"The Arms Control Association’s work is an important resource to legislators and policymakers when contemplating a new policy direction or decision."

– General John Shalikashvili
former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Abdul Qadeer Khan Freed From House Arrest

Peter Crail

In February, Pakistan lifted most restrictions on former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had organized an extensive black market network contributing nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps other countries. The Islamabad High Court Feb. 6 declared Khan a "free citizen," although still subject to some undisclosed security measures, after finding that charges against Khan for nuclear smuggling could not be proved.

Khan has been under house arrest since 2004 when he confessed to the charges and was pardoned by then-President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Since Musharraf was removed from power in 2008, Khan has recanted his confession and now maintains that it "was not of [his] own free will." (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

Khan is considered a hero by many in Pakistan due to his instrumental role in that country's nuclear weapons program. He first used his nuclear smuggling network in the 1970s and 1980s to acquire the uranium-enrichment technology used to produce material for Pakistan's nuclear arms.

The United States has called the lifting of restrictions "regrettable." Department of State spokesperson Gordon Duguid said that Washington believes that Khan "remains a serious proliferation risk." On Jan. 12, the United States placed financial restrictions on Khan, as well as 12 individuals and three companies associated with his network. The sanctions freeze any assets the individuals or entities have under U.S. jurisdiction and prevent U.S. persons and entities from doing business with them.

Islamabad has continued to rebuff efforts by the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to question Khan about his smuggling activities. Pakistani officials have also insisted that Khan's nuclear trafficking network has been dismantled and that he no longer poses a serious proliferation risk. Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters Feb. 7, "We have successfully broken the network that [Khan] had set up, and today he has no say and has no access to any of the sensitive areas of Pakistan."

Members of Congress have expressed concern that not enough has been done to address the potential that Khan's network may still be operating. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, welcomed the Jan. 12 announcement of U.S. sanctions but expressed concern that they were "belated" and may not prevent the network from continuing to operate. He asserted in a Jan. 12 statement that "the sanctions do not put an end to the matter; equipment and technology from this network may still be circulating, and new suppliers could well spring up to take Khan's place." Berman suggested in a Feb. 6 statement that Congress would take into account Pakistan's refusal to provide access to Khan as it reviews U.S. policy and assistance toward Islamabad.

In this regard, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation, and trade, introduced a resolution Feb. 12 proposing that Pakistan's pursuit of its nonproliferation commitments "should be a guiding element in determining [U.S.] policy toward that country, including with respect to [U.S.] bilateral assistance."

Khan Middleman Admits CIA Collusion

Meanwhile, a key figure in Khan's network has recently admitted that he cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies to undermine and halt the network's nuclear smuggling activities. Swiss national Urs Tinner said in a documentary called "The Spy From the Rhine Valley," which aired on Swiss television Jan. 22, that he helped the CIA halt assistance the Khan network was providing for Libya's nuclear weapons program.

Germany arrested Tinner in 2004 and extradited him to Switzerland on suspicion of smuggling nuclear technology in violation of Swiss export control laws. Tinner worked with the Khan network to manufacture centrifuges used to enrich uranium. The network sold these centrifuges and components to Libya, as well as countries such as Iran and North Korea, to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

Tinner's father, Fredrich, and brother, Marco, were also arrested on similar charges. As of January, all three had been released on bail. The Tinners were not included among the individuals sanctioned by the United States in January.

The same day the documentary aired, the Swiss parliament issued a report that supported Tinner's claim of cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies as well as suspicions that the Swiss federal government destroyed evidence related to the Tinner case under pressure from Washington. (See ACT, July/August 2008.)

The files in question consisted of information related to the Tinners' operations in the Khan network and included blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapons design. According to the report, after consulting and sharing the information with U.S. intelligence agencies and the IAEA, the Swiss federal government decided to destroy all of the documentation it acquired from the Tinners. Swiss prosecutors and the Tinners' defense lawyers objected to this destruction due to the impact on the criminal case.

Moreover, the report also found that, under U.S. pressure, Swiss authorities granted immunity to the Tinners from a Swiss criminal law prohibiting its nationals from assisting the intelligence services of another country.

The parliamentary report concluded that the Swiss federal government should have accepted a U.S. offer to take control of the files and separate the sensitive nuclear weapons blueprints from the other information rather than destroy them.

In February, Pakistan lifted most restrictions on former Pakistani nuclear official Abdul Qadeer Khan, who had organized an extensive black market network contributing nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps other countries. The Islamabad High Court Feb. 6 declared Khan a "free citizen," although still subject to some undisclosed security measures, after finding that charges against Khan for nuclear smuggling could not be proved. (Continue)

IAEA: Syrian Reactor Explanation Suspect

Peter Crail

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Feb. 19 indicating that Syria has failed to provide adequate information regarding a destroyed facility the West suspects was once a clandestine nuclear reactor. The agency stated that a Feb. 17 letter it received from Syria in response to questions regarding the site and potentially related locations and activities "did not address most of the questions raised in the agency's communications." In addition, Damascus has only allowed the agency to carry out a single visit to the site of the destroyed facility and has not provided the IAEA with access to additional sites as requested.

Israel destroyed the facility, located at a site called Dair al Zour, in a September 2007 airstrike. In April 2008, U.S. intelligence agencies alleged that the facility had been a nuclear reactor under construction with North Korean assistance and that the reactor was modeled on North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, which Pyongyang used to produce plutonium for its nuclear weapons.

The IAEA has called on Israel and other countries to share any information on the destroyed facility, including satellite imagery. Washington briefed the agency in April 2008 on its assessment that the destroyed facility was a nuclear reactor.

Following the Israeli airstrike, Syria razed the site and has since constructed another facility in its place. Damascus claims that the original facility and the new one are military installations that are not nuclear related.

During the agency's initial visit in June 2008, it discovered microscopic uranium particles at the site of the destroyed facility. Although the small size of the particles made extensive analysis difficult, the IAEA indicated that the particles consisted of chemically processed uranium, raising concerns that the site had some nuclear purpose. In regard to the uranium particles, a senior UN official said in November, "[T]hat kind of material should not be there." (See ACT, December 2008.)

The recent report stated that the agency found additional particles as a result of continued analysis of samples from its June 2008 visit. The report also noted that the uranium is "of a type not included in Syria's declared inventory of nuclear material." Syria maintains a Chinese-built miniature research reactor under IAEA safeguards and has conducted small-scale experiments to extract uranium from phosphates.

The potential origin and use of the uranium that was the source of the particles remains unclear. A senior UN official explained during a Feb. 19 background briefing that "the chemical composition and some characteristics could be consistent with uranium used in a nuclear reactor" but further analysis is still needed. Moreover, the official noted that the particles discovered were in the form of uranium oxide, rather than the metallic uranium form used in North Korea's Yongbyon reactor, but left open the possibility that the uranium could have been oxidized as a result of the Israeli airstrike.

Syria claimed that the uranium particles originated from the Israeli munitions used to destroy the facility. The IAEA assessed in its February report, however, that "there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles." A senior UN official said in November that no depleted uranium particles had been found. (See ACT, December 2008.) Uranium used in munitions is generally in the form of depleted uranium due to its high density. Israel stated in a Dec. 24, 2008, letter to the agency that it "could not have been the source of the uranium particles found on the site of the nuclear reactor."

In addition to the uranium particles discovered in the agency's environmental sampling analysis, a senior UN official said Feb. 19 that some graphite particles were found at the site. The presence of graphite may be significant because North Korea's Yongbyon reactor uses graphite to increase the number of fission reactions in the reactor.

The official noted that because the agency is still analyzing the samples to determine whether the graphite would be of a type used in a reactor, this information was not included in the report.

In order to carry out further analysis of remnants of the facility, the agency has requested that Syria provide access once again to the site and to salvaged equipment and debris from the destroyed facility.

In addition to the analysis carried out at the Dair al Zour site, the agency is also examining Syrian procurement activities that could be consistent with the construction of a nuclear reactor. A senior UN official Feb. 19 said that Syria has acknowledged these procurement efforts but claims that they were not nuclear related.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a report Feb. 19 indicating that Syria has failed to provide adequate information regarding a destroyed facility the West suspects was once a clandestine nuclear reactor. The agency stated that a Feb. 17 letter it received from Syria in response to questions regarding the site and potentially related locations and activities "did not address most of the questions raised in the agency's communications." In addition, Damascus has only allowed the agency to carry out a single visit to the site of the destroyed facility and has not provided the IAEA with access to additional sites as requested. (Continue)

Learning From the A.Q. Khan Affair

Daryl G. Kimball

The world's most notorious nuclear proliferator is once again a free man. Worried about what he might reveal in court about Pakistan's complicity and eager to demonstrate its independence from Washington, the fragile government of Prime Minister Asif Ali Zadari allowed the release last month of the country's former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

For more than a decade, Khan was the mastermind of a far-flung global black market network that delivered advanced nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps others.

According to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, ''[T]he so-called A.Q. Khan affair is a closed chapter." The full extent of and damage from Khan's dealings, however, are still very much a mystery.

Following Khan's public confession in 2004, Pakistani authorities have shielded him from interrogation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or U.S. officials. The conditions for further onward proliferation still exist because Pakistan continues to use the black market to expand its own nuclear weapons capability.

Days after Khan's Feb. 6 release from house arrest, all Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg could do was express "deep concern" to his Pakistani counterparts.

The release of Khan and the tepid U.S. response reinforce the perception, built up over decades of dealings with Pakistan and its rival, India, that U.S. nuclear proliferation concerns will always take a back seat to other geostrategic and economic interests. Even as the new Obama administration seeks further help from Pakistan to deal with al Qaeda and the Taliban, it must do far more to change such perceptions and avoid the mistakes of its predecessors.

Since the 1970s, successive U.S. administrations have passed up opportunities to disrupt Khan's activities and Pakistan's nuclear program. In his capacity as an engineer with the European uranium-enrichment consortium, Khan had access to advanced centrifuge designs and contacts with key suppliers. Unfortunately, Western intelligence agencies failed to act on early clues that Khan was preparing to take his knowledge back to Pakistan to aid its nascent bomb program.

