Black market in nuclear technology began
in Pakistan at the Government level after India tested its first nuclear
device in 1974. Over the years, substantial information relating to Pakistan
Government's sophisticated clandestine activities in acquiring technology
for its secretive nuclear programme has come to light and well documented.
Put these together into a dossier. There will be no scope for denials
of Government involvement in such smuggling activities to hold water.
|Responding to the Indian Prime Minister Mrs
Indira Gandhi's decision to test the A-Bomb in the Pokhran deserts in Rajasthan,
the Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto declared employing his
usual hyperbole that Pakistan was ready to fight a 1000-year's war with
India adding that " they will eat grass but make the Atom Bomb ",
whatever the cost. He cleverly went on to describe Pakistan's A-Bomb project
as The Islamic Bomb. The invitation was loud and clear to Muslim countries
with money to spare and ambition to have the bomb to invest capital into
the project to make it a success.
|It was an open secret for a long time that Saudi
Arabia, Libya, Iraq and Iran had both the money and the ambition to have
the bomb, hostility with Israel being the reason that drove them to it.
However, developing the A-Bomb required a sophisticated scientific and
industrial base, which Pakistan had hardly any at that time. Bhutan's clarion
call flushed Pakistan with petro-dollars but the country was limited by
the state of its industrial backwardness. Pakistan Government was therefore
left with no alternative but to rely on promoting a highly secretive smuggling
network to develop its nuclear arsenal. It was the first time in modern
military history that a State got involved in creating a worldwide clandestine
black marketing network for the acquisition of nuclear and missile technology.
|The other strategic component of Pakistan's
nuclear programme was the involvement of China about which India had raised
alarm from time to time but to no effect. The recently released declassified
documents from the US on this subject finally acknowledging China's role
in building the Pakistani nuclear arsenal make compulsive reading. It reads
like a belated essay in denial, couched in guilt, of a cover up.
|Enter Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Pakistan's nuclear black market pre-dates
Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan's emergence on the scene. What Dr Khan did was to
steal some nuclear secrets from Holland and smuggle them to Pakistan
thus becoming merely a spoke - albeit an important one - in the wheel
of the already well established black-market network. How valuable those
secrets were is open to doubt. Holland is not a Nuclear Weapons Power.
Therefore, what did he steal except some bit and pieces. The outsourcing
network of critical components had spread far and wide but was mostly
concentrated in Europe.
|According to widely circulated reports in the
press, Pakistan had already received off-the shelf A-Bombs from China before
Khan arrived in Islamabad. Why then Dr Khan was given the honour of being
described as the Father of Pakistan's Islamic A-Bomb. Was Pakistan trying
to reduce its reliance on China in matters nuclear by developing its own
bomb independent of Beijing? Alternatively, was Pakistan's nuclear programme
simply an instrument of making money out of the rich Muslim nations? Or
was it meant to pressure New Delhi to redefine India's own threat perception
shifting it away from being China-centric to being Pakistan-centric, needed
to soothe Beijing's ears to attract more favours? There was also the all-important
question of managing US opposition to charges of nuclear proliferation
under the NPT regime, which could open the floodgates of sanctions. A significant
achievement, of which the Pakistani Foreign Office should be proud of,
is that it was able to persuade Washington to accept Islamabad's position
that Pakistan's nuclear programme was a legitimate response to the overwhelming
threat from India and needed special treatment, outside of the NPT to the
extent possible. When the US decided to look the other way when the Pakistani
nuclear black marketing operations were in full swing throughout the eighties
and the nineties of the last century, it ensured, by default, that the
NPT remained no longer controversial, it was now reduced to a dead letter
for all practical purposes. Rest of it is history.
