"[Arms Control Today is] Absolutely essential reading for the upcoming Congressional budget debate on the 2018 #NPR and its specific recommendations ... well-informed, insightful, balanced, and filled with common sense."

– Frank Klotz
former Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
March 7, 2018

P5 to Take Up Fissile Material Cutoff

Peter Crail

As part of efforts to start negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons, the world’s five recognized nuclear-weapon states have agreed to hold discussions on the matter outside the deadlocked Conference on Disarmament (CD). The move follows increasing frustration with the inability of the CD to begin negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) because of Pakistan’s refusal to agree to a consensus work program. (See ACT, March 2011.)

The five nuclear-weapon states—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—also known as the P5 for their status as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, said in a joint statement to a special meeting of the UN General Assembly on the UN disarmament bodies July 27, “[I]n order to sustain the potential of negotiations [on an FMCT] in the CD, the P5 will, prior to the next [UN General Assembly], renew their efforts with other relevant partners to promote such negotiations.” The next session of the General Assembly opens Sept. 13. The special meeting on July 27–28 was a follow-up to a high-level General Assembly meeting on disarmament held last September, where the stalled FMCT process was also addressed. (See ACT, October 2010.)

The P5 effort on an FMCT came out of a June 30–July 1 meeting in Paris on steps to implement the decisions of last year’s nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference. (See ACT, July/August 2011.)

The countries that make up the P5 are the only NPT members allowed to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. All except China pledged during the 1990s to halt such production for weapons, and China is widely believed to have stopped around the same time. India, Israel, and Pakistan, the only countries never to have joined the NPT, are the only other countries that are not legally prohibited from producing fissile material for weapons, although only India and Pakistan are believed to continue to do so.

In 2006 the Bush administration proposed a draft FMCT text that would have entered into force once all P5 countries ratified the accord. The proposed treaty did not include verification measures, which all CD members had previously agreed needed to be part of such a treaty, and it failed to win support.

Diplomats from P5 countries said last month that the reference to “relevant partners” in their July 27 statement refers to other countries that possess uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technology, which can be used to produce fissile material. White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Gary Samore said in an April 7 interview with Arms Control Today that such countries “have something to bring to the negotiations” and would be directly affected by any additional verification requirements for fissile material production.

The P5 members all have expressed their preference for holding FMCT negotiations in the 65-member CD, the United Nations’ multilateral negotiating forum on arms control issues. That body, which operates on a consensus basis, has been unable to begin substantive work for more than a decade. The CD briefly agreed on a work program that would have initiated FMCT negotiations in 2009, but Pakistan broke the consensus before such work could begin.

Islamabad insists on a treaty that takes into account existing stocks of fissile material, a position supported by many countries in the developing world but opposed by the P5, which prefers prohibiting only future production. Wary that its preference would not be incorporated into any eventual treaty, Pakistan has used the CD’s consensus rule to prevent negotiations from starting.

Among the P5 countries, the United States in particular has insisted on the need to consider alternative venues for negotiating an FMCT if the CD remains unable to act. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the CD Jan. 27 that if the body could not find a way to start negotiations, “then we will need to consider other options.”

A Department of State official said Aug. 17 that “the CD remains our preference” for negotiating an FMCT, “but we remain committed to a P5-led process outside the CD that, albeit not now, could open the door down the road to a negotiating process.”

Earlier this year, the United States supported an initiative by Australia and Japan to host expert-level side meetings at the CD to discuss technical issues in preparation for future negotiations. Gottemoeller told the General Assembly July 27 that the discussions “proved to be productive, substantive, and collegial,” but said, “[W]e are no closer to FMCT negotiations today than we were two years ago.” The State Department official said such side meetings could continue, but are insufficient to make progress because key countries such as China and Pakistan have not participated.

The official also noted that Beijing was particularly wary of joining any P5 initiative on the treaty. China has insisted on FMCT negotiations at the CD and called into question the utility of other negotiating forums. On July 28, Chinese Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Wang Min told the General Assembly, “Any idea or practice of resorting to another framework is obviously not conducive to the work of the CD, nor will it produce a satisfactory FMCT.”

In addition to the P5 effort, some countries, as well as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have suggested the possibility that the General Assembly take up the FMCT issue. In his July 27 remarks to the assembly, Ban said, “If the CD remains deadlocked, the General Assembly has a responsibility to step in.”

Similarly, in a statement on behalf of the 10-country Nonproliferation and Disarmament Initiative, Australian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Gary Quinlan said that if the CD is unable to begin FMCT negotiations during its August-September session, the group would ask the next General Assembly to address the issue and consider ways to begin negotiations. The 10 states in the group include developed and developing countries from several different regions.

Washington, however, says it sees problems with the General Assembly taking up the treaty. The State Department official said that “basic principles like consensus might be endangered” in such a venue.

The official added that the CD is the more appropriate multilateral forum, and if the CD cannot work, it is better to consider a process centered on the P5 because of its members’ fissile material production capacities.

The five original nuclear-weapon states have agreed to discuss ways to begin negotiations on a treaty banning the production of fissile material for weapons, which is currently being blocked by Pakistan at the UN Conference on Disarmament.

International Day Against Nuclear Tests: Translating Words Into Action

By Daryl G. Kimball August 29, 2011 is the second official International Day Against Nuclear Tests . It coincides with the 20th anniversary of the historic events that led to the closure of the former Soviet nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk, where more than 456 explosions contaminated the land and its inhabitants. Citizens of the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan protest nuclear weapons testing at the Soviet nuclear testing site near Semipalatinsk in August, 1989. Photo by Yuri Kuidin. The courageous efforts of the Kazakh people and their allies forced Moscow's communist regime to halt...

Indian Membership in the NSG? A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Not Come

By Daryl G. Kimball Global efforts to prevent the spread of the world's most deadly weapons depend on universal compliance with rules that constrain the sale of nuclear technology. Too often, however, powerful states try to make exceptions from these rules, or simply ignore them, in order to help powerful commercial nuclear interests score profits or to curry favor with key allies, or both. The latest example is the Obama administration's proposal to create a process for India to join the 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)–the nuclear technology control organization established in 1975...

Germany Opposes United States on China-Pakistan Nuclear Deal

By Oliver Meier in Berlin The German government believes that Chinese plans to export two nuclear reactors to Pakistan are covered by the existing policies and understandings of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and that the 46-nation export control organization should not even discuss the deal at its meeting this week in the Netherlands. In response to a set of questions asked by opposition Social Democrat members of the German Bundestag on Germany's nuclear export control policies, the government explained that it views the planned export of the Chashma 3 and 4 nuclear reactors to Pakistan...

Banking on an Outsider: Implications for Escalation Control in South Asia

Moeed Yusuf

The potential for confrontation between India and Pakistan continues to worry many around the world. The two nuclear powers are highly crisis prone; they have been embroiled in at least three major crises since they declared their nuclear weapons capabilities to the world in 1998. Over the past decade, terrorism on Indian soil has become the number one trigger for Indian-Pakistani crises. The threat still remains clear and present. Prior crises were initiated due to provocative posturing (1987) and even confusion and misperception (1990). These also remain plausible drivers of the next crisis.[1]

Each Indian-Pakistani crisis implies increased tensions, tit-for-tat brinkmanship, and an inherent risk of escalation. This bodes ill for peace in the region because the most likely scenario leading to a nuclear war is an Indian-Pakistani military escalation caused by a crisis-triggering event. Crisis behavior in the past has tended to bring out the most dangerous elements of the Indian-Pakistani nuclear equation. Concerns emanate from the lack of transparency in nuclear postures and strategies, ambiguous red lines, lack of early-warning capabilities, concerns about the safety and security of the arsenals, structural realities such as geographical proximity, and, not least, a tendency to look to a third party—the United States—to avoid uncontrolled escalation.