By 1975, Pakistan began to purchase uranium-enrichment components from European suppliers, and four years later, it was apparent to U.S. intelligence that Pakistan was building a large-scale enrichment plant at Kahuta. The United States responded with nonproliferation sanctions, but months later, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Consequently, Washington's proliferation worries were swept under the rug to win Islamabad's support for the anti-communist counterinsurgency.

By the mid-1980s, it was clear that Pakistan had crossed the nuclear weapons threshold. Yet, not until 1990, after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, did President George H.W. Bush officially determine that Pakistan possessed a nuclear device, which triggered wide-ranging sanctions.

Meanwhile, Khan traveled widely, developing Pakistan's nuclear weapons supply network. Numerous accounts suggest that the U.S. and Dutch governments could have detained him but did not. Instead they sought to monitor his activities and avoid revealing the role of European companies in the Pakistani bomb effort.

Following the tit-for-tat Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests of 1998, U.S. sanctions were tightened further, and Washington pressed the South Asian rivals to exercise nuclear restraint. By this time, Khan had passed nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and others. U.S. officials were worried about his contacts but failed to take decisive action.

After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Washington once again began to funnel billions of dollars in military aid to Islamabad, including nuclear capable F-16 fighter bombers, with the goal of maintaining cooperation in the U.S. war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

The George W. Bush administration compounded the damage in 2005 by proposing to exempt India from key U.S. and international nuclear trade restrictions. The arrangement, which will indirectly increase India's fissile material production potential, has already spurred Pakistan to accelerate its bomb production capacity.

Now, President Barack Obama and other world leaders must pursue policies that maintain Pakistan's support for anti-terrorism efforts without sacrificing the struggle to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons and slow the ongoing nuclear buildup in one of the world most dangerous regions.

To start, U.S. aid should focus on Pakistan's economic and political development, and further military assistance should be conditioned on Islamabad's support for nuclear restraint. At a minimum, U.S. officials must leverage its aid to win full Pakistani cooperation in the IAEA investigation of the Khan network and certify that Pakistan has finally ended all black market nuclear activity.

Washington must also renew regional diplomacy aimed at persuading India and Pakistan to put the brakes on their nuclear arms race. A good starting point would be to call on Pakistan, along with India, China, and other states with unsafeguarded plutonium-separation plants, to suspend plutonium production for weapons pending the conclusion of a global, verifiable fissile material production ban.

Such a course may be tough for the Obama team to implement, but failure to do so risks even more severe nuclear proliferation consequences in the years ahead.


The world's most notorious nuclear proliferator is once again a free man. Worried about what he might reveal in court about Pakistan's complicity and eager to demonstrate its independence from Washington, the fragile government of Prime Minister Asif Ali Zadari allowed the release last month of the country's former nuclear weapons program chief, Abdul Qadeer Khan.

For more than a decade, Khan was the mastermind of a far-flung global black market network that delivered advanced nuclear weapons-related technology to Iran, Libya, North Korea, and perhaps others. (Continue)

Stepping Back from the Brink: Avoiding a Nuclear March of Folly in South Asia

Zachary Davis

Historian Barbara Tuchman described the trail of misperceptions and bad decisions that led to mankind's worst self-imposed disasters as a "March of Folly." Now is the time for India and Pakistan to take steps to ensure that another war or crisis between them does not result in a nuclear exchange that destroys both societies.

The prospects for rolling back India's or Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs during the Obama administration are zero. Nevertheless, the administration can help reduce the risk of nuclear war in South Asia. There is a growing recognition by New Delhi and Islamabad that a crisis, triggered by events such as the November terrorist attack in Mumbai, could escalate out of control and result in an unintended nuclear exchange. The Kargil crisis in 1999 and the 2002 cross-border attack on the Indian parliament brought the two nuclear rivals to the brink of war. Having survived two Cuban missile crises of their own, it is time India and Pakistan take steps to manage the risks inherent in their tense nuclear relationship.

War planners on each side recognize the risks of escalation, but instead of exercising caution to prevent mistakes and misunderstandings during a conflict, they have developed risky strategies they hope will enable them to fight a conventional war without crossing the nuclear threshold. India's Cold Start doctrine, formulated after the 2002 standoff to enable India to respond quickly to cross-border terrorism, is a good example of this dangerous reasoning. Under Cold Start, India would conduct quick, punishing strikes into Pakistan, hopefully without crossing Pakistan's fuzzy redlines for a nuclear response. The vague redlines include cutting off a major supply route, seizing key territory, defeating a major Pakistani military group, or blockading Karachi with Indian naval forces. Indian planners believe they can achieve a quick military victory and sue for peace without Pakistan resorting to nuclear weapons. Pakistani military strategists warn that Cold Start would cross their redlines. Despite President Asif Ali Zardari's recent off-the-cuff statement about adopting a no-first-use policy, Pakistan still depends on nuclear weapons to offset India's overwhelming conventional superiority and will use them as a last resort rather than accept military defeat resulting from an Indian invasion. Flirting with nuclear escalation is perilous business that should be avoided.

The risk of escalation is heightened by the fact that each side has deployed nuclear-capable, short-range ballistic missiles armed with conventional payloads as part of their conventional war plans. These missiles are likely to be used early in a crisis against a variety of targets. There is, however, a growing recognition that the use of these missiles in a conflict could easily be misinterpreted as a nuclear attack. A non-nuclear missile strike on an opponent's nuclear forces, or a nuclear facility despite their agreement to refrain from such attacks, or even an accident involving nuclear assets could escalate quickly and even provoke nuclear retaliation. Existing crisis-management measures, such as the underutilized hotline between New Delhi and Islamabad and the agreements to give advanced notice of nuclear accidents and missile tests, are insufficient. Negotiating the elimination of these missiles-India's liquid-fueled Prithvi I and Pakistan's Hatf I-could remove a significant risk of unintended escalation. Such an agreement could be verified, perhaps with international assistance, and pave the way for other restraints.

For example, the "restraint regime" discussed with U.S. officials after the 1998 tests would lengthen the nuclear fuse by establishing a formal agreement to codify the current practice of keeping nuclear warheads separate from missile airframes. Movements of warheads from declared locations would set off alarm bells and hopefully trigger efforts to cool down the crisis. Other risk-reduction options could include negotiated protocols to prevent incidents at sea, as India and Pakistan each plan to add a sea leg to their nuclear triads, and an agreement not to deploy nuclear weapons in provocative border locations such as Kashmir. Such arrangements do not address the root causes of insecurity but can add transparency and predictability to a potentially volatile relationship.

These modest first steps are aimed at preventing an accidental or unintended nuclear exchange and starting the bilateral arms control process. The next steps should focus on finding mutually beneficial arms restraints and codifying acceptable force asymmetries that increase the stability of their deterrent relationship. Such restraints might include limits on missile defenses, a ban on multiple warhead missiles, and a cap on the numbers of some deployed delivery systems, such as the extended-range Shaheens and Agnis. The professed adherence by both sides to the goal of minimum nuclear deterrence should make limitations of this sort acceptable, if not desirable. Eventually, these steps could lay the groundwork for someday reducing nuclear arsenals when India and Pakistan are able to resolve the disputes that underlie their enmity. Yet, the place to start is with quiet diplomacy to help South Asia's nuclear rivals craft bilateral agreements to prevent the fog of war from producing an accidental nuclear catastrophe.

As India and Pakistan reach new levels of nuclear maturity, they also inherit responsibilities to promote regional and global nuclear stability. The Obama administration should mount a renewed effort to bring India and Pakistan into the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and revisit the debate over the proposed fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT). The prospects for overcoming opposition to the CTBT rest heavily on persuading India's hard-line nationalists that joining the CTBT in no way diminishes India's nuclear status but rather enhances it by including India as one of the nations that has tested nuclear weapons. Pakistan would likely follow. The prospects for progress on an FMCT, however, were dimmed by the U.S.-Indian nuclear agreement, which stiffened Islamabad's resistance to a cutoff due to an assessment that such a treaty would lock Pakistan into permanent inferiority compared with India's larger stockpile of weapons-usable materials. The uphill battle to include South Asia in an FMCT might have to wait until both sides have produced mutually agreed stockpiles of weapons-usable materials. China will also have to support the treaty and endorse stockpile limits. Negotiations on stockpile limits, however, could start right away, and preliminary verification measures could also be explored. The initial bilateral visits to nuclear facilities that led to a bilateral safeguards regime between Argentina and Brazil might serve as a model to develop verification protocols.

Finally, the Obama administration should continue the successful programs that help India and Pakistan implement effective export controls and improve the security of ports and borders. More could be done to promote best practices in nuclear (and biological) safety and security. Still, the top priority for arms control should be bilateral agreements that address the two countries' shared interest in preventing nuclear war.




Zachary Davis is a research professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. His views do not represent policies or positions of the U.S. Navy or the Department of Defense.




Historian Barbara Tuchman described the trail of misperceptions and bad decisions that led to mankind's worst self-imposed disasters as a "March of Folly." Now is the time for India and Pakistan to take steps to ensure that another war or crisis between them does not result in a nuclear exchange that destroys both societies. (Continue)

Nuclear Deals Adding Up for South Asia

Wade Boese

Key nuclear suppliers wasted little time in offering their goods to India after a September waiver of international nuclear trade restrictions against that country. France and the United States swiftly signed bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with India, while Russia is on the verge of finalizing a similar pact. Pakistan, India’s rival, also did not stay idle, claiming a new deal for two Chinese reactors despite a multilateral rule proscribing such a transaction.

On Sept. 30, France concluded the first nuclear cooperation agreement with India following the Sept. 6 Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) decision to exempt India from a 1992 rule restricting nuclear exports to countries, like India and Pakistan, that refuse to grant international access to their entire nuclear complexes. (See ACT, October 2008.) The terms of the French-Indian accord, negotiated earlier this year, remain confidential. On the day of the signing, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh thanked the French government for its “consistent support” of the three-year Bush administration campaign to void the NSG rule on India’s behalf.