|It is nobody's business to question Pakistan's
right as a sovereign nation to have or not to have the A-Bomb. It depended
on the interpretation of its geo-political compulsions, threat perception
and national ambition. It was the cat and mouse game that Islamabad got
involved into and the layers of denials that it had to resort to in the
acquisition process that attracted international scrutiny. More importantly,
as Pakistan got deeply involved in creating an extensive infrastructure
of terror on its territory, the international community was left with no
alternative but to sit up and take notice. Pakistan has nobody to blame
but herself for its present unfortunate predicament.
|The question will however remain Was Pakistan's
perception of the Indian threat to its security so real as to drive its
leadership into a frenzy of emotional outbursts? Was it irrational or was
there much substance in it? A hark back to history may be in order.
|It began in 1962. India under Nehru was highly
respected in the Chancelleries of the West. This was resented by China.
Beijing in a mood to show India its place had launched an unprovoked invasion
of India in October 1962. The timing was impeccable. The invasion took
place at the height of the Cuban crisis ensuring that neither the US nor
the Soviet Union would have the time or the mood to intervene. India was
unprepared for the military engagement and therefore it was unable to give
a good account of itself. India's defeat was a confirmation of China's
military pre-eminence in Asia. Two years later in 1964, China tested its
first weaponised nuclear device in Lop Nor deserts in Xing Yang province.
It sent a chill down the spine of the Indian security community. The Chinese
Atom Bomb was seen in New Delhi as a direct threat to India's long term
|The Indian response came from none other than
Mrs Indira Gandhi. She wasted no time in ordering the Indian scientific
community to concentrate on developing India's own nuclear and missile
technology. The instruction was clear that the nuclear weapons as well
as the delivery systems must be developed entirely with Indian technology.
It was declared a national project. There was no question of seeking outside
help because India could expect none of it. It took ten years to develop
the technology locally. It was not before 1974 that the Indian scientists
could test their first nuclear device in Pokhran in Rajasthan. It was only
a technology demonstrator, not a weaponised version.
|China was not pleased with this development.
Beijing responded by targeting its nuclear weapons on India, which exacerbated
the security situation further for India. The worst thing that could have
happened for India in terms of its nuclear security was for China to bring
on board Pakistan as a third component in the India-China nuclear equation.
India had factored in its calculations the possibility of China getting
involved with the Pakistani programme but was surprised that a big and
supposedly a responsible power like China would become the epicentre of
under-cover nuclear proliferation. Thus began Beijing's clandestine off-the-shelf
arming of Pakistan with nuclear weapons. Feeling encircled by hostile forces
New Delhi perceived that the Beijing-Islamabad nexus was a dangerous escalation
of the threat. With two nuclear adversaries to contend with from now onwards,
it was all systems go for India to develop its nuclear weapons and missile
|Meanwhile, Pakistan had good reasons to feel
threatened by the Indian Bomb. Islamabad had lost half of its territory
to Bangladesh in a War with India in 1971. Three years later in 1974 India
had the Atom Bomb. Those were the dark days of the Cold War. Before India
went to war with Pakistan, fearing Chinese and American hostile response
against India's action, New Delhi had secured Moscow's nuclear umbrella
by entering into a security pact with the Soviet Union called The Indo-Soviet
Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1971. The close military relationship between
India and the Soviet Union represented by the Treaty had angered China
|In the Asian nuclear quadrangle there was now
the New Delhi-Moscow alliance as against the Beijing-Islamabad partnership.
It was getting complication worse compounded. The US stood outside this
line-up but being a super-power had security interests in what was happening
in the region. The Soviet Union and China were the two permanent members
of the UN Security Council and under the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation
Treaty, both of them were regarded officially as acknowledged Nuclear Weapons
Powers. India and Pakistan were not permanent members of the UNSC nor were
they likely to be acknowledged officially as Nuclear Weapons Powers even
if they had the Weapon in their possession. After the 1998 tests by both
India and Pakistan, the Indian sub-continent was fully nuclearised yet
the NPT did not recognise them as nuclear powers. This was the stark unreality
of the NPT. In addition, because of its inherent discriminatory nature,
both India and Pakistan decided not to sign the NPT......