This last aspect, namely the expected role of the third party as the principal agent for de-escalation in a nuclear environment, is destabilizing in that it attaches expectations that this outsider may be unable to fulfill. Moreover, it leads the principal parties to avoid institutionalizing bilateral mechanisms for escalation control. An absence of these mechanisms, in turn, makes the third party, in this case the United States, eager to mediate, not only because of its fears of uncontrolled escalation but also because of its important interests in the region. During the Kargil conflict of 1999 and the 2001-2002 military standoff—the two most serious crises since the 1998 nuclear tests—the third-party role was prominent. A significant proportion of the signaling also was routed through third parties. This was most obvious in the 2001-2002 crisis when both sides actively looked to the United States to weigh in on their side and force the other to pull back. In essence, escalation control was “contracted out.”

This model of escalation control is especially dangerous in the South Asian context, not only because future crises are believed to be highly likely but also because there is a strong belief among decision-makers on both sides that U.S. diplomatic intervention will be able to keep a lid on escalation. Even more worrisome, they wish for the United States to intervene in support of their position; they want cessation of hostilities, but on their terms. Such a belief has implications, both for escalation control in South Asia and for U.S. policy and actions during future crises. Will the United States be in a position to play the role each side envisages? Even more fundamentally, is its intervention likely to be stabilizing, or will it end up inducing further instability into the equation?

Behavior in Past Crises

The only two nuclear crises since the end of the Cold War that saw active mobilization of military forces on both sides were between India and Pakistan. In 1999, just a year after Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests, Pakistan-backed operatives infiltrated Indian Kashmir and captured strategic heights at Kargil. Fears of escalation to the nuclear level were raised in many global capitals almost instantly. Even though the scope of this confrontation and the use of nuclear signals were limited,[2] two aspects of the crisis did have implications for future behavior.

The first was the third party’s role: rather than looking to resolve the conflict bilaterally, Pakistan sought external help. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached out to China directly, and subsequently to U.S. President Bill Clinton, to seek assistance in stopping the fighting and pushing India to resolve the dispute over Kashmir.

Second, even if this was not one of Pakistan’s original objectives, the Kargil episode ended up indicating the possibility of limited conflict below the nuclear threshold. Pakistan, having the conventionally weaker military, could now potentially use space at the lower end of the conflict spectrum with relative impunity. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent could prevent all-out war—this amounted to a neutralization of India’s conventional superiority—while emboldening the use of limited war, either through regular troops or asymmetric means.[3] Glenn Snyder’s “stability-instability paradox” was in play, to Pakistan’s advantage.[4]

The 2001-2002 crisis, set off as it was by an attack on the Indian parliament by the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad, was more obviously and explicitly a “nuclear crisis.” Nuclear signaling took place openly; both sides made a number of statements as well as veiled and blunt nuclear threats aimed at establishing the credibility of their resolve not to back down. Perhaps the most alarming aspect was that not one of these signals was conveyed through direct contact.[5] All verbal signals were transmitted through open sources or third parties. A significant proportion was addressed directly to the international community and the United States. Indeed, it was obvious that both sides were actively goading the United States to intervene diplomatically to back their respective cases.[6]

In the 2001-2002 crisis, India had mobilized its forces and threatened an all-out attack against Pakistan as part of a “compellence” strategy. New Delhi demanded that Pakistan sincerely tackle militant proxies, which it traditionally had used against India in a bid to raise New Delhi’s costs in Kashmir. By taking this position, India was attempting to reverse the perception generated during the Kargil episode that Pakistan’s nuclear capability had taken away India’s space to “punish” Pakistan through a conventional response.[7] In the final outcome, Islamabad walked away more satisfied because India, despite continuously threatening war, could not launch an attack. Furthermore, although the Pakistani state did commit to tackling anti-India militancy—this was India’s key objective—and undertook certain steps, it did not achieve irreversible progress in pacifying the militant groups targeting India.

The most recent crisis was triggered in November 2008 when Lashkar-e-Taiba, a prominent Pakistan-based militant group, attacked the city of Mumbai, killing 164 people. By the time that attack occurred, India already had assumed the role of the principal U.S. ally in South Asia. Thus, even though there was a greater effort from India and Pakistan to reach out bilaterally this time around, New Delhi tried to use its newfound stature in global politics to call on the international community to judge Pakistan; parallels were drawn between the Mumbai and September 11 attacks. Moreover, although India refrained from an immediate military mobilization, it did put its air force on high alert. In fact, two weeks after the attack, Indian air force jets entered Pakistani airspace, forcing Pakistani interceptors to scramble.

For Pakistan, the situation was much like it was during the 2001-2002 standoff: Islamabad was embarrassed, squarely on the back foot, and seeking to escape unharmed. It managed to do so by successfully distancing the state from the terrorist attack and promising to investigate the episode and take the perpetrators to task.[8] Indeed, for the second crisis in a row, the outcome favored Pakistan. India did not respond militarily, and the international community asked for little more than serious investigations. New Delhi was left seething with discontent.

The U.S. Role

In all three crises, the foremost U.S. objective was to reduce tensions before escalation dynamics set in. It did so by playing two roles: as a balancer and as a face-saving channel.

During the Kargil conflict, the United States had few pressing interests in South Asia. Pakistan, on the other hand, was seen universally as the aggressor whose reckless behavior had caused the crisis in the first place. Washington satisfied its objective of achieving de-escalation by urging Pakistan to withdraw while pleading with India not to undertake an open-ended military response that could lead to expansion of the conflict. India responded favorably while Sharif, in the face of multiple tactical losses on the battlefront, traveled to Washington to seek an end to the conflict. Clinton, while demanding Pakistan’s unequivocal withdrawal, did not agree to an immediate diplomatic intervention on the Kashmir issue as the Pakistani delegation had hoped.[9] By doing so, he came out in de facto support of the Indian position. Yet, by agreeing to mediate and impress on India the need to cease hostilities once Pakistan announced the withdrawal, he provided the Pakistani side with a face-saver. Pakistan could claim, as it did, that it had achieved a negotiated end to the conflict and internationalized the Kashmir issue. For India, the Kargil episode proved to be a fresh beginning with the United States. Years of sour relations were turned around shortly after the confrontation.

The 2001-2002 episode saw a much more elaborate U.S. role. By that time, both Pakistan and India had become critical to U.S. interests for different reasons. In fact, signaling from both sides during the crisis reflected a recognition of their importance for Washington. Interestingly enough, their behavior suggested that each believed it was more important and could sway the United States to its side. Nonetheless, the aim of ensuring a swift end to tensions meant that the United States could not side with either party overtly. Doing so could have emboldened the particular actor toward which Washington was leaning, thus raising the possibility of provocation. Commendably, the United States managed to keep its eyes on its ultimate objective and retain impartiality; its role was a textbook example of a “preponderant pivot” working to mitigate conflict.[10] It issued statements in India’s favor at times and in Pakistan’s at others. It requested that India back off and pressured Pakistan to deal with militants seriously as a quid pro quo. It also selectively shared intelligence, which helped to avoid misunderstandings at crucial moments.[11]

For India, the outcome was not exactly what it had hoped. However, as Pakistan had managed to do during the Kargil conflict, New Delhi did use the United States as a face-saver. By getting the United States to condemn militancy publicly and call on Pakistan, harshly on occasion, to curb militancy emanating from its territory, India could argue that it had achieved its aim of getting Pakistan to agree to change its policy. Yet, realizing that the outcome actually had gone in Pakistan’s favor—India’s effort at compellence had essentially failed—the United States offered India long-term benefits. Indeed, the years following the standoff saw significant U.S. concessions to India, which helped persuade New Delhi that it could repose its trust in Washington’s intentions. Between 2003 and 2008, military-to-military contacts were revived, and India became the recipient of multiple defense deals, a unique civil nuclear deal, and a much enhanced economic relationship with the United States.