Pranab Mukherjee, India’s external affairs minister, similarly praised Bush administration officials Oct. 10 when he joined Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to sign the U.S.-Indian cooperation pact. The two sides completed negotiations in July 2007 on the so-called 123 agreement (see ACT, September 2007), but were prohibited from finalizing it until a series of actions took place, including the NSG waiver.

In an Oct. 20 address to India’s parliament, Mukherjee said the government also hoped to conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia when President Dmitry Medvedev visits India in December. A draft agreement reportedly includes a Russian commitment to supply India with at least four new reactors.

Foreign firms cannot commence nuclear trade, including nuclear reactor fuel exports, with India until it brings into force its new safeguards arrangement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). To accomplish that, India must notify the agency that it is ready to bring the safeguards into force and specify where they are to be applied. Safeguards are measures, such as inspections, intended to deter or detect the diversion of nuclear materials or technologies from permissible peaceful purposes to nuclear arms.

India, however, intends to continue operation of a nuclear weapons sector, so the new safeguards arrangement will apply exclusively to facilities that India voluntarily declares to the agency in accordance with a March 2006 plan. (See ACT, April 2006.) New Delhi, which already has safeguards arrangements for six reactors, pledged by 2014 to incrementally submit eight additional power reactors (some currently operating and some under construction) to safeguards. Moreover, India will have to put the four possible reactors from Russia under safeguards. Eight other current Indian reactors would be out of bounds to the IAEA.

On Oct. 20, President George W. Bush fulfilled a legislative requirement to certify that U.S. nuclear transfers to India would be “consistent with the obligation of the United States under the [nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)] not in any way to assist, encourage, or induce India to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other explosive devices.” That certification enables U.S. companies to apply for nuclear export licenses to India.

Critics of the U.S.-Indian agreement have said it will aid India’s bomb efforts by enabling India to dedicate more of its scarce uranium resources to producing fuel for weapons rather than power reactors. Opponents further contended that as India steps up its nuclear activities, Pakistan will seek to do the same.

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who was among the minority of lawmakers voting against approval of the U.S.-Indian 123 agreement, seized on Pakistan’s announced deal for two new Chinese reactors as confirming the critics’ concerns. In an Oct. 18 press statement, Markey asserted that, “by destroying the nuclear rules for India, President Bush has weakened the rules for everyone else.” He added, “Pakistan and China will be the first, but almost certainly not the last, to take advantage of this perilously weakened system.”

Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, apparently disclosed the deal to the media as part of a recent package of agreements concluded between the Chinese and Pakistani governments. News reports stated the deal would entail the supply of two additional reactors to Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear complex, where China has previously built one reactor and is installing another. The contracts for the first two reactors were concluded before NSG members in May 2004 invited China to join the group, so China could legally fulfill the contracts. The NSG rule recently waived for India still restricts trade with Pakistan, so China appears to be acting against its group commitments.

Qin Gang, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, offered journalists Oct. 21 only vague statements on the reported deal. Without specifically confirming the transfer of two additional reactors, Qin said China would continue its civilian nuclear “cooperation” with Pakistan and contended that such cooperation “fully complies with the two countries’ respective international obligations.”

The U.S. government has not commented on the purported deal and declined to answer questions posed Oct. 20 by Arms Control Today. Bush administration officials over the past few years have maintained Pakistan should not be given the same nuclear trade privileges as India. Prior to the NSG’s offer of membership to China and two weeks after China had concluded the contract for the second reactor at Chashma, John Wolf, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation, told a May 18, 2004, House International Relations Committee hearing that “the United States would prefer that no country provide Pakistan the benefits of peaceful nuclear cooperation.” (See ACT, June 2004.)

Whether some governments will press China on its nuclear ties to Pakistan at an upcoming November NSG meeting is unclear. One item supposedly on the agenda is discussion of criteria to limit uranium-enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing technologies, which can be used to produce nuclear fuel for reactors and the key ingredients for nuclear arms. (See ACT, June 2008.) To help pave the way for congressional approval of the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement, Rice promised to make the pursuit of such criteria, including a draft requirement that recipients be NPT states-parties, the “highest priority” of the United States.

If adopted, that criteria would block enrichment and reprocessing exports to New Delhi. India appears to be maneuvering to prevent such a possibility. At a recent trilateral summit, India joined two NSG members, Brazil and South Africa, in issuing an Oct. 15 declaration that included a provision underscoring “the importance of ensuring that any multilateral decisions related to the nuclear fuel cycle do not undermine the inalienable right of [s]tates to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” The NSG operates by consensus, so the adoption of any criteria pertaining to exports of nuclear fuel cycle technologies, including enrichment and reprocessing transfers, could be blocked by a single state.

Key nuclear suppliers wasted little time in offering their goods to India after a September waiver of international nuclear trade restrictions against that country. France and the United States swiftly signed bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with India, while Russia is on the verge of finalizing a similar pact. Pakistan, India’s rival, also did not stay idle, claiming a new deal for two Chinese reactors despite a multilateral rule proscribing such a transaction. (Continue)

LOOKING BACK: The 1998 Indian and Pakistani Nuclear Tests

Michael Krepon

Ten years ago, the governments of India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices, prompting a global uproar, a united front by the five permanent members (P-5) of the UN Security Council, and stiff sanctions directed at New Delhi and Islamabad. Although the timing of the tests came as a surprise to the U.S. intelligence community, New Delhi had foreshadowed its decision to test two years earlier by withdrawing from the negotiating endgame for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a goal that was ardently championed from 1954 onward by Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, and his successors.

New Delhi's stated reason for its reversal was the failure by states possessing nuclear weapons to accept a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament along with the CTBT. New Delhi also took issue with a complex entry-into-force (EIF) provision that would make the treaty contingent on India's deposit of its instrument of ratification, along with no less than 43 other states that then possessed nuclear power or research reactors.[1] This provision, which was widely perceived at home as an affront to India's strategic autonomy, bore the fingerprints of China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom, which wished to prolong taking the treaty's bitter medicine as long as possible by forcing others to take it as well.

The real reasons behind the Indian government's sudden reversal on the CTBT were not the EIF clause, despite its aggravating features, nor the absence of a time-bound framework for nuclear disarmament, an agenda item that was not part of the negotiations. What truly rankled New Delhi was that the walls of the global nonproliferation system appeared to be closing in from all sides. The nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) had been indefinitely extended in 1995, with the promise of a CTBT to follow-a promise that the P-5 could condition but from which they could not back away. India's nuclear enclave believed that negotiations on a treaty ending the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons would be next in line. Global export controls also seemed to be closing in on India's nuclear options, while the screw-tighteners seemed to put blinders on when China helped Pakistan.

No nuclear agreement has more onerous EIF provisions than the CTBT, which attests to the reluctance of the P-5 to accept what President Bill Clinton called "the longest-sought, hardest-fought prize in arms control history." By comparison, the Chemical Weapons Convention required the deposit of 65 instruments of ratification, and the NPT simply required the deposit of instruments of ratification by the United Kingdom, United States, and USSR, along with 40 other countries. Securing comparable EIF procedures for the CTBT and avoiding the treaty's extended limbo would have required Clinton's strenuous, early, and sustained efforts. Instead, Clinton put off consideration of EIF provisions until the very end of negotiations, when he succeeded in convincing British Prime Minister John Major to be more flexible. Then, instead of making other phone calls, Clinton quickly threw in the towel.[2] The hour was late, and the time had come, in the view of the president and his advisers, to orchestrate a treaty signing ceremony at the United Nations.

The P-5 signed the CTBT on September 24, 1996, thereby incurring the obligation under international law not to undercut the treaty's objectives and purposes pending its entry into force or until renunciation of their treaty commitments. Two of the five, China and the United States, have yet to deposit their instruments of ratification. The Senate refused to consent to ratification in 1999-a sad tale recounted below-and China's legislature continues to consider this matter at a snail-like pace.

Even if Washington and Beijing were to join the 144 other capitals that have ratified the CTBT, other prominent holdouts may not follow suit. Despite the international community's best efforts, India and Pakistan refused to sign the treaty after testing nuclear devices. This reluctance either reflects lingering domestic constraints against doing so, the intention to test again after a suitable interval, or both. Other holdouts, which include Egypt, Iran, and Israel, as well as North Korea, which broke a global moratorium on nuclear testing that had lasted for eight and a half years after the Indian and Pakistani tests, may be expected to seek inducements and conditions that the EIF procedures invite. Rarely in the history of nuclear negotiations has a provision ostensibly designed to rope in stragglers given them so much bargaining leverage or mischief-making potential.

The CTBT and the Indian and Pakistani Tests

Many Indian supporters of the CTBT argued that it would help reduce the shadow cast by nuclear weapons over international politics, thereby advancing India's long-standing goal of nuclear abolition. This and other arguments fell on deaf ears. India's test of a nuclear device in 1974 was more of a physics experiment than a workable bomb design, and India's nuclear enclave was chafing at the bit. If ever there was a juncture to break free of New Delhi's decades-long ambivalence regarding nuclear weapons, it was, paradoxically, at a time of progress to prevent proliferation and to end nuclear testing permanently. The timing of India's decision to test depended on the election of a coalition government led by a party with enough nerve to break out of this box. That government took office in March 1998, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) two most senior politicians, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. When India finally decided to test, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Pakistan would follow suit.

Predictably, instead of tying New Delhi's hands, the EIF clause became a source of indignation across the domestic political spectrum, a powerful consensus-builder to reject any constraints on India's nuclear options sought by outside powers. As anticipated, the Pakistani government welcomed the disapprobation placed on India for withdrawing support for the CTBT and waited in the shadows for New Delhi's eventual decision to accept even more heat by testing nuclear devices. When New Delhi obliged on May 11 and 13, no inducements or penalties the United States and other capitals could identify were powerful enough to prevent Pakistan from following suit. Just to make sure that Pakistan would reject U.S. offers and to prevent India from being singled out for international pressure, Advani issued a thinly veiled public threat to the effect that now that New Delhi possessed the bomb, its neighbor should watch its step in Kashmir.[3] Pakistan tested its nuclear devices on May 28. The exact number of tests conducted on the subcontinent in May 1998 remains in doubt because several devices were tested simultaneously and because Pakistan may have inflated its number of tests for political reasons.

