Originally Published 2004-03-17 12:01:53 Published on Mar 17, 2004
In February 2004, President George Bush outlined his new nuclear non-proliferation approach, in his ¿seven points¿ speech at the National Defense University. It include the setting up of proliferation security initiative which will control and monitor not only shipments and nuclear transfer of material/technology but also will be empowered to take direct action against the violators of the law.
A new nuclear non-proliferation initiative? The American Hypocrisy and Pakistan
In February 2004, President George Bush outlined his new nuclear non-proliferation approach, in his 'seven points' speech at the National Defense University. It include the setting up of proliferation security initiative which will control and monitor not only shipments and nuclear transfer of material/technology but also will be empowered to take direct action against the violators of the law. This would invite greater co-operation within various agencies like the intelligence, military services and law enforcement agencies as well. He expressed his commitment in tracking the proliferators and bringing to book the middlemen, the suppliers and the buyers.

Second, President Bush wants that the nations should strengthen the laws and international controls that govern proliferation. A beginning has already been made when the United States proposed a new Security Council resolution in the United Nations. It urges the nations to make proliferation of nuclear weapons/ parts/ technology a criminal offence. Responsibility falls on each nation to enact strict export controls and secure all sensitive material within their borders.

Third, the US would provide all possible support to those countries willing to end use of nuclear weapons. In case of the erstwhile Soviet Union the United States is providing $20 billion over a period of ten years to dismantle, destroy and secure weapons which are a left over from the WMD arsenal. Iraq and Libya will be helped in similar manner. Non-Proliferation Treaty has failed to limit the use of nuclear technology only for peaceful proposes; There are adequate loopholes in the treaty which the signatories have been exploiting. Without the assistance from NPT states - either directly or overtly - by not taking adequate steps or by ignoring treaty provisions, nations such as North Korea and Iran continued to build nuclear weapons under the cover of civilian nuclear programme.

Fourth, the US would attempt to plug all the loopholes. The nuclear suppliers group "should refuse selling enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technologies to any state that does not already posses full scale functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants."

Fifth, Bush plan envisages that only countries that "are signatories to the additional protocol be allowed to import equipment even for civilian nuclear programme." Sixth, a special committee of the IAEA Board which would be created is expected to "focus intensively on safeguard and verification." Finally, no country that has violated the non-proliferation provisions be allowed to serve on the IAEA board.

No doubt the new non proliferation policy sounds good, especially after continuous news reports on proliferation, nuclear black marketing and the linkages between nuclear scientists and terrorist groups. What steps would the US take next, in continuation of the new seven points from Bush? Is this a new political gimmick aimed at the forth coming Presidential elections in the US? What steps would President Bush take vis-à-vis Pakistan, whose linkages with nuclear black market and the role in nuclear proliferation has been proved beyond doubt and accepted even by Pakistan? Will Bush be different from Jimmy Carter and the subsequent Presidents, who had high non proliferation goals to be sacrificed every time to achieve other political goals in Pakistan? Or would he also give up his causes till Osama bin Laden is captured?

Bush, Khan and Pakistan

Bush is well aware of the Khan's 'extensive international network for the proliferation of nuclear technology and know how' as he explained the same in his 'Seven Points' speech. (It was surprising that 'a man named' Khan was referred to 'Mr' Khan and not 'Dr' Khan!) Bush has categorically stated that "Khan and his associates provided Iran and Libya and North Korea with designs for Pakistan's older centrifuges, as well as designs for more advanced and efficient models."
What is striking in Bush's finding has been that, it was Khan and not Pakistan, which has proliferated the nuclear technology and know how. Any one who has been reading Pakistan would inevitably conclude, given the secrecy and control over Pakistan's nuclear bureaucracy by its military, it is totally impossible for Khan to proliferate on his own, without the knowledge of others. Bush in fact has decided to sacrifice his seven points on non proliferation even before they were formulated. Though the A.Q. Khan statement that the proliferation took place mostly during 92-93 and during 97-98 puts the onus of proliferation on civilian democratic parties and absolving the military, it is an open secret that in Pakistan even during the civilian rule, the country's Kashmir policy and the nuclear programme has always been under the control of military.

Who is important for Bush? Khan or Laden? Ideals or votes? Bush gave the verdict in his own speech in telling that Pakistan will never again be a source of nuclear proliferators, because General Musharraf has said so. President Bush may see it wise to again believe General Musharraf as there is no other option. What are American interests in Pakistan and Bush's stakes in believing Musharraf?

