| Abdul Qadeer Khan: key to the clandestine
The covert horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons material and technology by Pakistani scientists has been a matter of concern and debate in the international community, both at the governmental and non-governmental levels. Details of these clandestine activities orchestrated by A.Q. Khan are coming to public knowledge. The characteristics of this development need to be defined.
First, a number of countries in the world made the acquisition of nuclear weapons an integral part of their strategic and defence planning. Second, Pakistan, China and North Korea — for political, strategic and economic motives — functioned as catalysts for the systematic horizontal proliferation of technology and material related to weapons of mass destruction. Third, Khan functioned as the key, as macro-level manager of this activity. Fourth, whatever the obfuscations, successive governments of Pakistan since Zia-ul-Haq’s time were either active participants in these horizontal proliferation activities, or connived at these activities. Fifth, the campaign against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and that against Saddam Hussein in Iraq resulted in the United States of America and major Western powers tolerating Pakistan’s nuclear weaponization and its acquisition of nuclear and missile technology, and nuclear material.
Sixth, companies in western Europe, North America, Canada and south east Asia contributed to Pakistan’s illegal sale of nuclear technology and nuclear material. It is inconceivable that the democracies did not have an inkling of this ongoing skulduggery. Seventh, the irrelevance of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, in terms of its stipulations or its capacity to enforce these stipulations, stands affirmed, given the fact that North Korea, Iran and Libya are signatories of the NPT. But they still carried on the acquisition of WMD material illegally. Eighth, these successful illegal transactions or horizontal proliferation by Pakistan and other countries bring out either the inefficiency or negative political influences affecting the safeguards and inspection procedures of the International Atomic Energy Agency. That the agency, which has been perfecting its safeguards arrangements since the late Sixties, still needs to draft and implement additional protocol for safeguarding nuclear facilities, emphasizes its shortcomings.
India’s reaction to this critical development has been very measured and restrained. The government of India has declared that this is a very dangerous and pernicious development. India has also clarified that it does not consider this phenomenon of horizontal proliferation a bilateral, India-Pakistan issue. India correctly assesses that it is an issue affecting regional security and that it has international implications in terms of nuclear security and safeguards.
It is clear that the major nuclear powers of the world, under the leadership of the US, would not only be taking remedial action against the phenomenon of horizontal proliferation engineered by Pakistan, but they would also be putting in place measures and regimes to prevent such proliferation in the future. Some indications of what these measures and remedial safeguards would be were given by George W. Bush in a speech to the National Defence University in Washington on February 11.
First, he suggested that the proliferation security initiatives, which he had announced a few months ago, should be expanded to cover covert transactions including shipments and transfers of nuclear material and technologies. He suggested that the expanded proliferation security initiative should be implemented with structured and greater cooperation between intelligence agencies, military services and law enforcement agencies. Second, he suggested a strengthening of the international legal system and the international controls governing proliferation.
He recommended a United Nations security council resolution stipulating that all UN member states should modify and expand their domestic laws to criminalize proliferation activities, to provide structured export controls and to ensure full-proof security of all sensitive materials and technologies within their borders.
Third, he proposed international arrangements to prevent weapons and technologies left over from the Cold War falling into the hands of non-government actors or into the hands of governments which are not entitled to have such materials within the framework of the NPT and related arrangements.
Fourth, he indicated that the US would increase its allocation of $20 billion over 10 years to support such programmes, which would focus on giving safe employment to scientists and technicians, who have specialized in WMD, in western Europe and countries like Iraq and Libya. The US would assist countries to stop the use of weapons-grade Uranium in their research reactors. Fifth, Bush indicated that the US policy would be to structure meaningful international cooperation to implement provisions of the NPT. He desired this cooperation to focus on nuclear weapons states adopting operational policies to help non-nuclear states develop peaceful uses of atomic energy.
He suggested that the 40-member Nuclear Suppliers Group should refuse to sell enrichment and re-processing equipment and technology to any state that does not already possess full-scale functioning equipment and re-processing plants. An important point Bush made within the framework of this fourth suggestion was that the IAEA should be equipped with a mandate to cover banned nuclear activities around the world and to report these violations to the UN security council.
Bush also suggested that an additional protocol should be provided and implemented by the IAEA requiring all states to declare details of their nuclear activities and facilities, and that the IAEA should inspect these facilities and apply safeguards. Bush’s fifth recommendation is that only such countries which sign this protocol should be allowed to import equipment for their nuclear programmes.
The sixth remedial measure is the recommendation to create a special committee of the board of governors of the IAEA with focused responsibilities to implement safeguards and verification procedures. This committee should be made up of governments in good standing with the IAEA. The seventh recommendation is that the countries which have violated nuclear proliferation obligations accepted by the international community, should not be allowed to become members of the board of governors of the IAEA.
While assessing the possible impact of these measures one must note the fact that India does not fall under the category of signatories of the NPT, nor has it acquired its nuclear and missiles capacities clandestinely. India is also unique in that its nuclear and missile capacities are essentially indigenous. An additional fact is that India has an unimpeachable record of preventing horizontal proliferation to other countries.
Despite these facts, the prospects are of India’s remaining under pressure on its nuclear weapons status. As long as the US and its nuclear weapons allies remain categorical in their commitment to the provisions of the NPT and its derivative international regimes, the fundamental objective of the US would be to persuade India to cap its nuclear and missile weapons capacities and then to roll back and eliminate these capacities. As India has not violated any international treaty or agreement, this objective would be pursued through a process of insistent negotiations. India would certainly be pressurized to sign the proposed additional protocol, which would require it to make public practically all its nuclear activities and facilities and to allow international inspections.
This is Bush’s fourth proposal. The fifth proposal would have an equal impact on India as it suggests that only countries which sign this additional protocol would be allowed to import nuclear equipment, technology and material.
So it would not be enough if India wishes to import nuclear material and equipment for peaceful purposes under international safeguards. It would become mandatory for India to abide by the provisions of the additional protocol with intrusive expanded jurisdiction. India cannot blindly accept this additional protocol and make public those nuclear and technological facilities involved in its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.
The prospects for India are to move towards complete self-reliance regarding its nuclear and missiles technologies, instead of depending on external inputs. India should continue a constructive process of negotiations with the US and other nuclear weapons powers. It should improve and tighten technology management and export-control laws to fall in line with the requirement of preventing a horizontal proliferation of such capacities to others.