After the Tests

Immediately after New Delhi inaugurated this round of testing, the Clinton administration made an intense effort to threaten international isolation unless the governments of India and Pakistan signed the CTBT and took other steps to reduce nuclear dangers. The point man for the Clinton administration was Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. His opposite number was Jaswant Singh, a confidant of Vajpayee who was later appointed external affairs minister in December 1998. Talbott quickly came to the conclusion that little would result from his dialogue with Pakistan unless he could first gain traction in India.

Drawing from a P-5 joint communiqué issued in June 1998, Talbott and his negotiating team initially laid down five conditions for India and Pakistan to meet in order to be freed of sanctions and to break their diplomatic isolation. The topmost condition was signing the CTBT. Next was cooperation in negotiating a permanent ban on the production of fissile material and, pending this negotiation, a freeze on further production of bomb-making material. Third, the United States wanted both countries to accept a "strategic restraint regime" that would limit ballistic missile inventories to versions that had already been tested. Other parts of the strategic restraint regime included pledges by India and Pakistan not to deploy missiles close to each other's borders and also not to maintain warheads atop missiles or stored nearby. Fourth, the United States demanded that both countries adopt "world class" export controls. The fifth condition called on India and Pakistan to "resume dialogue to address the root causes of tension between them, including Kashmir."[4]

Beijing's imprint on the P-5's conditions was difficult to miss, as the proposed strategic restraint regime and a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) would not just curtail New Delhi's options against Pakistan, but would also significantly constrain India from countering China's strategic modernization programs. The reference to Kashmir as the "root cause of tensions" on the subcontinent, without mentioning Pakistan's support for crossings of the Kashmir divide by Islamic extremists to initiate acts of violence, was akin to waving a red flag in front of a very disgruntled Brahma bull. Nonetheless, India swallowed its resentments over the P-5's agenda. New Delhi's top priority after May 1998 was to chip away at its diplomatic isolation, and the best interlocutor to accomplish this objective was the United States.

The talks began in June 1998. Singh asserts in his memoirs that, at the outset, he told Talbott, "I was not there to negotiate, either to give or to ask for anything. I was really there much more to engage in a dialogue.... [W]e could endeavor to harmonize our views so that the first requirement-a restoration of confidence-is achieved, even if only in part."[5] This was a deft gambit, one that Talbott could hardly refuse. U.S.-Indian bilateral relations were in desperate need of repair, and the upside potential of a serious dialogue could yield important dividends downstream. Neither could Talbott wave away the Clinton administration's stipulations for concrete measures to reduce nuclear dangers, specially the need for India to sign the CTBT.

The extended dialogue between Talbott and Singh might be likened to the diplomatic equivalent of a handicap match in professional wrestling, with the world's sole superpower shouldering the handicap. The most crucial factor in the Talbott-Singh strategic dialogue was the passage of time because the Clinton administration had less than three years to accomplish any of its objectives. As Talbott wrote, "India's strategy was to play for the day when the United States would get over its huffing and puffing, and with a sign of exhaustion or a shrug of resignation, accept a nuclear-armed India as a fully responsible and fully entitled member of the international community."[6] For a nation such as India, which waited 24 years between tests of nuclear devices, three years was not a very long time to outwait Washington.

The primary reason why New Delhi backed away from previous internal deliberations to test was the threat of economic sanctions imposed by foreign governments on an overly centralized, underperforming national economy. According to a well-sourced Indian account, an internal assessment done prior to the 1998 tests estimated that if sanctions lasted more than six months, the Indian economy could be seriously stressed.[7] Members of the U.S. Congress from farming states began chipping away at the sanctions well before then, in search of export earnings. Commercial interests in Paris and Moscow also began to erode the P-5's united front, as might be expected. One by one, the concrete measures demanded of India by the Clinton administration slipped off the negotiating table.

What remained was the CTBT. Vajpayee announced a moratorium on testing in May 1998, even before Talbott and Singh met, but this was hardly the legal or political equivalent of signing the CTBT. The U.S. negotiating team repeatedly asked a simple question: If New Delhi had no plans or intentions to test again, why not sign the CTBT? Talbott, a meticulous chronicler of nuclear negotiations, never got a straightforward answer. He recalls Singh stating in June 1998 that, "in exchange for the lifting of American sanctions, India might take the next step, ‘de jure formalization of our position and acceptance of the letter of the treaty.'"[8] In August 1998, Singh showed Talbott a letter from Vajpayee to Clinton promising "to engage constructively with a view to arriving at a decision regarding adherence to the CTBT by the month of September 1999."[9] During this visit to Washington, Talbott reports that, in his presence, Singh told national security adviser Sandy Berger that "Vajpayee had made an ‘irreversible' decision to sign the CTBT-it was just a question of how and when to make that decision public."[10] In January 1999, Talbott reports that Singh told him that "India would sign the CTBT by the end of May."[11] None of these statements were vocalized publicly by Indian officials.

Singh's memoir offers no promises in this regard. He writes, "India had a certain position on the CTBT, and we were going to move purposefully in that direction-but at our own pace. The Prime Minister had already stated that we were not going to conduct more tests. This was a self-imposed restraint amounting to a moratorium." Singh stresses in his account and in his meetings with U.S. officials that the CTBT had been "demonized" in India and that it was widely viewed as "an unequal, dangerous, and coercive treaty."[12] In perhaps the most revealing passage about his interactions with Talbott, Singh notes in characteristically stilted fashion that "[i]f, occasionally during the dialogue and in discussing the issue of adhering to the CTBT, recourse was taken to deflective ambiguity, that can hardly be characterized as adherence."[13]

The longer the U.S.-Indian strategic dialogue proceeded, the less Singh needed to resort to deflective ambiguity. The Clinton administration necessarily needed to turn its attention elsewhere, especially to al Qaeda, which had begun to carry out long-distance acts of violence from its base in Afghanistan. The flurry of nuclear tests also set in motion dangerous friction between India and Pakistan that raised nuclear dangers and the risk of uncontrolled escalation. Within eight months after testing nuclear devices, General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's chief of army staff, in effect called Advani's bluff over Kashmir by beginning to infiltrate military units across the Kashmir divide in mountainous terrain overlooking the town of Kargil. Infiltration levels and acts of violence carried out by Pakistani-supported jihadi groups on Indian soil were also becoming more brazen. The stability/instability paradox-a construct devised by Western deterrence theorists who postulated that nuclear weapons could check full-scale wars but encourage mischief-making below the nuclear threshold-seemed to be playing out on the subcontinent under a risk-taking Pakistani army chief.[14]

Beginning in May 1999, when the Pakistani units were discovered by Indian reconnaissance teams in the heights overlooking Kargil, the CTBT took a distant back seat to the need to secure a Pakistani withdrawal and to prevent the high-altitude war from expanding in scope and intensity. Several unanticipated consequences and deep ironies resulted from U.S. crisis management in the Kargil war. Clinton, who was withholding a trip to the subcontinent as leverage for CTBT signatures, promised one to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as a face saver for withdrawal. His subsequent trip to the region clarified how much progress was possible in improving Indo-U.S. relations and how badly strained bilateral ties with Pakistan had become, primarily due to its ties to al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups.

The prospects of gaining Indian and Pakistani signatures on the CTBT were hanging by a slender thread when the Republican-led Senate suddenly consented to long-standing demands by their Democratic colleagues to vote on the treaty. The Clinton White House and Senate Democratic leadership were completely unprepared for this eventuality and ignorant of the prior efforts by Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to line up sufficient Republican votes to kill the treaty. Relations between Republicans and the Clinton White House were venomous, as reflected in the 16-month-long impeachment proceedings during 1998-1999 regarding Clinton's sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky. Lines of communication were also severed between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. When Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) stood up in the Senate in September 1999 expressing his intention to block all further proceedings unless the CTBT were brought up for a vote, he was about to learn that Kyl had the votes to defeat ratification.[15]

Senate Democrats found it awkward to pivot away from the CTBT after demanding a vote. As in Geneva, the Senate's negotiating endgame left the Clinton White House holding a very poor hand. Clinton had neither the time nor the leverage to influence the outcome. Sixty-two Senators, led by John Warner (R-Va.) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), tried to avoid a complete train wreck over the CTBT by signing a letter requesting postponement of the vote. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) agreed to withdraw the treaty if Clinton would request a withdrawal in writing and if he would pledge not to bring up the CTBT for the duration of his presidency. Under the prevailing circumstances, these conditions bowed to political realities, but the second condition was somehow deemed unacceptable by the Clinton White House. As Berger explained, "The president believes that it is inappropriate for him to say to the world that the United States is out of the nonproliferation business during an election year."[16] On October 13, 1999, the Senate failed to give the CTBT a simple majority, let alone the necessary two-thirds vote required for passage. The vote was 48 in support, 51 opposed.

September 11 and U.S. Relations With India and Pakistan

The Bush administration's agenda for the subcontinent shifted dramatically after the terrorist attacks of September 11, as it sought to forge a strategic partnership with Islamabad to fight the "war on terror" and to create a new partnership with India with the unstated purpose of helping to provide a counterweight to China. On September 22, 2001, the Bush administration lifted all remaining economic sanctions on India and Pakistan, except for sanctions on entities that had engaged in proliferation-related commerce. India's economic potential, trade, and growth have inoculated the country from new threats of sanctions. Besides, the Bush administration made it a strategic priority to befriend India, including the promotion of a wide-ranging civil nuclear cooperation agreement with New Delhi, overriding decades of export control arrangements established by the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The Bush administration asked for very little in return, least of all India's signature on the CTBT. Ironically, this proposed deal, which was the Bush administration's most important regional priority as Pakistani governance faltered, remains in limbo. Like the CTBT, the deal has been stymied by polarized domestic politics in India.