The Mumbai crisis saw a repeat performance by Washington in terms of working to alleviate tensions, although in circumstances in which the Indian-U.S. warmth might have raised false expectations in New Delhi. The United States once again injected itself immediately. It came in with a message of calm, conducting diplomacy to ensure that neither side exercised the option to use force. Public statements from the very beginning showed extreme sympathy to India, but also called for restraint on its part.[12] At the same time, perhaps realizing that efforts in the Indian media at the time to link the Pakistani “state” to the attack might be used to legitimize an attack, Washington issued official statements affirming that there was no evidence that the Pakistani state was complicit in the attacks.[13] The face-saver for India once again was the U.S. condemnation of the attack and demands that Pakistan seriously investigate the matter in collaboration with Indian authorities. Unlike the 2001-2002 crisis, however, the post-Mumbai period did not see any fresh overtures from Washington to reward India for its restrained behavior. Promises of long-term counterterrorism support are frequently rehearsed, but even there, Pakistan’s vital role in Afghanistan has not allowed Washington to satisfy New Delhi entirely.

Will the Next Crisis Be the Same?

U.S. involvement in the nuclear crises discussed above proved instrumental in preventing uncontrolled escalation, but it did not satisfy both sides. In the Kargil conflict, India was the more satisfied party. In the next two crises, however, India left the scene discontented. In fact, the reasons for Indian disgruntlement with the United States’ role are structural in nature and would likely exist in future crises as well unless the original contracted-out arrangement is altered. Indeed, the Mumbai episode may well prove to be a watershed in terms of the approach India takes to the next crisis.

To begin with, India has suffered tremendous “reputational” costs in the past two crises.[14] The general perception is that Pakistani nuclear weapons have neutralized India’s conventional superiority and made it impotent in the face of terrorist attacks. This reputational concern strikes at the heart of the credibility of the Indian nuclear deterrent. If India cannot deter violence at the lower end of the spectrum and, at the same time, cannot follow up on its threats of military response, the effectiveness of its deterrent becomes questionable. At the same time, India’s inability to launch an attack strengthens the credibility of the Pakistani deterrent, which is meant to do exactly that: neutralize India’s ability to utilize its superior conventional capability. Additionally, New Delhi’s experience during the 2001-2002 standoff and the Mumbai crisis established that a compellence strategy aimed at fundamentally altering the landscape of anti-India militants in Pakistan does not deliver, not least because the Pakistani state is no longer in a position to control all activities of these groups.

India also has walked away from the last two crises with lessons on U.S. involvement in South Asian crises. The U.S. role in encouraging restraint after India is struck by a terrorist attack has given Pakistan an upper hand in the crises. Although New Delhi could not have completely overlooked Pakistan’s importance, Indian opinion makers did expect greater tangible support from the United States, especially during the Mumbai crisis. That was not forthcoming. The lesson, as drawn in New Delhi, was that no amount of warmth with Washington would prompt it to “gang up” against Pakistan during a crisis. Washington’s postcrisis utility is also limited, especially because Pakistan is likely to remain important to the United States for its own reasons for the foreseeable future.

All this has led to a shift in the sentiment in New Delhi. As a result of this shift, Indian restraint no longer can be taken for granted. In fact, many believe that an Indian retaliation to the next terrorist attack is all but inevitable.[15] This could take the form of the swift, surgical air strikes that seemed to have been contemplated during the Mumbai crisis. India even could put its Pakistan-specific “Cold Start” doctrine, which aims to conduct limited operations on Pakistani territory, to the test.[16] In terms of third-party presence, this implies an alteration in the contracted-out arrangement. Rather than being amenable to U.S. intervention to support its stance at the very onset of a crisis, New Delhi would aim to undertake limited use of force before Washington could step in. Only when it had completed its initial offensive would it look toward Washington to pacify Pakistan. This would make the U.S. task of ensuring escalation control much more challenging.

Let us play the scenario out. Assume that the next crisis is triggered by another Mumbai-type attack on Indian soil. The attack actually may have come from a Pakistan-based group, or Indian decision-makers may simply rush to conclude so either on the basis of past occurrences or due to faulty intelligence. Let us assume that, in the wake of the attack, India has decided to conduct a limited strike against militant targets in Pakistan. De-escalation now would require the United States to shift its focus to persuading Pakistan to show restraint. There have been suggestions that if the United States could not prevent India from striking, it might be able to convince it to strike relatively low-profile targets in Pakistan such that the strikes would not trigger a Pakistani response.[17] Although theoretically attractive from a deterrence point of view—it would satisfy India’s reputational concerns without causing uncontrolled escalation—such a view ignores the psyche of Pakistan’s military planners as well as the importance of public sentiment in today’s Pakistan. The author’s conversations with members of Pakistan’s strategic enclave suggest conclusively that even a minor Indian strike would elicit a response in kind. The Pakistani intelligence chief recently acknowledged during a hearing before the Pakistani parliament that the military already had identified and even rehearsed strikes that Islamabad could make on targets in India in response to any Indian surgical strikes.[18] The need to keep denying India the confidence that it could aggress militarily at any level remains the cornerstone of Pakistan’s deterrence calculus.

As soon as Pakistan reacts to an Indian strike, the deterrence equation will be back to square one from India’s perspective. The Indian effort to prove that its military option has not been foreclosed by the Pakistani nuclear deterrent and that it could compel Pakistan to act against anti-India militants present on its soil would stand neutralized. In fact, the credibility of the deterrent would have taken a greater hit than in the previous crises as Pakistan would have demonstrated that it had the upper hand even in a “one-shot” confrontation. As a result, Indian threats of a surgical strike in the next crisis ring hollow unless decision-makers in New Delhi are willing to escalate the crisis further. Indeed, India may well feel the need to set the record straight by exercising direct brinkmanship, upping the ante and threatening to escalate further.

From here on, the South Asian powers would be in uncharted territory. Neither India nor Pakistan would want uncontrolled escalation, but they would face the classic brinkmanship challenge: on whose terms will the conflict end? For India, an extra shot would have to be fired, so to speak, for it to walk away satisfied. Pakistan, on the other hand, would want to exit immediately after it has responded to India’s initial aggression.

