|Abdul Qadeer Khan in a Reuters file picture.
New Delhi, Feb. 8: Not only the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Americans, but India too was quietly tracking Abdul Qadeer Khan, the so-called father of Pakistanís nuclear bomb.
Indian agencies were doing so long before news about his involvement in selling nuclear expertise to Iran, North Korea and Libya broke.
The Indian dossier on Khan claims that the Pakistan-Iran nuclear link dates back to 1984. Gnadi Mohammad Mragh, the then director of Iranís Isfahan-based Nuclear Technology Centre, visited Islamabad, seeking Khanís assistance. Mragh was a nuclear scientist and specialised in reprocessing.
Since then their relationship grew, leading to a stage where not only was Pakistani nuclear expertise shared with Iran but Pakistani scientists started working in Iran.
The controversial Pakistani scientistís assistance was sought by Iran to assess the damage caused to the 1300-mw Bushehr nuclear power plant by Iraqi bombings in 1986. Khan flew several times to Iran in 1986 for this purpose.
India has documentary evidence of Khanís presence in Iran during the eighties and nineties, especially of the times he visited Iranian nuclear facilities in Tehran, Isfahan and Karaj.
Khanís close interaction with North Korea, Indian intelligence reports claim, began in March 1994. He visited Pyongyang to hold discussions with the top brass of Changgwang Sinyong Corporation, a front company exporting weapons. Later, he visited North Korea five times, from October 1997 to June 2000, to discuss not only nuclear technology transfers, but also purchase of Nodong missiles and the possibility of acquiring Taepodong missiles.
Khanís assertion that President Pervez Musharraf, former premier Benazir Bhutto and ex-army chiefs Mirza Aslam Beg and Jahangir Karamat were aware of the nuclear proliferation echoes in the secret reports available with the Indian government.
Although Beg and Karamat were questioned by the Pakistani establishment, they denied any involvement in Khanís nuclear proliferation activities.
Indicating that the Pakistan government had all along been party to the nuclear proliferation, information with Indian officials shows that 37 Iranian nuclear scientists were trained in Pakistan in 1987. It followed an understanding reached between the head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission chairman.
The official mechanism between the two countries for transferring nuclear technology was set up in 1991. The then Pakistan army chief went to Iran in November 1991 to secretly sign an agreement to create a joint military commission with a specific provision for transfer of uranium enrichment technology to Iran.
This took shape after an Iranian delegation, led by their former foreign minister and including the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and an army technical team, landed in Islamabad to formalise nuclear cooperation.
Indian officials claim that some Pakistani scientists were working at a nuclear research centre Iran was developing at Qazvin, about 150 km west of Tehran, in the late eighties and early nineties. Khan is said to have visited this centre to oversee the work.
The reports also say the Pakistani scientists working at this plant had faced some problems, which were sorted out after seeking Pakistani assistance. On February 26, 2003, another batch of Pakistani nuclear scientists and engineers reached Tehran to replace their countrymen already working there.
American officials were aware of Pakistan transferring centrifuge designs needed to enrich uranium to Iran as far back as 1992, the reports suggest.
Interestingly, the Iranian foreign minister was the only foreign dignitary who was taken to the site of Pakistanís nuclear tests conducted in May 1998, a day after India did.
According to reports, Khan has confessed to Pakistani investigators that Beg was aware of the assistance provided to Iranís nuclear programme. Two other army chiefs, in addition to Musharraf, had approved of his North Korean efforts, he is said to have told the interrogators.