Ten years after testing nuclear devices, India and Pakistan still have not accepted any constraints on their strategic autonomy. Along with China, both states are engaged in strategic modernization programs of considerable breadth, building nuclear-tipped cruise missiles as well as ballistic missiles to be carried by their land, sea, and air forces.[17] India has plans for a deterrent it deems worthy of a major power, which might entail further tests to certify thermonuclear weapon designs. If India tests again, Pakistan is likely to do so as well. The nuclear enclaves in each county are highly respected at home and believe they have more work to do. This spells trouble not only for the CTBT's entry into force, but also for initiating and successfully concluding fissile material cutoff negotiations in Geneva.

Looking back, the nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and the subsequent rejection by the Senate of the CTBT were significant setbacks for global nonproliferation efforts. Nonetheless, the sky has not fallen. In the following decade, only one additional device has been tested, the lowest number in any 10-year period since the bomb's unveiling. This test, by North Korea, was widely condemned and helped to spur diplomatic efforts to dismantle Pyongyang's nuclear infrastructure. Although other nuclear-weapon enclaves would welcome the opportunity to test again, several are weaker than they have ever been, and political leaders are hesitant to be the first to break an informal global moratorium or to follow the lead of an outlier state. This calculus of restraint can change quickly, especially if China, Russia, or the United States is the first to resume testing.

Looking forward, U.S. CTBT ratification depends, in the first instance, on the identity of the next president. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted against the CTBT in 1999; Senators Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) support the treaty. Yet, even if the next president thinks positively of the CTBT, he or she will have many pressing matters to address. The priority attached to the CTBT will depend in part on the projected vote count in the Senate. Perhaps a dozen Republican senators will need to join Democrats in consenting to ratification, including some, such as Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who voted nay in 1999. Kyl may well hold an even more important Republican leadership position after the next U.S. election, and his opposition appears unyielding. If the new administration is favorably disposed toward the CTBT and if its vote count falls short, moving forward might well require trade-offs involving support for some variant of the Reliable Replacement Warhead program that may be very controversial and unacceptable to long-standing treaty supporters who oppose new warhead assembly lines.

Another option for the next U.S. administration would be to pursue modest but useful steps that are already in train, thanks to the steady and wise leadership of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization's (CTBTO) current executive secretary, Tibor Tóth of Hungary, and his predecessor, Wolfgang Hoffmann of Germany. The treaty's international monitoring system is being expanded, and valuable training exercises are being carried out. The next administration may also see the wisdom of paying U.S. dues to the CTBTO in full. The treaty's international monitoring network's ability to identify the sub-kiloton North Korean nuclear test marks a major success story. Adapting and adding to this network to provide for an improved tsunami early-warning system could add to the success of the CTBTO.

We are a long way from closure regarding the CTBT. India, like the United States, believes deeply that it is an exceptional country and exceptional countries prefer to lead rather than to join. The harsh treatment meted out to the civil nuclear cooperation agreement by opposition leaders in the BJP-an agreement they would surely have welcomed had they been in power during the Bush administration-does not bode well for forging a national consensus in India on the CTBT. The EIF provision continues to serve its intended, malign purpose, which in turn makes it essential to continue an informal global moratorium on testing.

Ten years after the May 1998 tests, India and Pakistan remain outliers to treaties that help define responsible stewardship of nuclear arsenals. Pakistan shows every inclination to compete with India, as is suggested by its growing bomb-making infrastructure and its willingness to block the initiation of negotiations on an FMCT in Geneva. Islamabad's response to treaty commitments remains fixed: Pakistan will consider whatever India agrees to first. Meanwhile, New Delhi's timelines for considering the CTBT and the cutoff treaty seem quite elastic.

The positive news about nuclear stabilization measures on the subcontinent lies outside the domain of treaties. India and Pakistan have agreed to several confidence-building and nuclear risk-reduction measures, such as notifications regarding certain missile flight tests and military exercises. After a period of domestic turbulence in Pakistan, these discussions will resume, perhaps yielding more agreements that reduce the possibility of unintended escalation. Each country is focused on trade, economic development, and domestic cohesion. In turn, this requires that the divided territory of Kashmir, which Pakistani officials used to describe as a "nuclear flashpoint," remain on the back burner. These important gains are unlikely to be supplemented by constructive initiatives relating to nuclear negotiations.

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Michael Krepon is the co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center and a diplomat scholar at the University of Virginia. His next book, Better Safe than Sorry: The Ironies of Living with the Bomb, will be published by Stanford University Press.


1. See Arundhati Ghose, Statement to the Conference on Disarmament, Geneva, June 20, 1996.

2. Senior Clinton administration officials, interviews with author, Washington, D.C., 1996.

3. "Islamabad should realise the change in the geo-strategic situation in the region and the world. It must roll back its anti-India policy especially with regard to Kashmir. Any other course will be futile and costly for Pakistan." Sabina Inderjit, "Advani Tells Pakistan to Roll Back Its Anti-India Policy," Times of India, May 19, 1998 (quoting Advani).

4. See Strobe Talbott, Engaging India: Diplomacy, Democracy, and the Bomb (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2004), pp. 96-97. Talbott's account is essential for specialists and accessible to nonexperts, making it an excellent teaching tool for the complexities of proliferation and U.S.-Indian relations.

5. Jaswant Singh, In Service of Emergent India: A Call to Honor (Calcutta: Rupa & Co., 2006; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007), p. 253.

6. Talbott, Engaging India, p. 5.

7. Raj Chengappa, Weapons of Peace, The Secret Story of India's Quest to be a Nuclear Power (New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 48-49.

8. Talbott, Engaging India, p. 86.

9. Ibid., p. 121.

10. Ibid., p. 123.

11. Ibid., p. 145.

12. Singh, In Service of Emergent India, p. 263.

13. Ibid., p. 274.

14. For more on the stability/instability paradox as it applies to South Asia, see Michael Krepon, "The Stability-Instability Paradox, Misperception, and Escalation Control in South Asia," in Prospects for Peace in South Asia, ed. Rafiq Dossani and Henry S. Rowen (Stanford University Press, 2005); Michael Krepon, Rodney W. Jones, and Ziad Haider, eds., Escalation Control and the Nuclear Option in South Asia (Washington, D.C.: Henry L. Stimson Center, 2004). For another perspective, see S. Paul Kapur, "India and Pakistan's Unstable Peace: Why Nuclear South Asia Is Not Like Cold War Europe," International Security, No. 30 (Fall 2005), pp. 127-152.

15. For a superb case study, see Terry L. Deibel, "Inside the Water's Edge: The Senate Votes on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty," Institute for the Study of Diplomacy Case Studies, No. 263 (2003).

16. Ibid., p. 147.

17. See Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, "India's Nuclear Forces, 2007," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, No. 63 (July/August 2007), pp. 74-78; Robert S. Norris, "Pakistan's Nuclear Forces, 2007," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, No. 63 (May/June 2007), pp. 71-74.


Ten years ago, the governments of India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices, prompting a global uproar, a united front by the five permanent members (P-5) of the UN Security Council, and stiff sanctions directed at New Delhi and Islamabad. Although the timing of the tests came as a surprise to the U.S. intelligence community, New Delhi had foreshadowed its decision to test two years earlier by withdrawing from the negotiating endgame for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a goal that was ardently championed from 1954 onward by Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister, and his successors. (Continue)

Letters to the Editor: “Trust Us” Is Not Enough in Pakistan

Pervez Hoodbhoy

It is good to see Kenneth N. Luongo and Brigadier General (Ret.) Naeem Salik’s unbridled optimism about Pakistan’s ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal (“Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security,” December 2007). But a more tempered approach would perhaps have been better. In thinking about how well Pakistan may be able to secure its nuclear weapons, materials, and experts, it is worth remembering that Pakistan has been unable to protect its constitution from military coups, has lost half its territory (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in 1971, and has failed to safeguard the lives of its most prominent political leaders in recent months.

The goals of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division (SPD), with which one of the authors was associated, are indeed laudable. With U.S. tutoring and funds, the SPD says it has implemented various technical precautions such as improved perimeter security, installation of electronic locks and permissive action links that require the entry of a code before nuclear weapons can explode, and implementation of a personnel reliability program. Although these increase safety against theft or unauthorized access to weapons and material, it is better to be cautious about such security given the increasingly sophisticated and violent Islamist insurgency in Pakistan and the longer-term direction and intensity of social change.

Some claims made by those in charge of Pakistan’s nukes are brash. Feroz Hassan Khan, a former SPD director, for instance told The Wall Street Journal in late November that “[t]he system knows how to distinguish who is a ‘fundo’ [fundamentalist] and who is simply pious.” If it were truly so, Pakistan need not have suffered the tidal wave of suicide bombings that has crashed through its towns and cities in recent years.

The feeling of being in total control starts at the top of the army. President Pervez Musharraf, who recently resigned from the military, was asked by Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria in January 2008 if he thought Pakistan’s nuclear weapons were safe from Islamic militants. He confidently replied, “Absolutely. [The SPD] is like an army unit. Can one rifle be taken away from an army unit? Can the bullet of a rifle be taken away from an army unit? I challenge anyone to take a bullet, a weapon, away from an army unit.”

But just two weeks later, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported that Taliban militants had captured four military trucks in Darra Adamkhel on the Indus Highway. Some reportedly carried ammunition, while others were transporting 4x4 military vehicles fitted with sophisticated communications and listening technology. Another week later, the trucks were recovered, minus cargo.

There are other examples. In August 2007, the BBC reported that about 250 Frontier Constabulary soldiers surrendered to the Taliban, together with their equipment and weapons, all without firing a shot. Initially an attempt was made to deny that any soldiers had been kidnapped or had surrendered. But some weeks later, after the BBC interviewed the military officers in the Taliban’s captivity, President and then-General Musharraf criticized them for cowardice and unprofessional behavior.