The United States would find itself in a serious dilemma. By the time an Indian response and Pakistani counteraction has taken place, the U.S. interlocutors may have lost control over the pace of escalation. The U.S. message of restraint against the temptation to escalate further is much less likely to be heeded by India at this point. This is especially true because, as in the Mumbai crisis, it is difficult to imagine the United States being able to offer an attractive enough reward to India to back off. The United States also would not be able to punish Pakistan tangibly and instantly to India’s satisfaction, not least because doing so would undermine the Pakistani-U.S. relationship, fuel further anti-American sentiment in the country, destabilize it to an even greater extent internally, and strengthen the ultraright nationalists. On the other hand, although global opinion is on India’s side already, the option of the United States supporting India outright would be extremely risky. It would embolden India to consider overwhelming punishment, and in Pakistan, it would be seen as a “gang up”; the present sentiment in Pakistan indicates that such a move would quickly be viewed as an Indian-U.S. effort to disarm Pakistan of its nuclear weapons.[19] It likely would cause panic and might lead Pakistan to act even more provocatively to raise the stakes and prompt the United States to seek immediate de-escalation.[20]

In any case, if the crisis fails to wind down after each side has fired one shot, escalation dynamics may generate a momentum of their own. In the South Asian context, this not only implies belligerence and propensity for risk taking among Indian and Pakistani decision-makers, but also brings in the risk of miscalculations and inadvertent use. India and Pakistan use delivery systems that can be employed for conventional as well as nuclear weapons; in the absence of advanced early-warning capabilities, this has a destabilizing effect. Any incoming aircraft or missile could be perceived as an attempt at pre-emption. Moreover, the vulnerability of Pakistan’s nuclear decision-making chain of command—the entire hierarchy is housed within a 50-mile stretch in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi and therefore could potentially be neutralized in a pre-emptive strike—may prompt the Pakistanis to consider dispersal of the high command or to delegate launch authority in advance. Pakistan’s lack of geographical depth provides an additional incentive for this latter step.

Delegation in advance also becomes likely if either side introduces tactical nuclear weapons for battlefield use. Pakistan recently signaled its intent to do so by conducting a flight test of the Nasr, a nuclear-capable ballistic missile with a range of 60 kilometers.[21] Pakistan’s move is reportedly a response to the Indian Cold Start doctrine. Next, although both countries claim robust command and control structures, very few details are available, especially for the Indian program. In an escalated crisis, if either side contemplated mating warheads with delivery vehicles and then deploying them, the other likely would follow suit. Each side would have to transport its arsenal, disperse it, and make ground preparations for deployment, a process that easily could be misconstrued by the adversary as an imminent attack. The likelihood of this misperception (and others) is enhanced greatly by the acute trust deficit between the two sides; traditionally, each party has been inclined to expect the worst from the other.[22]

Way Forward for U.S. Policy

The original contracted-out model of escalation control was hardly one that instilled confidence in neutral observers, and even that may have run its course in South Asia, only to be replaced by a more tenuous one. With India seeking to exercise greater autonomy, the third party would have much less control over how a future crisis unfolds. A further complication is that India does not necessarily want the United States to detach itself completely; rather, it wants Washington to intervene at a slightly later stage in the crisis. Pakistan remains wedded to its belief that the United States will intervene right at the onset and restrain India. These misaligned expectations not only put the United States in a virtually impossible position, but also increase the likelihood of a miscalculation. Depending on how the United States approaches a specific crisis, at least one of the two sides is certain to view things as not going according to plan.

Addressing the conundrum requires the United States to provide a reality check to both sides. Washington should be forthcoming in explaining that it is in no position to guarantee a positive role in future Indian-Pakistani crises and that to expect it to be able to support one side or the other would be delusional. Indeed, to time an intervention perfectly in a fast-moving crisis and to be able to convince both parties to act against their inclinations would have to depend more on luck than any thought-out strategy in Washington.

Challenging India’s and Pakistan’s beliefs that the United States will show up and “save” them may well nudge the two sides toward greater efforts at institutionalizing bilateral escalation control. This would have several positive effects.

For starters, direct communication and signaling during crises must be encouraged. In the past, contacts either have been suspended or used extremely sparingly.[23] This urgently needs to be corrected. Hotlines between Indian and Pakistani political leaders, diplomats, and militaries must remain operational and be utilized to their full potential. The United States should play a proactive role in ensuring that the two sides use these channels during crises. It even may consider facilitating a binding protocol that requires all direct communication channels to remain operational in periods of tension.

Next, Washington should avoid raising false expectations. For instance, promising to punish a particular group on Pakistani soil after a terrorist attack in India is unfeasible at this point given the repercussions for the Pakistani-U.S. relationship and for Pakistan’s internal stability. Similarly, offers of additional support, such as for counterterrorism, to India as a reward should be made only if Washington believes that these can be delivered tangibly. Lack of follow-up has implications for the United States’ reputation in future crises; the implications go beyond the South Asian crises that are the subject of this article. U.S. allies elsewhere also observe this behavior and draw lessons for their own interactions with Washington.

Nevertheless, U.S. interlocutors should not shy away from pointing out misperceptions that either side may have, especially when these misperceptions undermine escalation control. For instance, it would be prudent to point out to the Pakistani authorities that impatience in Washington with their inability to tackle militancy may make it untenable sooner or later for any U.S. administration to continue with the current policy of engagement. The harsh rhetoric emanating from Washington and the virtual breakdown of the bilateral military relationship in the wake of the recent U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan underscores this possibility. By the same token, the United States should work to dispel any belief in New Delhi that the international community will accept Indian aggression after a terrorist attack, irrespective of its escalatory effects.

More broadly, there is also a need to address the instability-inducing elements in the nuclear calculus that make escalation more likely. These include complete lack of transparency on command and control procedures and nuclear postures, mismatched views on what qualifies as “limited” war (what India views as limited, Pakistan may consider an all-out attack given the proximity of some of Pakistan’s major cities to the international border), use of dual-use missiles, absence of any agreements to bar pre-emption of each other’s arsenal or chain of command, and absence of nuclear risk reduction centers.

It is also pertinent to highlight the link between escalation control and broader U.S. policies for South Asia. From Pakistan’s perspective, the Indian-U.S. alliance has tilted the South Asian regional balance decisively in India’s favor. This growing asymmetry may lead Pakistan to bank more heavily on its nuclear capability; even its nuclear posture may become more aggressive if, at some point in the future, Pakistan believes the disparity to have become overwhelming. In fact, Pakistan’s efforts to stall any forward movement on negotiations for a fissile material cutoff treaty, its recent test of the Nasr short-range nuclear-capable missile, and the swift pace at which it is expanding its nuclear arsenal already are beginning to reflect this mind-set. Washington needs to reassure Pakistan through a long-term military-to-military relationship and by impressing on New Delhi the need to reconsider limited-war doctrines such as Cold Start and some of its Pakistan-specific deployments.

Finally, efforts toward crisis prevention are critical. The most prudent yet challenging way to avoid escalation is to address the underlying causes that unleash crises in the Indian-Pakistani context: anti-India terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil and the motivations for such attacks in the first place.

Addressing terrorism requires Pakistani political will and enhanced capacity to tackle groups known to have designs against India. Simultaneously, the two sides will have to show resolve to work together in defeating this menace. The existing “joint terrorism mechanism” provides the most obvious channel to do so. Moreover, a dialogue between the two sides’ intelligence services aimed at sharing information about potential dangers and at addressing complaints and removing misunderstandings generated from false intelligence also ought to be considered.

As for the motivations for anti-India terrorism, all of them directly or indirectly link up to the dissatisfaction of Pakistan-based militant groups with the status quo in Kashmir. Indeed, both India and Pakistan acknowledge the centrality of Kashmir to crisis prevention. The two countries made significant progress toward resolution during the bilateral peace process before the Mumbai attacks stalled their efforts. This, in addition to many previous ones, was a moment at which a proactive U.S. role could have been pivotal in preventing a breakdown of negotiations on Kashmir. In the future, a more proactive role in facilitating an uninterrupted Indian-Pakistani dialogue on the dispute must be viewed as a direct U.S. national interest in South Asia.

