Arun Shouries Articles

The Pakistani Bomb is, and has been, a Joint Venture | May 26, 2008

Arun Shourie
“But What was the immediate threat?,” ask the pundits. “Why now?,” they demand. I K Gujral adds the considerable weight of having been Prime Minister to the argument: as one who had access to secret information as Prime Minister, he tells Parliament, I say that when I left office there was no threat that warranted the explosions.

By 1969 Gujral was in Mrs Gandhi�s inner circle. Mrs Gandhi had the first explosion in May 1974. Could Gujral tell us what was the immediate threat in May 1974?

The shafts in which the explosions have been conducted now were dug in 1981. And they were dug and prepared because Mrs Gandhi had decided that we had to move to the next stage, and a series of explosions had to be undertaken. Could someone go back to those days and tell us what was the immediate threat in 1981?

The decisions taken, second thoughts set in: and that unfortunately was not special to the nuclear programme — Sanjay�s death had disoriented Mrs Gandhi, she began to hesitate and fumble on every matter.

But, as Mr R Venkatraman has confirmed, the decision was retaken in 1983: he has said that he personally went down in the shaft to see things for himself. Any recollection of what was the Immediate threat then?

Rajiv decided in 1990 to have the explosions conducted. Scientists were revved up. Any recollection of what…?

Narasimha Rao scheduled to have the tests done In December 1995. Any recollection of what…? The news leaked to the Americans. They publicised the plans. And brought to bear the requisite pressure — something which was not hard to do on that Government.

Gujral says that when he left office there was no threat. How come then that simultaneously his Defence Minister Mulayam Singh claims credit for having “signed the file” for the tests? The Defence Minister�s secret information versus the Prime Minister�s secret information?

But so much of the information is public knowledge that one has no option but to conclude that the effort these personage should have devoted to planning a response, they expanded on shutting their eyes.

Everything that follows has been taken from American sites on Internet. Much of it is from the sites maintained by the Centre for Non-proliferation Studies, Monterey Institutes of International Studies, Monterey, California — that is, the very first sites to which anyone with the slightest interest in the subject will go.

The pattern the information reveals hits one like a truck. First, to the knowledge of every concerned authority, Pakistan has been for twenty years single-mindedly pursuing a nuclear weapons programme: that programme has been nothing but a nuclear weapons programme, as will become obvious in a moment. Second, its own efforts towards this goal floundered almost at the outset: it, therefore decided to buy, smuggle, steal, get whatever was necessary — for this reason, its programme has been a clandestine one.

Third, its principal helper in the venture has been China.

How very short public memory Is, how assiduously facts are obscured from our people — that is what strikes one as one reads the facts today. For all of them have been published from time to time — Just that Prime Ministers do not seem to have read them, and the rest of us, attaching no Importance to them, soon forgot them.

28 January, 1998: In the Hearing of the Senate Select Committee on “Current and Projected National Security Threats,” the Director of the CIA said, “Conventional arm sales have lagged in recent years, encouraging Chinese defence industries to look to WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) technology sales, primarily to Pakistan and Iran, in order to recoup. There is no question that China has contributed to WMD advances in these countries.”

There has been a tightening recently, the CIA Director said more on this in a moment — and added, “But China’s relations with some proliferant countries are long-standing and deep, Mr Chairman. The jury is still out on whether the recent changes are broad enough in scope and whether they will hold over the longer term. As such, Chinese activities in this area will require continued close watching.”

June 1997: In his report on The Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, July-December 1996, the Director of the CIA said that during the period covered by the report China “was the primary source of nuclear-related equipment and technology to Pakistan.”

7 August, 1996: In its annual report on “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control Agreements,” the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency stated, “Prior to China�s NPT accession, the United States concluded that China had assisted Pakistan in developing nuclear explosives. Since China’s accession to the NPT, it appears that China may have continued to assist Pakistan’s unsafeguarded nuclear program and may have continued contacts with elements associated with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons related programme. The United States Government has continuing concerns regarding possible continuation of China’s past nuclear weapons assistance to Pakistan and Beijing’s compliance with its NPT obligations.”

September 1996: The Washington Times, a paper which has been following Chinese activities in this sphere with diligence, cited a report of the CIA dated 14 September 1996, saying that China had sold a special industrial furnace and high technology diagnostic equipment to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities in Pakistan — “unsafeguarded” facilities are ones which are being kept by the country out of the reach of international inspection agencies.

The Centre for Non-proliferation Studies account of the news story records, “The equipment reportedly is of a dual-use nature and could be applied to either civilian or military applications. The report also said that Chinese technicians were in Pakistan in September 1996 to install in the equipment. The China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) reportedly may have arranged the transfer.

According to the CIA report, ‘In the aftermath of CNEIC�s ring-magnet sale to Pakistan and China’s May 11 commitment not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities, senior-level government approval probably was needed for this most recent assistance’. The report also alleged that China planned to submit false documentation on the equipment�s final destination. High-temperature furnaces (also called vacuum or ‘skull’ furnaces) can reportedly be used to mould uranium or plutonium into bomb cores for use in nuclear weapons, and mould titanium for missile nose cones and other key components. The equipment may have been headed for Pakistan’s Khushab heavy water reactor.”