Here lies the crux of the problem. In spite of the SPD’s professionalism, the fact is that procedures and technical fixes are only as good as the men who operate them. This is not just an academic question. For more than 25 years, the army nurtured Islamist radicals as proxy warriors for covert operations on Pakistan’s borders in Kashmir and Afghanistan. This produced extremism inside parts of the military and intelligence. Today, some parts are at war with other parts.

This chilling truth is now emerging. A score of suicide attacks in the last few weeks, some bearing a clear insider signature, have rocked an increasingly demoralized military and intelligence establishment. Fearful of more deadly attacks, military officers in Pakistan have abandoned use of uniforms except when on duty. They move in civilian cars accompanied by gunmen in plain clothes and no longer flout their rank in public.

The authors state that “there have not been any examples to date of systemic failure” in Pakistan’s nuclear security. But, given that there is no oversight body, how are we to know? Even the nuclear-weapon states, the United States included, have had serious problems at some point. Pakistan has the additional problem that it cannot be guaranteed that the custodians of nuclear weapons will always be responsible to the government.

One also does not know if radical Islamists can eventually hijack a weapon or acquire the technical expertise and the highly enriched uranium needed for a crude, in situ nuclear device. But it is quite certain that, having gone to the trouble of getting it, they will use it if they can. One should not assume that London or New York will be the preferred targets because Islamabad and Delhi may be just as good—and certainly much easier. In the twisted logic of the fanatics, there is little or no difference between apostates and those who are the tools of apostates. The suicide bombings inside mosques, and in Pakistan’s public places, send exactly this message.

I would like to believe Luongo and Salik that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and materials are safe. The problem is that, like me, they really do not know. In a matter involving enormous consequences, for them to say “trust us” is not good enough.


Pervez Hoodbhoy is chairman of the Department of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, and author of Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality (1991).

Kenneth N. Luongo and Naeem Salik Respond

Kenneth N. Luongo and Brigadier General (Ret.) Naeem Salik

Pervez Hoodbhoy is a longtime observer of political and nuclear developments in Pakistan, and his views are important in the debate over Pakistan’s nuclear security. Our article was a factual assessment of how Pakistan’s nuclear security has evolved over the past nine years, where it stands today, and how it might continue to evolve in the future. In fact, Time magazine characterized this piece as “the most detailed account yet of how Islamabad protects its atomic arsenal.” The article speaks clearly on the threat scenarios that exist in Pakistan and acknowledges the issue of growing religious fundamentalism in both the civilian and military sectors. It emphasizes the importance of assuring and improving personnel reliability. Further, the article makes clear that Pakistan, like all nuclear nations, has ongoing and evolving security challenges and therefore must remain adaptive and open to further improvement. That is why it continues working with the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Surprisingly, however, Hoodbhoy’s letter also introduces examples of challenges faced by Pakistan that are really tangential to the performance of nuclear security. His arguments about Pakistan’s social fragility, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, attacks against military units, and the 1971 secession of its eastern wing are in a category of political and social challenges faced by many nuclear nations. In the nuclear era, the United States has survived the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the attempts on the lives of Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. The United States was unable to prevent the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the British government failed to prevent the London Underground bombings—all acts carried out by religious extremists. These tragic events did not translate into the inability of these nations to keep their nuclear assets safe in crisis situations just as Pakistan has been able to maintain control of its nuclear assets during the recent political crisis.

Political challenges and crises will arise. The important point is to have in place the best systems possible to ensure that nuclear assets are not at risk as a result. We, like Pervez Hoodbhoy, remain concerned with the state of nuclear safety and security in Pakistan because it is important for global security. That is why Pakistan has taken significant steps since the 1998 nuclear tests to strengthen the custodial controls of its strategic assets. This progress is important, and it needs to continue.


Kenneth N. Luongo is president of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to the secretary of energy. Brigadier General (Ret.) Naeem Salik is currently the South Asia Studies Visiting Scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Arms Control Today welcomes letters from our readers. Letters should be under 600 words and should include the writer's full name, address and daytime phone number. Please put "LETTER TO THE EDITOR" in the subject line of the E-mail. Letters may be edited for space. E-mail to the Editor.

It is good to see Kenneth N. Luongo and Brigadier General (Ret.) Naeem Salik’s unbridled optimism about Pakistan’s ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal (“Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security,” December 2007). But a more tempered approach would perhaps have been better. In thinking about how well Pakistan may be able to secure its nuclear weapons, materials, and experts, it is worth remembering that Pakistan has been unable to protect its constitution from military coups, has lost half its territory (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) in 1971, and has failed to safeguard the lives of its most prominent political leaders in recent months. (Continue)


Pakistan Defends Nuke Security Amid Instability

Peter Crail

In recent months, Pakistani officials have sought to allay concerns that the deteriorating security situation in their country would allow extremist elements to acquire nuclear weapons or materials. Political instability in Pakistan has persisted over the past year, raising questions about Islamabad’s ability to protect its nuclear assets.

In early January 2008, Islamabad criticized Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for comments made in a Jan. 8 interview with the pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper in which he expressed concern that “nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of an extremist group in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.” Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq characterized such comments Jan. 9 as “unwarranted and irresponsible,” stressing that Pakistan’s weapons are as secure as those in any other nuclear-weapon state.

Responding to Pakistan’s criticism, the agency issued a statement clarifying that ElBaradei was attempting to “call attention to the need to bolster nuclear safety and security measures” worldwide, not just in Pakistan. Although Islamabad has not signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is a member of the IAEA and has placed a number of civilian nuclear facilities under the agency’s safeguards.

During a Jan. 27 briefing, retired Lt. General Khalid Kidwai, director-general of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, which oversees the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal, sought to reassure foreign journalists. He argued that scenarios involving the theft or takeover of Pakistani nuclear assets were unrealistic. In addition to describing steps that Islamabad has taken to enhance its nuclear security, Kidwai asserted that “[t]here’s no conceivable scenario, political or violent, in which Pakistan will fall to extremists of the al Qaeda or Taliban type.” He also noted that “the state of alertness has gone up” in recent months since domestic tensions within Pakistan have increased.

Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division serves as the secretariat of the National Command Authority, which is headed by the president and is responsible for command and control over Pakistan’s strategic weapons and infrastructure. (See ACT, December 2007. ) Both organizations were created in 1999, a year after Pakistan tested nuclear weapons.

Pakistan is believed to have produced enough nuclear material for about 60 weapons. As a security precaution, these weapons are stored unassembled, with the fissile material core kept separately from the explosive triggers.

Following Kidwai’s briefing, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf also sought to underscore the apparent confidence that the U.S. intelligence community places in the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. In a Feb. 14 lecture at a Paris think tank, Musharraf argued that “[i]f you ask the head of [the] CIA or top officials of Western intelligence agencies, they will talk contrary to the point of view being projected by the Western media against Pakistan and its leadership.”

Musharraf’s reference to such an assessment by Western intelligence agencies followed the Feb. 5 testimony of top U.S. intelligence officials to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Although admitting to “vulnerabilities” in the Pakistani military’s control over its weapons complex, John Michael McConnell, director of national intelligence, told the committee that “the ongoing political uncertainty in Pakistan has not seriously threatened the military’s control of the nuclear arsenal.”

Officials from neighboring nuclear rival India, however, continue to cite the risk to Pakistan’s nuclear arms. During a Feb. 18 lecture in New Delhi, Indian Special Envoy Shyam Saran cited the possibility that, “[in] a situation of chaos, Pakistan’s nuclear assets may fall into the hands of jihadi elements.”

In recent months, Pakistani officials have sought to allay concerns that the deteriorating security situation in their country would allow extremist elements to acquire nuclear weapons or materials. Political instability in Pakistan has persisted over the past year, raising questions about Islamabad’s ability to protect its nuclear assets. (Continue)

Questionable Reward: Arms Sales and the War on Terrorism

Rachel Stohl

In November 2007, Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, invoked emergency rule, suspended the constitution, and arrested thousands of opponents and human rights advocates. As other countries, such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, immediately suspended military aid and weapons deals, the United States, which has given Pakistan more than $10 billion in military assistance since September 11, 2001, decided it would review U.S. arms transfers to Pakistan. Washington also indicated it would likely not prevent any weapons transfers, asserting such a decision could undermine counterterrorism efforts.[1]

U.S. policy toward Pakistan is part of a larger trend of U.S. arms export policy since the September 11 attacks, whereby the United States has made the “global war on terror” its priority in determining arms transfers and military assistance. In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to governments regardless of their respect for human rights, democratic principles, or nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have pledged their assistance in the global war on terrorism.

U.S. Arms Sales and Export Policy Before and After September 11

To be sure, the United States traditionally has used arms sales to “reward” those countries willing to support its policies. The claimed motivations of such policies have changed over time from anti-communism to democracy building to anti-terrorism. The basic notion of using arms sales as a means of promoting loyalty to U.S. goals has been consistent.

Throughout this period, the United States has dominated the global arms market and continues to do so today. In 2006, Washington concluded the largest number of new arms deals ($16.9 billion worth in 2006, 41.9 percent of the global total) and made the most actual arms deliveries ($14 billion, nearly 52 percent of global arms deliveries).[2] The United States’ closest competitors were Russia and the United Kingdom, which made $8.7 billion and $3.1 billion in new deals, respectively, and delivered $5.8 billion and $3.3 billion worth of weapons. The United States has also regained its position atop exporters to the developing world, the largest purchasers of arms. Although the total global value of arms agreements fell in 2006, the United States saw multibillion-dollar increases in the value of its arms transfer agreements worldwide and with the developing world.

