China-Pakistan nuclear lovelock will continue
By G Parthasarathy | Published: 25th November 2012 12:00 AM |
Just after Pakistan’s debacle in the 1971 Bangladesh conflict, President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto convened a meeting in Multan, where he told his nuclear scientists that he was determined Pakistan would make nuclear weapons even if its people were required to “eat grass”. In his memoirs, Bhutto justified this decision on the grounds what while the “Christian, Jewish and Hindu civilisations” had nuclear weapons capability, it was the “Islamic civilisation” that did not possess such weapons. Having made this known to the Islamic world, Pakistan received liberal funding for its nuclear weapons programme from oil-rich states like Saudi Arabia and Libya. Three decades later, Libya decided to end its quest for nuclear weapons. When Libya handed over the designs of nuclear weapons it had received from Dr A Q Khan to the IAEA, it was found that the design data was in Chinese and presented by Dr Khan to the Libyans in the shopping bag of his Rawalpindi tailor.
The world now knows of China’s significant assistance to developing Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, following a meeting in Beijing in 1976 between Chairman Mao and Bhutto, when Mao is said to have assured Bhutto of Chinese assistance to fulfil his nuclear ambitions. China supplied Pakistan enough enriched uranium to manufacture two weapons along with the designs for 25 kilo tonne bombs in 1983. According to former US Secretary of the Air Force Thomas Reed, who was himself a nuclear scientist, China tested for Pakistan its first nuclear weapon in 1990. Reed states: “The Chinese did a massive training of Pakistani scientists, brought them to China and even gave them the device of the CHIC 4, which was a weapon that was easy to build.” Pakistan, thus, had tested nuclear weapons eight years prior to India’s Pokhran tests. Since then, China has provided Pakistan Plutonium reactors and reprocessing facilities to enable Pakistan to build lighter and more potent nuclear weapons, which can be fitted on Chinese-designed cruise and ballistic missiles, capable of targeting urban centres all across India.
Pakistan has also permitted Saudi Arabia’s defence minister access to its nuclear facilities and transferred nuclear knowhow and designs to Iran and Libya. Pakistani nuclear scientists have proclaimed that its nuclear weapons are for the security of the entire Islamic “Ummah” (Muslim community). Two of these scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Maehmood and Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, were arrested shortly after the 9/11 terrorist strikes and charged with helping al-Qaeda to acquire nuclear and biological weapons. Majeed is known to have met Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar in Afghanistan and to have proclaimed Pakistan’s nuclear capability is the property of the whole “Ummah”. Lacking the oil, gas and financial resources of many other Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq Libya, Qatar and the UAE, Pakistan today seeks a leadership role in the Islamic world because of its nuclear weapons. Given sectarian and other rivalries in the Islamic world, cynics in the Islamic countries say that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would be available to the highest bidder.
The Islamist propensities which are now evident in both Pakistan’s military and its nuclear-scientific establishment are leading to growing international concerns about the possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and their designs falling into wrong hands. But, what India needs to keep an eye on is the feverish quest of the Pakistan military for Plutonium-based tactical nuclear weapons, developed thanks to Chinese assistance. The Pakistan military believes that it can use such weapons to deter India from responding militarily to further 26/11-style terrorist attacks that are undertaken with its encouragement. Chinese assistance in the development of nuclear weapons and missiles by Pakistan is, thus, encouraging Pakistan to plan further terrorist attacks on India with impunity. It would be unrealistic to believe that such Chinese policies, in vogue for nearly four decades now, will undergo any change in the incoming Xi Jinping set-up.