The contracted-out model of escalation control in South Asia is inherently risky. It attributes to the United States a task that would be made impossible by the likely actions of India and Pakistan in the next crisis. This situation could help trigger or deepen an Indian-Pakistani crisis. It must be changed.

Moeed Yusuf is South Asia adviser at the U.S. Institute of Peace, where he manages the institute’s Pakistan program. Previously, he was a research fellow at the Mossavar-RahmaniCenter at HarvardUniversity’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a fellow at the FrederickS.PardeeCenter at BostonUniversity.


1. Chari, Cheema, and Cohen conclude that tensions in 1987 were a result of Indian hawkish posturing with unclear motives while the 1990 crisis was unintended and accidental. See P.R. Chari, ParvaizI. Cheema, and Stephen P. Cohen, Four Crises and a Peace Process: American Engagement in South Asia (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 2007), pp. 39-117, 204-205.

2. For an analysis of the nuclear dimension of the Kargil conflict, see Timothy D. Hoyt, “Kargil: The Nuclear Dimension,” in Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia: The Causes and Consequences of the Kargil Conflict, ed. Peter R. Lavoy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 144-170.

3. Rajesh M. Basrur, “Coercive Diplomacy in a Nuclear Environment: The December 13 Crisis,” in Prospects for Peace in South Asia, eds. Rafiq Dossani and Henry S. Rowen (Stanford: StanfordUniversity Press, 2005), pp. 302-304.

4. The stability-instability paradox holds that although nuclear weapons may induce stability at the higher end of the conflict spectrum, they simultaneously introduce instability at the lower end by increasing the likelihood of limited conflicts below the nuclear threshold. See Glenn Snyder, “The Balance of Power and the Balance of Terror,” in The Balance of Power, ed. Paul Seabury (San Francisco: Chandler, 1964), pp.184-201.

5. The author has identified a total of 65 verbal nuclear signals, conveyed through open sources or third parties.

6. For a complete list of signals conveyed during the crisis, see Moeed Yusuf, “Nuclear Signaling Between India and Pakistan: An Evaluation of the 2001-02 Crisis,” 2008 (on file with the author).

7. The need to reverse the perception was prevalent in India’s strategic enclave at the time the standoff began. The sentiment was captured most aptly by noted analyst Raja Mohan in a newspaper column: “[T]here is a growing belief in New Delhi that the time has come to call Pakistan’s nuclear bluff. If it does not, India places itself in permanent vulnerability to cross-border terrorism from Pakistan.” C. Raja Mohan, “Between War and Peace,” The Hindu, December 20, 2001.

8. For more than five weeks, Pakistan denied that any of the attackers were Pakistani citizens. When the national security adviser, Gen. Mahmud Durrani, acknowledged the nationality of the lone surviving attacker in the Mumbai carnage, Durrani was sacked for not having cleared his comment with the prime minister. From the very beginning of the crisis, however, Pakistan emphasized that the “state” had no prior knowledge of or connection to the attacks. “Spoke Too Soon on Kasab, Pak NSA Durrani Sacked,” CNN-IBN, January 8, 2009.

9. For a firsthand account of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Washington and the negotiations, see Bruce Riedel, “American Diplomacy and the 1999 Kargil Summit at Blair House,” in Asymmetric Warfare in South Asia: The Causes and Consequences of the Kargil Conflict, ed. Peter R. Lavoy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 130-143.

10. Timothy Crawford uses the term for a third party that exercises overwhelming superiority in terms of relative power over the two principal actors in any confrontation and thus holds significant sway over the situation. Timothy W. Crawford, Pivotal Deterrence: Third-Party Statecraft and the Pursuit of Peace (Ithaca, NY: CornellUniversity Press, 2003).

11. For a discussion of the U.S. role in the 2001-2002 crisis, see Chari, Cheema, and Cohen, Four Crises and a Peace Process, pp. 161-171.

12. “Rice Flies to India to Ease Tension With Pakistan,” Reuters, December 3, 2008; K. Alan Kronstadt, “Terrorist Attacks in Mumbai, India, and Implications for U.S. Interests,” CRS Report for Congress, R40087, December 19, 2008, pp. 2-3.

13. Anwar Iqbal, “U.S. Trusts Pakistan, Says White House,” Dawn, December 2, 2008.

14. The “reputation” of actors is considered a key determinant of bargaining behavior. Fred Iklé said, “[R]eputation can serve as a commitment to your negotiation position; and the more you enjoy a reputation of always remaining firm, the more convincing is this commitment to the opponent.” Fred C. Iklé, How Nations Negotiate (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1964), p. 83. Daryl Press takes this concept one step further in what he calls the “past actions theory”: a state’s track record on keeping its commitments is used to determine whether it is likely to carry out its threats in any present and future scenario. See Daryl G. Press, Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats (Ithaca, NY: CornellUniversity Press, 2005), pp. 11-20.

15. Leaked diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks reveal Indian officials categorically stating to U.S. officials that India will not have a choice but to respond to another Mumbai-like attack through force. For a statement by Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram, see “India Warned of Response to Pakistan Attack: Wikileaks,” Dawn, May 20, 2011.

16. India officially has retracted its position on Cold Start, arguing that the doctrine was never considered for operationalization. Independent opinions, however, suggest that not only has the doctrine been considered but efforts were being made to operationalize the plan as far back as 2005-2006. For an excellent analysis, see Walter C. Ladwig III, “A Cold Start for Hot Wars? The Indian Army’s New Limited War Doctrine,” International Security, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Winter 2007/08): 158-190.

The author has also been part of policy conferences and simulations dedicated to Cold Start in which Indian participants discussed the rationale for and progress toward operationalization of the doctrine fairly candidly.

17. Daniel Markey, “Terrorism and Indo-Pakistani Escalation,” Contingency Planning Memorandum, No. 6 (January 2010), p. 7, http://i.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/CPA_contingencymemo_6.pdf.

18. “If India Strikes, We Will Give Befitting Response, ISI Chief Tells Parliament,” India TV News, May 15, 2011.

19. In the Pakistani public narrative, there is, as one major Pakistani newspaper’s recent editorial put it, a “‘universalized’ belief…that America actually wants to ‘take out’ Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.” “Pakistan, U.S.—Different Wavelengths,” The Express Tribune, April 14, 2011.

20. Ganguly and Wagner argue that Pakistan’s ability to use provocativeness to its advantage holds in every crisis. See Sumit Ganguly and R. Harrison Wagner, “India and Pakistan: Bargaining in the Shadow of Nuclear War,” The Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3 (September 2004): 499-501.

21. “Pakistan Successfully Test-Fires Nuclear Capable Hatf-9,” The Express Tribune, April 20, 2011.

22. See Moeed Yusuf, “Stability in the Nuclear Context: Making South Asians Safe,” Policy Brief, February 2011, www.jinnah-institute.org/images/ji_policybrief_nuclear_security_jan-25-2011.pdf.

23. Direct communication channels were used sparingly in 1999 and were completely suspended during the 2001-2002 standoff. In 2008 the two prime ministers did converse immediately after the attack, but the exchange backfired. Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani offered to send Pakistan’s spy chief to India for discussions, but later withdrew the offer under pressure from the military. The incident added to the mistrust and further inflamed Indian public sentiment. See “Pak Backtracks, to Send ISI Rep Now and Not the Chief,” Express India¸ November 28, 2008.