Post-September 11 Policy Changes

Nonetheless, there have been important changes since the September 11 attacks, with the United States finessing its arms export policies to support its war on terrorism. The most significant changes have involved the lifting of sanctions, the increase of arms and military training provided to perceived anti-terrorist allies, and the development of new programs focused and based on the global anti-terrorist crusade. To understand and document this trend, the Center for Defense Information has analyzed military assistance data (using U.S. government data solely) for 25 countries[3] that have been identified by the United States as having a strategic role in the war on terrorism. These countries include those that reflect the counterterrorism priorities of the United States—17 are “frontline” states identified by the Bush administration as “countries that cooperate with the United States in the war on terrorism or face terrorist threats themselves”—and others strategically located near Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lifting Sanctions

Immediately after the attacks of September 11, the Bush administration proposed allowing arms sales to potential anti-terrorist allies that had previously been blocked from weapons transfers because they had committed significant human rights violations, lacked sufficient democratic institutions, had been involved in acts of aggression, or had tested nuclear weapons. Congressional opposition prevented these sanctions from being lifted en bloc, and as a result, decisions to lift sanctions were made on a case-by-case basis. To date, the United States has completely lifted pre-September 11 sanctions on Armenia, Azerbaijan, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Montenegro and Serbia). Since September 11, 2001, additional military assistance restrictions to Thailand and Indonesia have been waived.

These countries have been identified as key allies in the global war on terrorism, but each has troubling recent pasts, which led to them being placed on the list in the first place. Not only is each country involved in interstate or intrastate conflicts, but India and Pakistan have been criticized for their evolving nuclear weapons programs, Pakistan’s and Thailand’s military governments attained power as a result of coups, Azerbaijan has been embroiled for well more than a decade in a shaky cease-fire with Armenia, the stability of Tajikistan remains questionable, and the human rights record of Indonesia’s military remains of great concern. Although sanctions have been removed, the conditions in these countries have not improved and in many cases have become worse. Nonetheless, arms transfers and other military assistance to all have increased. In addition, the human rights records of many of these countries have actually worsened, with increasing abuses by government and security forces. U.S. transfers could fuel these human rights abuses and continuing conflict. If the events of September 11, 2001, had never happened, these countries would likely still remain under strict U.S. sanctions.

Increasing Arms and Training to Anti-Terrorism Allies

The second policy shift has been the Bush administration’s commitment to using U.S. weapons to arm potential allies in the war against terrorism. On the six-month anniversary of the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush declared that the United States was willing to provide training and assistance to any government facing a terrorist threat, stating that “America encourages and expects governments everywhere to help remove the terrorist parasites that threaten their own countries and peace of the world. If governments need training, or resources to meet this commitment, America will help.”[4]

In addition to the six countries that have had their sanctions lifted, the United States has provided military assistance to some countries that it had not aided previously in this way. For example, Yemen has received grants to acquire U.S weaponry for the last six years, but none in the 11 years prior to 2001. Turkmenistan is now buying U.S. weaponry, and Kyrgyzstan is now permitted to make commercial purchases of U.S. weapons. Even more telling, 18 of the 25 countries in this series received more military assistance and 16 concluded more arms sales with the United States during the five years after the September 11 attacks than they had during the period following the end of the Cold War (fiscal years 1990-2001).

In the first five years following September 11, 2001, the United States sold nearly five times more weapons through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) to these 25 countries than during the five years prior to that date. From fiscal year 2002 through fiscal year 2006, FMS to these countries increased from about $1.7 billion to $5.3 billion. DCS for these 25 countries have also reached new highs, rising from $72 million during fiscal years 1997-2001 to more than $3 billion during fiscal years 2002-2006. Pakistan had the largest increase in military sales (FMS and DCS) in the five-year period, signing agreements for $3.6 billion in U.S. defense articles. Other beneficiaries of the war on terrorism arms sale bonanza were Bahrain, which saw an increase of $1.6 billion, and Algeria, which saw an increase of nearly $600 million.

In Iraq, we have witnessed some of the drawbacks of this rush to arm and equip countries. In July 2007, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that revealed that nearly 200,000 weapons and other military equipment that the United States had provided to Iraqi security forces had not been accounted for. Among the weaknesses noted by the GAO was that the Department of Defense, which oversees the Iraqi train-and-equip program, neglected to implement basic accountability procedures to keep track of the distribution of weapons issued in 2004 and 2005.[5] Today, the United States has not enunciated a clear plan to remedy these kinds of problems. Yet, as recently as September 2007, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, urged Washington to increase weapons sales to Iraq as soon as possible.

The United States has also viewed military training as an important aspect of its focus on fighting terrorism. A telling statement for the direction of U.S. policy was made in March 2002, when Bush emphasized U.S. reliance on training programs. He said, “We will not send American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead.”[6] Since September 11, 2001, the United States has offered military training to many countries that have experienced terrorism on their own soil, are struggling with the presence of terrorist networks, or are essential to U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

The overall funding for the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program has grown dramatically since 2001. For the 25 countries, the IMET program grew from $39 million in the five years prior to September 11, 2001, to $93 million in the five years after the attacks. That has also meant that the 25 countries are receiving an even greater percentage of total U.S. military training funds. In 2001 the 25 countries received 15 percent of total IMET funds, but by 2006, their share had jumped to nearly 25 percent.

Although some of these countries are clearly involved with U.S. efforts to defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist networks, with others, such as those in Africa and Asia, the United States is gambling that military training will buy allies in the long run. Military training in many instances promotes the readiness, efficiency, and effectiveness of foreign military troops. It may also worsen the situation in countries plagued by terrorism if a well-armed and unaccountable military is not kept in check with human rights training and the country does not receive assistance building legal and judicial structures. Economic and social aid should also be offered concurrently to help strengthen and promote internal stability. Moreover, in some countries, such as Colombia, Nepal, and the Philippines, what is being described as counterterrorism training is in practice counterinsurgency training. The United States is involving itself in internal conflicts around the world and is in practice encouraging countries to continue their internal struggles that predate September 11, 2001. Not every insurgency is a threat to U.S. security, and some may in fact have very little to do with halting the spread of terrorism worldwide.

The Bush administration argues that professionalizing the world’s militaries will help prevent human rights abuses down the road. Yet, the Department of State reveals in its annual human rights report that “serious,” “grave,” or “significant” abuses were committed by the government or state security forces in more than one-half of the 25 countries profiled in 2006 alone.[7] In many cases, U.S. military assistance to these countries is growing at the same time as human rights conditions are worsening. Ethiopia, which is carrying out a brutal counterinsurgency campaign within its own borders, also launched an invasion of Somalia in December 2006 blamed for the deaths of scores of civilians and the displacement of at least 100,000 Somalis in indiscriminate violence in and around Mogadishu. Chad, which suffers from widespread turmoil and corruption, employs child soldiers in the ranks of its national army and is at a minimum tacitly involved in the ongoing regional conflicts in the Central African Republic and Sudan. By providing military assistance with a disregard for human rights conditions, the United States is not only giving up the opportunity to use military assistance as leverage to improve human rights conditions, but is also rewarding abusive governments for their unconscionable actions.

Moreover, in some of these countries, the military has contributed to domestic political turmoil and instability. In 2006 and 2007, Chad, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand dealt with pervasive and significant upheaval. Nepalese security forces opened fire on peaceful strikes and anti-government demonstrations. Chad’s government barely survived a coup attempt. Thailand’s government was taken over in a “peaceful” military coup. The Musharraf government’s continuing battle against reform and political challengers led to the imposition of emergency rule, a move that abandons any pretense of democratic principles.

Establishment of New Programs

The third significant policy shift has been the creation of new Defense Department programs that provide training and weapons for counterterrorism operations outside traditional avenues of support. The Pentagon has long sought the freedom to provide military assistance without human rights conditions or other restrictions under current U.S. law as enunciated in the Foreign Assistance Act. In fiscal year 2002, the Regional Defense Counterterrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP) was created by Congress through the defense appropriations act with a mandate to provide nonlethal anti-terrorism training. In fiscal year 2004, it began offering lethal training. In fiscal year 2006, Congress authorized the Defense Department to use $200 million of its operation and maintenance funds to equip and train foreign militaries for counterterrorism operations, so-called Section 1206 authority.

Creating these parallel training authorities and funding them through the defense budget allows the Pentagon to bypass the Foreign Assistance Act and limits congressional oversight and the normally more cautious State Department from these decisions. In particular, it could help to sidestep restrictions on training or arming human rights abusers. For example, it could be argued that the CTFP essentially serves the same purpose as the State Department’s IMET program but without any of the oversight or conditions.

The newly created Defense Department programs have provided training and equipment to all but four of the 25 countries examined. These programs come in addition to the aid provided through the five traditional major military assistance programs. For example, Yemen received more than $4 million in Section 1206 funding in fiscal year 2006 and an additional $200,000 in CTFP funding in fiscal year 2005, as well as $19.6 million in the five traditional types of aid in fiscal year 2006 and $14.6 million in such aid in fiscal year 2005.

Implications of Post-September 11 Policy Changes

Although the dollar value of the increased support for these countries could be seen as relatively insignificant compared to the considerably greater military assistance given to NATO allies or countries in the Middle East, the relative shift from no or very few sales to millions or billions in military assistance in some cases matters greatly. After all, these sales are likely to mark only the beginning of U.S. military and defense industry ties with these questionable and challenging allies. The U.S. defense industry often relies on initial sales in order to encourage future sales; develop maintenance, consulting, or upgrades contracts; and set the stage for larger-ticket items down the road. Using the war on terrorism as their entrance card, these traditionally undesirable partners have gotten their feet in the door and will likely enjoy long-term military relationships with the United States. Indeed, for the most part, sales and training to these countries have grown every year. The United States must question whether these new allies and these transfers are consistent with long-standing principles and tenets of U.S. law.

Second, these transfers could pose significant risks to long-term U.S. security and stability. From the outset, much of this military assistance is inconsistent with U.S. efforts to spread peace and democracy throughout the world. Beyond the theoretical or principled contradiction, however, the reality is that once these weapons leave U.S. possession and training courses are completed, the United States cannot control how or by whom the weapons are used or the training is implemented. The situation in Iraq demonstrates this reality: U.S. weapons intended for Iraqi security forces have ended up in the hands of insurgents in Iraq and Turkey. In many cases, the countries receiving U.S. military assistance have only pledged assistance to the war on terrorism and may in fact behave in ways the United States opposes. Yet, little can be done in response beyond limiting future weapons and training.