Any US military interference in Pakistan would have a serious backlash in the domestic politics of Pakistan. General Musharraf has been 'lucky' thrice. Increased and obvious interference in A.Q. Khan and the proliferation issue may lead to renewed hatred against General Musharraf (who is considered to be taking orders from the US). He may not be 'lucky' next time. If this happens the US will loose the strategic hold of Pakistan at least for the time being, or till it finds someone else in Pakistan who can protect US interests in Pakistan.

The American reasoning thus goes - if General Musharraf is killed or is no more in power it may give chance to the fundamentalist parties or the terrorist elements to get the possession of nuclear weapons which can be catastrophic. In the absence of any moderate political party there are greater chances of this situation. Both Musharraf and United States have not encouraged the return of moderate political leaders like Benazir Bhutto or Nawaz Sharif.

This can be a nightmare not only for the United States but to the entire world. Moving cautiously on his non-proliferation policy Bush is attempting to engage Pakistan diplomatically. The $3billion aid which is in pipeline may find a speedy clearance. Pakistan may hope of getting more financial aid for military use. The growth rate of Pakistan economy for the first time in eight years has touched 5.1% in the fiscal year 2002-03. Pakistan would like to maintain it.

Bush believes that Pakistan can be coerced to sign the 'Additional Protocol' in return for many favors. The Additional Protocol requires states to declare a broad range of nuclear activities and facilities and allows the IAEA to inspect those facilities. Even to pursue a civilian nuclear programme a country has to sign additional programme which will in turn make the country eligible to import any nuclear technology or equipment. If Pakistan wants to continue with its nuclear programme which will be difficult, it will have to sign the protocol. This will lead to stricter control over the Nuclear weapons programme of Pakistan and which in turn will be perceived as roll back of Nuclear weapons programme within Pakistan. To contain this and to show his determination in taking forward the nuclear weapons programme general Musharraf may go ahead with test of few more missiles. General Musharraf on 18 February stated that Pakistan would continue to develop its nuclear and missile programme to create a deterrent, and would test Shaheen II missile with a range of 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) in the next few weeks. Mr. Khursheed Kasuri Foreign Minister of Pakistan announced on 24 February that Pakistan has decided to test fire a long range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

For safeguard and stricter nuclear weapons verification Bush mentioned about the creation of a special committee of IAEA Board. Though in September 2000 Pakistan had endorsed and appreciated the "safety culture" of IAEA, recently General Musharraf rejected international supervision of the country's nuclear programme. This has been done not because of love for the nation and its sovereignty but due to fear of backlash in domestic politics.

May be Bush believes that initially Pakistan may resist opening of nuclear labs for IAEA inspection but will gradually give way to international inspection of its nuclear sites. It would be difficult for Pakistan to avoid the special committee of IAEA which will be constituted keeping in view the recent trade of nuclear technology in which Pakistan is seen as the epicenter.

Does Bush have any other option in dealing with Pakistan's proliferation? Yes says those who support his policies, but cannot be implemented for practical purposes. The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) completed in late 2001 and issued in January 2002 (first since 1994) consists of a "triad' which coalesces offensive, defensive and infrastructure capabilities. According to the NPR, U.S. nuclear weapons is to target seven countries - Russia, China, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Out of these seven countries Pakistan has assisted North Korea, Iran and North Korea. The possibility of use of nuclear weapons by the United States stands justified, in a war in the Middle East between Israel and Iraq; military conflict between China and Taiwan; North Korean invasion of South Korea; or responding to what are vaguely referred to as "surprising military developments. This "surprising military developments" could be used against Pakistan in targeting its nuclear weapons. But this strategy would back fire. Obviously the first objective of the US in Pakistan is to capture Osama bin Laden. A pre-emptive strike against Pakistan will not enable the US to achieve this objective. Hence this option is not practical.

Is there any other option for Bush? There is, but Bush would not take that option, as it is time consuming. Allow democracy to return to Pakistan. Let the governance process takes it process. The military in Pakistan has assumed importance mainly due to American cold war politics. The democratic process may be slow and stunted, but only that process could keep accountability of every single institution including the Army to the elected leadership. As long as Pakistan Army has its own interests against that of the nation, the problem would continue and erupt in other forms in the future.

Is Bush ready to take this option? Why should he? Democracy in Pakistan will not get him votes in the US. After all for most of the recent American Presidents, democracy is a virtue to be preached to their opponents. Not to be practiced by their allies.
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(This article appeared in Mainstream Vol.XLII No. 12 March 13, 2004)

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