Since acquiring nuclear weapons, India and Pakistan have relied on the United States to de-escalate crises. This approach is inherently risky and must be changed.

South Asia Is A More Dangerous Place After the 1998 Nuclear Tests

By Daryl G. Kimball Thirteen years after the May 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear test explosions, South Asia is a more dangerous place. India's May 11 and 13 nuclear test explosions were its first since its inaugural nuclear weapons test in 1974. Pakistan responded soon thereafter and conducted its first nuclear weapons test detonations (five) on May 28 in the Chagai Hills region. The nuclear tests immediately increased tensions in the region and shocked the world. In India and Pakistan, the test stirred up an orgy of nuclear nationalism in some quarters and prompted protest in others...

Pakistan Tests Short-Range Missile

Peter Crail

The Pakistani military claimed on April 19 to have successfully tested a 60 kilometer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a move that might indicate Islamabad’s intention to develop low-yield nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield.

The missile, called the Hatf 9, “could carry nuclear warheads of appropriate yields with high accuracy,” the Pakistani military said in a press statement. The statement added, “This quick response system addresses the need to deter evolving threats.”

Pakistan and its nuclear-armed rival, India, have continued to produce fissile material to increase their nuclear weapons stockpiles, and both countries persist in developing and testing ballistic missiles and other delivery systems.

Because of India’s conventional military superiority, however, Pakistan is believed to be seeking both a degree of nuclear parity and a means to neutralize India’s nonnuclear capabilities.

Islamabad is currently constructing additional nuclear reactors similar to those it already uses to produce plutonium for weapons. Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program traditionally has focused on highly enriched uranium (HEU) as the nuclear explosive material. However, plutonium is better suited than HEU to producing the type of compact nuclear weapons intended for use in war-fighting.


The Pakistani military claimed on April 19 to have successfully tested a 60 kilometer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile, a move that might indicate Islamabad’s intention to develop low-yield nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield.

Chinese-Pakistani Reactor Deal Moves Ahead

Daniel Horner

A planned civilian nuclear deal between China and Pakistan moved a step closer to completion, as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board of Governors on March 8 approved safeguards agreements for the two power reactors that would be involved.

The units would be built at Pakistan’s Chashma site, which already houses two Chinese-built power reactors.

The deal is controversial because the guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which China joined in 2004, allow members to export nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel only to countries that accept IAEA safeguards on all their nuclear facilities. Pakistan does not apply these so-called full-scope safeguards.

When China joined the NSG, it had already built a power reactor at the Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second reactor, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. According to several accounts, the NSG agreed that the second reactor would be allowable under the grandfather provision but that subsequent power reactor sales would not.

The 46-member NSG is not a formal organization; its export guidelines are nonbinding.

Reiterating the position the United States has held since mid-2010 (see ACT, June 2010), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake told reporters in Beijing March 18, “We expect China to abide by the commitments that it made when it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, and in particular we think the construction of new nuclear reactors such as the Chasma 3 and 4 would be inconsistent with those commitments,” according to a Department of State transcript.

“We’ve been very clear in the Nuclear Suppliers Group context about that position, but we’ve also been very clear on the need to support Pakistan’s energy development,” Blake said. “[T]here’s a lot that can be done in non-nuclear areas that help do that,” he said.

In a March 23 e-mail to Arms Control Today, another State Department official drew a distinction between the IAEA and the NSG in the context of the deal. The United States supported approval of the safeguards pact because such agreements “play the key role of providing greater assurance and transparency that civilian activities are not diverted to other purposes,” the official said. “We believe the Nuclear Suppliers Group is the appropriate venue to discuss concerns about this transfer, not the IAEA,” the official said.

Waiting for Information

According to the official, the United States has “asked China to present the scope and details of its intended nuclear cooperation with Pakistan to the NSG,” but “China has yet to provide such details.”

The NSG discussed the matter last year during its plenary meeting in New Zealand. (See ACT, July/August 2010.) In recent interviews, diplomats said it is not on the agenda for this year’s plenary meeting, which is scheduled for June in the Netherlands, but could be discussed there.

Some observers have said the United States needs to raise the issue in venues other than the NSG. State Department officials declined to say whether Washington has done so.

In a March 14 interview, a European diplomat said many countries are “uneasy” about the situation, as they do not believe the planned reactor is covered by the grandfathering agreement. As the diplomat noted, China could request an exemption from NSG guidelines to allow nuclear trade with a country that does not accept full-scope safeguards. In response to a U.S.-led initiative, the NSG granted such an exemption in 2008 for sales to India. (See ACT, October 2008.)

“We would be very interested in the Chinese arguments,” the diplomat said, adding that Beijing probably will not request an exemption.

“We are really struggling with this issue,” the diplomat said.

In a March 29 interview, a State Department official said, “Everything [the Chinese] have said would indicate that [the deal] is going forward.”

Extracting Benefits

Some current and former diplomats have begun thinking about how to salvage from the deal “an outcome that would be kind of positive,” as the European diplomat put it. For example, the diplomat said, the NSG could press for a Chinese commitment that was “more explicit” than the one in 2004 in stating that Beijing would not conduct additional trade that fell outside the NSG guidelines.

In March 29 remarks at a nuclear policy conference in Washington, John Carlson, the former director-general of the Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office, said NSG members could try to convince China to insist on high standards of safety and physical protection for the reactors. Appearing on the same panel, Henk Cor van der Kwast, head of the Non-Proliferation, Disarmament, Arms Control and Export Control Policy Division in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said, “We don’t know how this question will go.” If the sale does take place, one possibility is a Chinese declaration making certain commitments, along the lines of the one that India made as part of the process of obtaining the exemption in 2008, he said. In a brief interview after the panel, van der Kwast said he was not suggesting that he thought China would seek an exemption for the sale to Pakistan.

The third panelist, Richard Goorevich, a senior policy adviser in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, commented, “When it comes to building nuclear reactors, it’s really not a done deal until it’s actually done.”

After the panel, he said he was not referring to a particular current obstacle. Reactor construction is a “laborious, complicated thing” and could be stalled by issues such as financing or, in Pakistan’s specific case, rebuilding from last year’s devastating floods, he said.

In his panel comments, he also said that, in the NSG, there is an “aspect of transparency with regards to each other’s nuclear cooperation,” and that is what would be discussed with China if the deal went ahead.



A planned civilian nuclear deal between China and Pakistan is moving to completion although it has prompted concerns within the Nuclear Suppliers Group.


The Low Politics of Nonproliferation

Reviewed by Zia Mian

Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking
By Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz
Free Press, 2011, 289 pp.

For most of the past 60 years, almost the only people who featured in books about how countries acquired nuclear weapons were politicians, generals, scientists, and strategists. These were powerful men who already were public figures, if not household names, in their own countries and often around the world. Nuclear history has been the stories of such men, of enormous struggles, great passions, and the fate of nations, reflecting how the bomb was introduced to the world by the United States.

The August 6, 1945, White House press release announcing the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima declared that the bomb was “a new and revolutionary increase in destruction” made possible by “a harnessing of the basic power of the universe.” The United States had been able to build the bomb because it “had available the large number of scientists of distinction in the many needed areas of knowledge…[and] the tremendous industrial and financial resources necessary for the project.” To drive the point home, the White House revealed that “employment during peak construction numbered 125,000” and observed, “We have spent two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history.”