The Centre records that the Pakistani Embassy spokesman vigorously denied the sale: “We deny that there was any nuclear-weapons related transfer to Pakistan.” As usual Pakistan saw itself as a victim: “I regret to say,” the spokesman solemnly declared, “that we seem to be becoming the victims of a series of leaks, some of which are… simply motivated or inspired by the electoral fever in the United States and by their own internal shadow-boxing among themselves.”

The Chinese were cleverer — we did it, but earlier, they exclaimed! The Chinese Embassy spokesman dismissed The Washington Times report as “groundless,” recalls the CNS site. It had conducted an internal investigation of the sale, the Chinese Government told the US Administration, and had established that the sale had taken place in late 1995 and early 1996 — that put the sale a few convenient months before China signed the pledge on May 11, 1996!

Late 1995: “The CIA told the State Department,” recalls the CNS account, “that a China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) subsidiary, the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) had supplied Pakistan’s unsafeguarded state-run A Q Khan Research Laboratory in Kahuta, a reported nuclear weapons laboratory with 5,000 specialised ring magnets for the top suspension bearing of high-speed gas centrifuges to be installed at the facility. The deal was valued at between $ 50,000 – $70,000.”

“Ring magnets” are devices used in centrifuges which can make weapons-grade enriched uranium.

“Groundless”, fumed China. It warned” the US not to impose sanctions on the basis of mere “rumours.” Pakistan was as vehement. Soon China acknowledged that a sale had indeed taken place — but that the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation had made the sale on its own! The central Government of China had not known! A sale of components vital for a nuclear weapons programme, a sale by a Government Corporation, a sale by a Corporation of not just any Government but of the Government of China, and yet “it was made without our knowledge”!

1994, 1993: Agreements signed with much fanfare between Pakistan and China for financing and deepening their cooperation for Pakistan’s “peaceful” nuclear programme. But this time let us start from the earlier dates in the CNS sites.

1974: Convinced about what Pakistan was up to, “Western countries embargo nuclear exports to Pakistan……..”

1977: “Leybold Heraeus of Hanan Germany sells Pakistan vacuum pumps and equipment to be used in uranium enrichment……..”

1981: “Albert Goldberg is arrested in November at a US airport while attempting to ship two tons of zirconium to Pakistan. Zirconium is used in nuclear reactor operations that can lead to nuclear weapons……..”

1983: “China reportedly supplies Pakistan with enough highly enriched uranium for one to two nuclear weapons…. China supplies Pakistan with a complete design of a 25kt nuclear bomb…. Senior Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan orders over 6,000 tubes made of special steel to be used for uranium enrichment… In June a US State Department memo says that US intelligence agencies believe the Pakistani centrifuge program is intended to produce material for nuclear weapons…. In July a report published in the USSR says that Pakistan can make five atom bombs in a year.”

1984: “Pakistani citizen Nazir Vaid is caught smuggling electronic components, potentially useful for nuclear weapons, from the United States.”

1985: “In July a US television station reports that Pakistan has tested US-made krytron electric triggers in conventional explosions. Krytron triggers can be used in the detonation of nuclear devices.”

1986: US intelligence agencies allege that Pakistan is producing highly enriched uranium, which may be used in nuclear weapons… In September Pakistan conducts ‘cold tests’ of a nuclear implosion device at Chagai.”

1987: “Pakistan acquires a tritium purification and production facility from West Germany. The plant can produce up to 10g of tritium daily. Tritium can be used to produce a thermonuclear device.”

1989: “A 27k research reactor (PARR-2) is built at Rawalpindi with Chinese assistance… Western intelligence sources indicate that China is arranging for Pakistan to tests its nuclear device at China’s Lop Nor nuclear test site.”

1990s: “China reportedly provides assistance for the construction of the Chashma plutonium reprocessing facility.”

1991: “In September, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto said that Pakistan could ‘rapidly produce’ a nuclear weapon in the event of a serious threat.”

1992: “In February, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan confirmed that Pakistan has the components necessary to construct at least one nuclear weapon…

1993: “China’s National Nuclear Corporation begins work on a 300MW pressurised-water reactor at Chashma… A report by The Stockholm Peace and Research Institute (SIPRI) says that approximately 14,000 uranium-enrichment centrifuges have been installed at Kahuta… German officials seize approximately 1,000 gas centrifuges bound for Pakistan.”

1994: “Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says Pakistan has a Nuclear bomb.”

1996: “Pakistan expects to complete its unsafeguarded 40 MW heavy-water reactor at Khushab. US officials believe that the reactor is being built with Chinese assistance….

Three conclusions stare one in the face:

The threat comes not from the recent explosions which Pakistan has carried out. it has consisted in the programme — single-minded and clandestine — which Pakistan has been pursuing for twenty years to acquire nuclear weapons.,

Its principal supplier and guide in this programme has been China;

Information about this programme, as well as about the pivotal role of China in it, has been public knowledge.

And yet the assertion, “As Prime Minister I had access to secret information. And on the basis of that I tell you — with full sense of responsibility — that when I gave up my office, there was no threat.”

All I can say is that perhaps Prime Ministers are kept so busy reading “secret information” they have no time to notice what is staring everyone in the face.

But even this is but a part of the story, as we shall see.

The Pioneer
June 3, 1998

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