Beyond the threat of Pakistans nuclear arsenal falling in the hands of the jihadis, Americans recognise the involvement of China in Pakistans nuclear weaponisation and delivery program.
The authors recall President Obama’s statement at an international nuclear security meeting in Washington last year: “The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term, and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Al Qaeda, Obama added, is “trying to secure a nuclear weapon—a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”
Goldberg and Ambinder also quote Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard, saying that there are three threats: The first is “a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state.”
While pulling no punches concerning the dysfunctional, “tormented” nature of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, Goldberg and Ambinder also describe the U.S. plans and preparations to deal with a Pakistani “nuclear emergency” in great detail.
Controversy surrounds these agreements as China, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, is restricted from building a nuclear facility in a country such as Pakistan that does not allow for full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.
Beyond the threat of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal falling in the hands of the jihadis, Americans recognise the involvement of China in Pakistan’s nuclear weaponisation and delivery program. As Riedel and Singh state: “Most notably, the two cooperated in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. After its own acquisition of nuclear technology, Beijing championed the rights of all nations to obtain this weapon of mass destruction as it felt the restriction of ownership was a Western imposition on the Third World. This sentiment guided Beijing to provide intelligence on nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan’s chief nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, starting as early as in 1976 but gathering momentum throughout the 1980s.
“In 1992, China began to build Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear power plant and was suspected in 1994 of helping Pakistan to build an unsafeguarded, plutonium-producing reactor at Khushab. Further, in 1996, China was reportedly the principal supplier of technology to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, in direct contravention of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 2009, the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute signed agreements to build the Chashma nuclear power plants III and IV.
“Controversy surrounds these agreements as China, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, is restricted from building a nuclear facility in a country such as Pakistan that does not allow for full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards.” Riedel and Singh pointed out as well that the transfer of M-11 short-range missiles by China to Pakistan may exceed the Missile Technology Control Regime guidelines because the M-11 has the inherent capability to deliver a 500-kilogram warhead up to 300 kilometres—a fact disputed by the Chinese. Further, China helped Pakistan achieve an indigenous missile capability by providing blueprints on how to build a missile production plant.
Chinese help is also suspected by some to be responsible for Pakistans successful testing of its Hatf II missile. With a 300-km range, this missile is believed to be the result of French Eridan sounding rocket technology mixed with Chinese expertise.
What, however, has been noted by the Brookings scholars is that Pakistan’s missile development program was started in the 1980s with active assistance from Beijing at the same time that Washington was enabling Pakistan with its nuclear program with a wink and a nod. In fact, Sino-Pakistani missile collaboration goes back to 1986, when Pakistan started assembling the RBS-70 Mk 1 and Mk 2 air defence missiles systems. Collaboration in the area of longer-range missiles with the Chinese began once Pakistan became involved in financing their M-9 and M-11 missiles programs. General Mirza Aslam Beg is on record telling the press after a visit to Beijing that China’s Red Arrows were better than US TOW-11, saying that it ( Red Arrows) has had the “advantage of going for reverse technology and retaining it, improving on it, till you achieve what you want to achieve.”
Chinese help is also suspected by some to be responsible for Pakistan’s successful testing of its Hatf II missile. With a 300-km range, this missile is believed to be the result of French Eridan sounding rocket technology mixed with Chinese expertise. This area of Sino-Pakistani collaboration has become very controversial following reports by U.S. intelligence agencies that China has transferred about 30 or more of its intermediate range M-11 missiles to Pakistan—reports that, of course, both China and Pakistan have repeatedly denied.
The third concern among some American analysts is the Chinese intent, and Pakistan’s acquiescence, to extend the Karakoram Highway (KKH) all the way south to the Arabian Sea. Construction of the KKH—which connects western China and its largest autonomous region, Xinjiang, with Pakistan’s northern areas and all the way through to Islamabad—was a major undertaking. Since its completion in the 1970s, the highway has been used for limited trade and travel. “In a strict strategic sense, KKH is considered priceless. It gives Beijing unhindered access to Jammu and Kashmir in India, in addition to enabling it to block India’s movement along Aksai Chin, which China seized from India in 1962, and sever India’s land link to China’s turbulent autonomous regions of Tibet and Xinjiang. For Pakistan, the KKH constitutes added security for its turbulent Northern Areas, all the way up to Siachin where Indian and Pakistani troops have been in a stand-off since the mid-1980s,” Tarique Niazi of the Jamestown Foundation notes.
“¦although Sino-Pakistani ties have been deep and longstanding, there are now as many caveats in the relationship as there are uncertainties dogging the region.
Since then, China and Pakistan have agreed to widen the roadway to accommodate larger vehicles with heavier freight. This will enable China to ship energy supplies from the Middle East through Gwadar Port in Baluchistan, a stone’s throw from the strategic Strait of Hormuz, via the KKH land route to western China, which is its development hub. This alternative energy supply route will reduce Beijing’s dependence on the Malacca Straits. Pakistan’s former president, General Pervez Musharraf also wanted to set up a “crude transit route” through Gwadar Port for Beijing’s energy shipments from Iran and Africa and initiated the build-up of the port and the construction of oil refineries, natural gas terminals, oil and gas equipment and transit facilities in Baluchistan. China has agreed to help Pakistan with its plans for the development of its oil and gas industry.