The press release established the story line for how people and governments came to think about nuclear weapons and what was involved in building them. Describing the Manhattan Project, the White House declared that

the greatest marvel is not the size of the enterprise, its secrecy, nor its cost, but the achievement of scientific brains in putting together infinitely complex pieces of knowledge held by many men in different fields of science into a workable plan. And hardly less marvelous has been the capacity of industry to design, and of labor to operate, the machines and methods to do things never done before.… Both science and industry worked under the direction of the United States Army, which achieved a unique success in managing so diverse a problem.… It is doubtful if such another combination could be got together in the world. What has been done is the greatest achievement of organized science in history.

Ever since the Manhattan Project, would-be bomb builders have believed that if they could repeat the feat, some of this greatness would rub off on them.

The past five years have seen a wealth of books that tell a new and different story about the spread of nuclear weapons over the past 40 years. Notable among these recent books, some of which have been reviewed in these pages, are Shopping for Bombs by Gordon Corera, Deception by Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, America and the Islamic Bomb by David Armstrong and Joseph Trento, The Nuclear Jihadist by Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, and Peddling Peril by David Albright. The newest addition to this literature is Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking by the wife-and-husband team of Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz. It is a sequel to their earlier work.

In all these books, the focus is the trade in nuclear technology, particularly the network established by Abdul Qadeer Khan, a Pakistani metallurgist who trained and worked in Europe in the early 1970s before returning to lead Pakistan’s uranium-enrichment program. Khan set up a procurement network that provided crucial technology to Pakistan’s enrichment program and enabled the country to produce highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. The Khan network later sold this technology to at least three other countries. The key players are small-time businesspeople and bureaucrats, engineers and technicians, intelligence analysts and spies, customs officials, police officers, and magistrates. No scientific breakthroughs take place, motives are often venal, self-interest rules, and ambitions are petty. Enterprises are small, and not very secret. The amounts of money involved are surprisingly small. The new narrative is all about how the bomb has become increasingly ordinary.

Spy Story and Cautionary Tale

Fallout describes itself as “part spy story, part cautionary tale.” The book is certainly organized like a modern spy movie. Its three sections, engagingly titled “The Setup,” “The Cover-up,” and “The Endgame,” are divided into 22 short, brisk chapters that jump from city to city. Much of it reads like a movie screenplay. It begins, for instance, in JeninsSwitzerland, on June 21, 2003, with a CIA team breaking into a house belonging to a member of the Khan network. There are details of how the break-in team of five men and one woman, all with special skills, was assembled, how the lock was picked, the house methodically searched, and computer files hacked, revealing files on the design of a nuclear weapon. The leader is a suitably dramatic “driven and obsessive” agent dubbed “Mad Dog,” who recruited Friedrich, Urs, and Marco Tinner to serve as CIA informers from inside the Khan network.

The larger story of the Khan network and how it was exposed has been told often enough. Fallout offers a new level of human detail. The Tinner family is at the heart of the story. In 1999, Urs Tinner is described as “a plain-looking man with no distinguishing features [who] had barely finished high school [and] seemed incapable of holding a job.” Divorced, denied access to his children, with a second marriage on the rocks, without friends, and in debt, Urs Tinner was holding three jobs to make ends meet, including as a cook and a bartender, when his father Friedrich offered him a job working for Khan in Dubai. Soon afterward, Mad Dog began to pay Urs Tinner “small amounts of cash—five hundred dollars here, a thousand dollars there” to spy for the CIA.

Friedrich Tinner, a friend and supplier of Khan since the early 1970s, and Urs’ brother, Marco, who also worked for Khan, joined the CIA payroll in December 2002. The whole family, in effect, switched sides. Collins and Frantz note that, for all three, “the total payment…didn’t amount to much more than…a few hundred thousand dollars at the most.” The money bought details of purchases and sales of equipment, shipping invoices, engineering plans for at least three different kinds of centrifuges and for an entire enrichment plant, and technical blueprints of two nuclear weapons designs. The Tinners eventually were able to get more money out of the CIA by selling the agency two second-generation (P-2) centrifuges—for half a million dollars. All told, the CIA may have paid out perhaps several million dollars. It is all a far cry from the vast sums that most imagine must somehow be involved when nuclear weapons are for sale.

The larger “cautionary tale” part of Fallout is how, having penetrated the Khan network, the CIA lied to and misled the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the network’s activities, frustrated a Swiss government investigation and criminal prosecution of key members of the network, and extorted the Swiss to destroy crucial evidence (a copy of which, however, remained with the CIA). The book argues that the driver of this “political battle and power struggle” by U.S. officials against the Swiss government and the IAEA was the institutional culture and organizational interest of the CIA.

CIA Prevails

Collins and Frantz suggest that, in the internal policy debates against the Department of State and other arms control advocates about dealing with the Khan network, starting in the mid-1970s, “the CIA and its backers always argued that they needed more information, more evidence, more time.” This was because as long as the focus was on spying, the CIA was always in charge: “From [CIA] case officers…to senior officials providing daily intelligence briefings to the president of the United States, intelligence was the source of power that kept them in the game.”

For Collins and Frantz, the role and power of the CIA in the Washington process ensured that “the intelligence imperative was driving U.S. policy.” As a result, for four decades “protecting the chess pieces in the game of espionage outranked punishing Khan and his associates.”

The key part of Fallout is how the CIA sought to protect its operatives and its sources in the Khan network─the Tinner family, who lived in Switzerland—from a Swiss investigation. It describes how, to squash a police inquiry into the Tinners, the CIA used U.S. officials including U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Pamela Willeford, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and possibly even former President George H.W. Bush to pressure the Swiss government.

Despite the efforts of Swiss export control officials, police officers, magistrates, and parliamentarians, the Swiss government followed U.S. demands and destroyed thousands of files the police had collected from the Tinners, amounting to 1.9 tons of paper and 1.3 terabytes of data on computer hard disks, CDs, and DVDs. Over a period of two days, almost all the paper files were shredded and incinerated, the hard drives and disks drilled and crushed. Kurt Senn, the head of national security for the Swiss police, the officer who had been in charge of the investigation into the Tinners, observed, “I thought I lived in a democracy.… This Switzerland is a banana republic now.” As a result, key members of the Khan network escaped prosecution or were released after short periods in prison.

How did the CIA get away with this? Collins and Frantz explain it by noting that a succession of U.S. leaders “traded strict standards against nuclear proliferation for other goals, starting with the Carter administration’s determination to ignore Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions in order to maintain the country’s assistance against the Soviets in Afghanistan in late 1979.” This is true enough, but one need not start the clock with Jimmy Carter. After all, as David Albright has pointed out in Peddling Peril, Israel and South Africa, both U.S. allies, were shopping on the nuclear black market before Pakistan even got started. Israel, Albright notes, “rivaled Pakistan in the extent of its nuclear smuggling.”

Like all the other recent books on the Khan network and proliferation, Collins and Frantz call for “a thorough review of the nation’s priorities in stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.” The United States, they say, should make fighting proliferation its “highest priority.” Like the other authors on the subject, however, they do not suggest what would be involved in such a shift of policy priorities. It is difficult to see how such a shift can take place absent a much larger change in how the United States thinks about its own nuclear weapons. It is well understood, except perhaps by some in Washington, that until the United States gets serious about eliminating its own nuclear weapons, the incentives driving other states to keep or acquire their own weapons cannot be addressed properly.

