition indicates that they can be called for use at a short notice. On the contrary, India, which has a respectable no first strike policy ensures that war heads are not mounted on missiles and stores either of them separately.

The growing concern pertaining to Pakistan’s increasing nuclear arsenal was expressed by the Chief of Indian Army, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, who in his statement mentioned that this was clearly beyond the level of deterrence that a country needed.

Meanwhile, FAS sources claim that Pakistan has been developing two new cruise missiles, which include the ground-launched Babur and the air-launched Ra’ad, both of which have nuclear delivery capability. Added to the tweaked Harpoons, Pakistan now has a variety of delivery measures with which it could exact a nuclear attack, something which is a serious threat to the Indian nation, over and above that which already exists! That they intend to increase their nuclear weapons capability is without doubt, considering the emerging plutonium reactors plants and the additional chemical separation facility.

A senior nuclear policy expert, Bharat Karnad states that Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions are no secret. According to him “they have had it for several years. The reason why they are doing is that they want to be ready to detain any threat at any point. They also apprehend danger to nuclear weapons by outside countries which they don’t want to name but by implication they have the United States, Israel and India that is who they fear will attack them.”

Quite co-incidentally, the disgraced pioneer of Pakistan’s nuclear program, A. Q. Khan, who until a while ago faced serious restrictions imposed by the law, has now been rewarded, or shall we say compensated, with significantly reduced sanctions! I’m wondering if this is the establishment’s way of asking him to once again participate in the revival of Pakistan’s nuclear agenda. If so, Pakistan is seriously embarking upon a long and well planned construction of a nuclear delivery system, which in the time to come will be a force to reckon with and perhaps an overt threat to the peace and stability in the region!

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!