November 1978. It’s a fine Sunday morning in Paris. Two men meet for coffee at Café du Trocadero, when one says to the other, “Forget chasing the plutonium route. Uranium is the real McCoy.” After years of witch-hunting across Europe, R&AW had finally come upon some reasonable evidence to verify Pakistan’s pursuit of nuclearisation. Since then, various circumstances, political ordeals and indifferences have eventually led to Pakistan becoming a nuclear weapons State.
Fast-track 5th June 2021, in less than 30 days, 13 kilograms of Uranium have been seized by security agencies in India: 7kg in Mumbai last month, and 6kg in Bokaro on Friday. The timing and venues of these occurrences are concerning. It is a well-established fact that Pakistan utilises extensive networks of politicians, criminals, hawala dealers, and sympathisers in the host country, to further its goals.
Chasing the ‘real’ McCoy yet again
Over the past few years, intelligence reports from European nations have been emphasising serious ‘revival’ or ‘rejuvenation’ of Islamabad’s nefarious nuclear ambitions which are most probably guided by certain psychological hysterias of possessing a larger and more modern arsenal than its nemesis, India.
A recent threat assessment report by the Norwegian security agencies reportedly highlighted the unhindered exploitation of nuclear dual-use technology by Pakistan. It raised alarm about “the ‘Pak’ practice of bypassing all international safeguards in gaining latest nuclear technology on the pretext of using it for education and health.”
The Czech Republic in its report titled “Annual Report of the Security Information Service for 2019” also drew global attention towards Pakistan misleading the world in procuring internationally controlled items and technologies to aid its nuclear program.
German authorities disclosed in 2020 that Pakistan continues to engage in the production and proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) “in order to retain a serious deterrent potential against ‘arch enemy’ India”. They provided a detailed account of Pakistan’s efforts to steal “information and material” regarding nuclear weapons with the help of “cover companies and, in particular, transport dual-use goods to risk states. Typical bypass countries include the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and China.”
Given the poor governance standards and history of failure of civil institutions in Pakistan, its expanding nuclear arsenal, its terrorist safe-havens, and growing insurgencies, there is sufficient justification for apprehensions.
The Sino-Pak-Turkey Nexus
The People’s Republic of China has played an indispensable role in assisting Pakistan in its nuclear program. American nuclear analyst Gary Milhollin had noted: “If you subtract China’s help from Pakistan’s nuclear programme, there is no Pakistani nuclear weapons programme.” The Chinese have built Pressurised Water Reactors (PWDs) at Chashma, the CHASNUPP-3 and CHASNUPP-4. In November 2017, Pakistan signed a deal with China to build an additional 1100-MW PWR to be called CHASNUPP-5. In May 2020, a suspected nuclear weapons facility in Pakistan was revealed at Chashma itself, squashing the peaceful nature of the Chinese-assisted reactors.
A former Indian Army veteran and satellite imagery expert has pointed towards new centrifuge halls and other support facilities which suggest a 40% increase in production capacity at the Khan Research Laboratories in Kahuta, Pakistan’s traditional nuclear weapons development and test site. The India Today also reported on Pakistan’s covert expansion of its uranium enrichment program over the past few years.
Under the NATO nuclear weapons sharing, the United States has provided nuclear weapons for Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Turkey to deploy and store. Yet Ankara has increasingly displayed a quest to obtain nuclear weapons and from its staunch strategic ally in Rawalpindi. Turkey’s ambitious President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in 2019, “Several countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us that] we can’t have them. This I cannot accept.” Suspicions about Pakistan’s covert support for Turkish nuclear weapons had been aroused by a meeting of The Turkish-Pakistan High-Level Military Dialogue Group held on 22–23 December 2020.
Frequent high level meetings between the Pakistani and Turkish officials have also revolved around cooperation in Afghanistan and defence procurements. The Greek City Times had reported, “Erdogan has already expressed his desperation on developing the ‘Caliphate atom bomb’ to fulfil his neo-Ottoman aspirations, and China and Pakistan have been facing charges of illegal sale of missiles and creating a clandestine proliferation market.”