There is no evidence that U.S. policymakers are rethinking their basic attitudes toward nuclear weapons. The hope raised by President Barack Obama in Prague two years ago already has faded from policy memory. In 2009, Obama suggested that the goal of a world without nuclear weapons “will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.” In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared, “[O]ur goal [is] of a world someday, in some century, free of nuclear weapons.”

Washington’s real policy priorities are codified in budgets, and the news there is grim. The Obama administration has announced its support for a massive program of modernization of nuclear warheads, their research and development and production complex, and delivery systems. Over the next decade alone, $88 billion is to be spent on upgrading warheads and new weapons facilities, and $125 billion on a next-generation intercontinental ballistic missile, a new cruise missile, and a long-range nuclear bomber. Other nuclear-weapon states will follow. Unless it is stopped soon, this wave of nuclear weapons modernization will ensure that nuclear weapons and with them the problem of proliferation are here to stay for many more decades.



Zia Mian directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.

Zia Mian reviews Fallout, Catherine Collins and Douglas Frantz’s account of how the CIA recruited the Tinner family as agents inside the Abdul Qadeer Khan network. In addition to adding detail to previous accounts of the Khan network, the book shows how the CIA sought to protect its dominant position in internal U.S. policy debates on Khan’s nuclear smuggling operation and shielded the Tinners from criminal prosecution.

Pakistan’s Nuclear Buildup Vexes FMCT Talks

Peter Crail

Pakistan declared in January that it had strengthened its opposition to negotiating a treaty banning the production of fissile material as it prepared to bolster its nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad’s position threatens to prolong a 14-year stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament (CD), the United Nations’ arms control negotiating body, which operates on a consensus basis. Pakistan has been the only country blocking the start of negotiations on a so-called fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) at the CD for more than two years, leading some of the body’s 65 member states to search for ways around the Pakistani roadblock, including holding negotiations outside the CD.

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the CD, reiterated in a Jan. 25 statement that Pakistan opposes opening negotiations on an FMCT in the CD because of a 2008 agreement by the world’s key nuclear technology suppliers to lift long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India. (See ACT, October 2008.) This action, he said, “will further accentuate the asymmetry in fissile materials stockpiles in the region, to the detriment of Pakistan’s security interests.”

Pakistan and other critics of the move by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which now has 46 members, have argued that, because India now has access to the international nuclear market, it can purchase foreign uranium for its nuclear power reactors and therefore keep its limited domestic uranium reserves for its military program, potentially allowing it to field a larger nuclear arsenal.

Islamabad has maintained that a fissile material ban must cover existing stocks of fissile material instead of simply halting future production, a position backed by several other CD members, primarily from the developing world. Most nuclear weapons possessors, including India, insist on a production cutoff that does not address current stockpiles.

Akram added that Pakistan’s opposition was further hardened by a U.S. call for India’s eventual admission to the NSG, a move he characterized as an “irresponsible undertaking” that “shall further destabilize security in South Asia.” (See ACT, December 2010.) According to Akram, because such admission would allow India to enhance its own nuclear arsenal, “Pakistan will be forced to take measures to ensure the credibility of its deterrence.”

Pakistan has sought to counter India’s conventional and nuclear weapons capabilities by expanding its nuclear arsenal and moving from larger highly enriched uranium-based weapons to more compact plutonium-based warheads.

Those efforts reportedly include the construction of two additional plutonium-producing nuclear reactors at Pakistan’s Khushab nuclear complex. Pakistan already has two such reactors at the site, producing an estimated combined total of 22 kilograms of plutonium each year, enough for up to four nuclear weapons. Islamabad began constructing a third reactor in 2006 and, according to satellite imagery analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security, started work on a fourth in recent months.

After steadily increasing its nuclear weapons stockpile over a number of years, Pakistan is estimated to have up to 110 warheads, all of which are believed to be maintained in central storage, rather than deployed with their delivery systems. Responding to recent reports of Pakistan’s nuclear buildup, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told reporters Feb. 1, “Pakistan is mindful of the need to avoid an arms race with India,” noting Islamabad’s policy of maintaining a “credible minimum deterrent” against its South Asian rival. It is not clear, however, what such a credible minimum deterrent entails.

Seeking a Path Around Pakistan

During the opening of the CD’s 2011 session, the body’s president, Ambassador Marius Grinius of Canada, said there was no agreement on a program of work for the CD, effectively preventing it from beginning substantive negotiations. The CD last adopted a program of work in 2009 after nearly a decade of disagreement, but Pakistan broke the consensus soon after over the FMCT, preventing negotiations from commencing.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon held a high-level meeting last September to help “revitalize” the stalled CD, but diplomats said last fall that the session only retraced existing divisions. (See ACT, December 2010.) Several states expressed frustration with the CD stalemate during that meeting and raised the option of pursuing FMCT negotiations outside the CD if progress was not made in 2011. Pakistan, China, and a number of developing countries opposed such a prospect.

In their opening remarks to the 2011 session of the CD, many delegations, including those from the European Union, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, reiterated the potential for an alternative negotiating process on an FMCT. Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification, and compliance, told the body Jan. 27 that “the longer the CD languishes, the louder and more persistent such calls will become.” She stressed in a press briefing later that day, however, that it is the “absolute first priority” of the United States to seek negotiations inside the CD. She declined to speculate on other options.

Although delegations would not say how much time the CD should be given to resolve the current impasse, Mexico’s ambassador to the CD, Juan José Camacho, proposed in a Jan. 25 statement that members establish a deadline for the CD to adopt a program of work.

Stressing the importance of preserving the function of the CD as the sole multilateral negotiating body for arms control, Ban warned in Jan. 26 remarks to the body, “We must not risk pushing states to resort to alternative arrangements outside the Conference on Disarmament.” He expressed support for starting an informal process on an FMCT in the CD prior to beginning negotiations in order to build trust among members.

The United States indicated that if there was no agreement to start FMCT negotiations, it would back a dual track of formal and informal FMCT talks. “We strongly support the idea of robust plenary discussion on broad FMCT issues, reinforced by expert-level technical discussions on specific FMCT topics,” Gottemoeller said.

Throughout February, CD members held plenary discussions on an FMCT, as well as other issues on the body’s agenda. In addition, Australia and Japan co-hosted a first round of expert-level talks in mid-February focused on the subject of defining key aspects of a treaty, including what would be considered fissile material and what constitutes production of that material. Diplomats from CD members said in February that a second round of experts’ talks on verification is expected this month.

Although several states supported the Australian-Japanese initiative, China and Pakistan said in remarks to the CD Feb. 17 that they did not attend the session. Chinese CD ambassador Wang Qun told the body that conclusions drawn from such informal discussions did not have standing in the CD. Akram raised concerns that such informal talks could undermine the role of the CD as the sole negotiating body for such issues.

In spite of Islamabad’s opposition, “Pakistan has not taken any action to date to seek to block either the plenary discussions or the expert-level talks,” a State Department official said in a Feb. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. The official added that although Pakistan could “create some problems on the plenary discussions,” it would not be able to prevent the expert-level talks, which are being hosted on a national basis although they still are linked to the CD.

Diplomats from states supporting the experts’ talks told Arms Control Today that even if the talks are being held on an informal basis, delegations initially opposing them may realize after some time that their interests are served better by participating in them, rather than being left out. They also stressed that such discussions are important for addressing complex technical issues before negotiations begin and could lay the groundwork for eventual negotiations in the meantime.


Pakistan has stiffened its opposition to talks on a fissile material cutoff treaty in the UN Conference on Disarmament, prompting some countries to start looking for new ways to make progress on the pact.


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