The possible admittance of Iran or Saudi Arabia in this nexus cannot be ignored.
The Enemies within
A highly dangerous and critical substance as Uranium gets smuggled when robust security mechanisms are in place. Whenever an incident at such scale has happened in the past, agencies have borne the brunt, while ‘unaccountable’ politicians are given self-acquittals. Notably, the uranium has been recovered from the states of Maharashtra and Jharkhand, both governed by the Indian National Congress (INC).
In 1998, the West Bengal Police had arrested Congress politician Maheswar Singh Deo for possessing more than 100kg of uranium. Intelligence officials pointed that he was part of a group that was smuggling unrefined uranium to Pakistan. In 2003, members of the terror outfit, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen were caught in a village on the Bangladesh border with 225 grams of milled uranium. Intel reports have persistently pointed towards the involvement of Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI in funding and facilitating this complex network. From 1994 to the present day, uranium smuggling incidences in the country have aided an abominable neighbour.
The Congress, particularly under an Italian-born miscreant, has peddled multiple narratives and enforced actions that have threatened the national interests and security of India, thus incentivising its foes. The same party signed an MoU with the infamous Communist Party of China in August 2008, for ‘cooperation and exchange of high-level information.’ It also provided the two parties with the ‘opportunity to consult each other on important bilateral, regional and international developments.’
Months before the rapid revitalisation of Islamabad’s nuclear discourse, some current and former Pakistani officials had a ‘closed door meeting’ with Congress leaders in 2017, who initially denied but later admitted that the meeting indeed took place. This came months after India’s surgical strike on Pakistan-sponsored terror camps across the Line of Control (LoC). Some attendees also included controversial figures such as those who write ill-motivated articles on slippery platforms, for Pakistani media and others known for their inaction in responding to terrorist attacks on Indian soil.
In 2010, the UPA government had specifically freed a handler of the Pathankot attacks of 2016 as a “goodwill gesture” while fully in cognizance of his background. The above facts are important, for they give prudence to highly probable assistance provided to the many inimical activities of Pakistan, including the uranium fiascos, by the forces within.
‘The statue of unprincipled liberty’
In January 2020, five men had been indicted in the United States for running an international network that procured US goods for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
They were purchasing US products for Pakistan’s Advanced Engineering Research Organisation and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and attempted to conceal the true destination by using a front company called “Business World” in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.
In many instances, the US has conveniently ignored Pakistan’s nuclear frenzy, at times stating it ‘understands that Pakistan has taken significant steps to enhance their nuclear security.’ America’s Islamabad policy was a perk provider on Afghanistan with the least attention being paid to regional stability. Nevertheless, importantly, the USCIRF and the ill-famed USAID which is also known to fund Al-Qaeda under the Obama administration raises uneasy questions on their links with the leadership in Rawalpindi.
President Joe Biden has few Pakistani Americans in his administration. Amongst the others, one of them is the director of policy planning. The Council of Foreign Relations, which sets global media narratives, has persons friendly to Pakistani fact-distortions.
We express our ‘concerns’
When Uranium was retrieved from Mumbai, the Pakistani Foreign Office spur into action with its spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry expressing Pakistan’s concern in a tweet saying “The matter needs to be thoroughly investigated.” It also rang bells calling the international community to pay attention. After the Jharkhand incident, Pakistan has called for “measures for strengthening the security of nuclear materials to prevent their diversion”, hypocritically indeed. It called for a probe into the alleged ‘Uranium Black Market’ in India. Joining this piece of the puzzle into the larger jigsaw and looking at it through the lens of a renewed international vigour to defame New Delhi, Pakistan is visibly hoping to shift the goalposts to whitewash its fraudulent actions.
All facts and commentaries in this article should be analysed in consonance with each other to chalk out the larger picture. It is in the larger interest of global security to take verifiable and visible steps to hold the frantic nuclear weapons state accountable. The world must also realise these words of the great thinker Chanakya, in the context of Communist China and its client state, “He who befriends a man whose conduct is vicious, whose vision is impure, and who’s notoriously crooked, is rapidly ruined.”
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