Moreover, the United States suffers from the possibility of blowback—having these weapons used against U.S. troops, civilians, or interests down the road—a phenomenon the United States has experienced firsthand in Afghanistan and Iraq. Weapons provided to the mujahideen in the 1980s were used by the Taliban and today’s Afghan rebels. In Iraq, weapons provided to Saddam Hussein during the 1980s remain in circulation and in the hands of Iraqi insurgents. The Bush administration’s policy of arming these new allies for short-term gains could put the United States at considerable risk and result in the United States facing its own weapons as political alliances deteriorate. Because the United States has increased transfers and training to countries that have dismal records on democracy, human rights, and loyalty, it is not too far a stretch to believe that some of these new allies could turn against the United States in the future.

The track records of many of these recipients—poor human rights records, prior support for and harboring of terrorists, or consistently undemocratic regimes—have been ignored by the Bush administration in an effort to bolster the war on terrorism. In doing so, the United States loses the ability to encourage a change in these bad actors’ behavior and does not guarantee that these short-term allies will remain long-term U.S. partners. Furthermore, the instability in many of these countries also raises questions about their future allegiance.

Ironically, the provision of weapons, aid, and training to some states might even ultimately serve to undermine the U.S. goal of eradicating terrorism. Countries benefiting from new access to weapons and training may see the continuation of the war on terrorism to be in their own best interest. They may not seriously commit to fighting terrorism because an end to terrorist threats, either real or perceived, might mean a decrease in aid. Thus, the actual dedication of many of these countries to U.S. goals and policies may leave much to be desired.


Rather than continuing its current approach, the United States would be better served by abiding by its long-standing arms export laws to ensure that weapons exports do not undermine security and stability, weaken democracy, support military coups, escalate arms races, exacerbate ongoing conflicts, or cause arms buildups in unstable regions or are used to commit human rights abuses. Although the war on terrorism has taken center stage, these principles and values should not be given an end run. This may mean that even close allies, such as Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Pakistan, which have worsening or no improvement in their human rights records, have their military assistance scaled back until substantial improvements are made. The United States should look at other ways of cooperating with new allies, such as economic and development assistance, and work to strengthen these partners’ democracies and institutions. More than ever, the United States needs strong partners that value human rights and the rule of law.

If arms and training are the only foreign policy tools the United States is willing to use, then they must be provided in line with U.S. law and under the strictest oversight and accountability. Programs should not be allowed to bypass U.S. law. New Defense Department programs should be scaled back and evaluated, rather than expanded, to ensure that they are upholding U.S. law. If the United States does sell weapons and provide training to questionable new allies, all effort should be taken to ensure that these weapons do not undermine U.S. security down the road.

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A Primer on U.S. Arms Export Policy

U.S. conventional arms export policy is codified in Presidential Decision Directive 34, set by President Bill Clinton in 1995. This directive guides U.S. arms exports decisions and establishes the foreign policy goals for U.S. conventional arms transfers. These include:

•  Ensuring that U.S. military forces enjoy technological advantages over potential adversaries;

•  Helping allies and friends deter or defend themselves against aggression, while promoting interoperability with U.S. forces when combined operations are required;

•  Promoting regional stability in areas critical to U.S. interest, while preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their missile delivery systems;

•  Promoting peaceful conflict resolution and arms controls, human rights, democratization, and other foreign policy objectives;

•  Enhancing the ability of the U.S. defense industrial base to meet U.S. defense requirements and maintain long-term military technological superiority at lower costs.

Still, the United States cannot necessarily sell weapons to any country that meets one of these conditions. Arms exports also must be consistent with three crucial laws and two implementing regulations.

The 1979 Arms Export Control Act (AECA) is one of the crucial laws. This statute stipulates the purposes for which weapons may be transferred (self-defense, internal security, and UN operations) and establishes the process by which the executive branch must give Congress advance notice of major sales. The AECA also requires a series of quarterly and annual reports from the Departments of Defense and State to Congress on overseas sales activity.

Executive Order 11958 delegates responsibility for the implementation of the AECA primarily to the State and Defense Departments. At the State Department, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls develops and updates the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which implements the AECA. These regulations contain a U.S. munitions list that covers all weapons regulated by the State Department. They also list those countries that are ineligible to receive weapons under U.S. law.

A second essential law is the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, which guides provision of economic and military assistance to foreign governments. For example, this act requires that weapon exports not undermine long-term security and stability, weaken democratic movements, support military coups, escalate arms races or exacerbate ongoing conflicts. Nor are the exported weapons supposed to cause arms buildups in unstable regions or be used to commit human rights abuses.

The third major law is the 1970 Export Administration Act, which governs shipments of dual-use goods, technology and information with both military and civilian uses. The act lapsed in 1994 but has been retained under the emergency powers of the president. It is administered by the Department of Commerce through the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which govern the sales activities of exporters of these items, as ITAR does for munitions. The EAR contain the Commerce Control List, which includes certain ballistic missile production technologies, dual-use chemicals, shotguns, and police equipment.

These laws govern many different types of arms sales and military assistance programs. The largest sales programs are:

•  Foreign Military Sales (FMS): government-to-government sales negotiated by the Pentagon, in which the weapons come from existing Pentagon stocks or new production;

•  Direct Commercial Sales (DCS): arms sales concluded between U.S. weapons manufacturers and foreign clients managed by the State Department.

The largest military assistance programs are:

•  Excess Defense Articles (EDA): surplus or obsolete U.S. weapons given away for free or at a dramatically reduced cost to foreign governments;

•  Foreign Military Financing (FMF): grants to foreign governments that are used to purchase weapons, training, and other defense articles and services from the United States;

•  International Military Education and Training (IMET): grants for members of foreign governments and militaries to participate in any of more than 2,000 courses in U.S. military management and technical training.

Although much smaller in dollar value, the United States also offers military training separate from or part of other arms packages. Military training is an important foreign policy tool used to bolster support for U.S. values and interests in foreign governments and military institutions, as well as to establish common military goals, procedures, and mechanisms. The utilization of military training to build military and political relationships is part of an emerging trend that began at the end of the Cold War. In the last decade, the United States has trained more than 100,000 foreign soldiers, police, and civilians annually through these programs. Such training programs, which take place within the United States and in about 150 countries around the world, range from English-language training and counternarcotics strategies to preparation of forces for peacekeeping operations.


Rachel Stohl is a senior analyst at the Center for Defense Information (CDI), co-author of International Arms Trade (forthcoming), and co-author of Small Arms Trade (2006). Case studies of U.S. military assistance to each of the 25 countries discussed in this article are available at www.cdi.org.


1. Wade Boese, “U.S. Pakistani Arms Pipeline Stays Open,” Arms Control Today, December 2007, p. 29. Emergency rule lasted from Nov. 3 to Dec. 15, during which time Musharraf resigned from the military but retained his presidency.

2. Richard F. Grimmett, “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1999-2006,” CRS Report for Congress, RL34187, September 26, 2007.

3. Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Yemen.

4. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “President Thanks World Coalition for Anti-Terrorism Efforts,” Washington, DC, March 11, 2002  (hereinafter president’s remarks, March 11, 2002).

5. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Stabilizing Iraq: DOD Cannot Ensure That U.S.-Funded Equipment Has Reached Iraqi Security Forces,” July 31, 2007.

6. President’s remarks, March 11, 2002.

7. U.S. Department of State, “2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.”

Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security

Kenneth N. Luongo and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Naeem Salik

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s decision last month to declare a national emergency and suspend the constitution has ratcheted up concerns about the safety and security of that country’s nuclear arsenal. Pakistani officials have categorically rejected speculation that their grip on its nuclear assets is loose, with Musharraf stating that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are under “total custodial controls.”[1] Concerns remain, however, including in Western governments, that political volatility could erode the security situation.

Nonetheless, nuclear security in Pakistan has evolved substantially during the past nine years, and although improvements are still needed, both physical security and operational procedures are now stronger.

Following Pakistan’s nuclear tests in 1998, the nuclear program emerged from the opaqueness that had surrounded it for the previous 25 years. Pakistani officials recognized that they had not been sufficiently transparent to alleviate concerns regarding proliferation threats from Pakistan and sought to convince the international community that they have taken adequate measures.

This led to the establishment of a central command-and-control system to manage nuclear infrastructure and strategic assets. The two most prominent creations were the National Command Authority (NCA), which began operation in March 1999, and the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), which was established as the permanent secretariat of the NCA, although the formal announcement in this regard came in February 2000.

The creation of the NCA and the SPD also were important in changing the mindset inside the Pakistani nuclear structure, especially among individuals and facilities that previously had operated autonomously or with minimal oversight or auditing. The actions of Abdul Qadeer Khan from the late 1980s through the 1990s that resulted in the transfer of sensitive technologies to Iran and Libya, among other activities, are an example of the flaws in the previous oversight system.

Islamabad also developed a nuclear doctrine and communication systems that were integrated with intelligence and reconnaissance efforts and brought under the NCA to provide command and control during any crisis. Existing export control regulations were augmented, and safety and security procedures were reviewed and strengthened.

Concerns About Pakistan’s Nuclear Security

Pakistani officials are aware that they have not completely alleviated international worries regarding the security of its nuclear arsenal. Four key concerns continue to exist regarding Pakistan’s nuclear program, some more acute than others:

•  Nuclear assets or technology falling into the wrong hands. The Pakistani-Afghan border region is known to harbor al Qaeda and Taliban extremists, including possibly Osama Bin Laden. It is also suspected that some percentage of younger physicists and military personnel in Pakistan are more influenced by Islamic radicalism than previous generations. Two physicists from Pakistan with knowledge of the nuclear program, retired Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) scientists Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Abdul Majid, have admitted to speaking with Bin Laden, although they denied that any sensitive information was divulged. Also, the actions of Khan have been well documented. Steps have been taken to improve facility security and to screen personnel who work in the nuclear program more rigorously, but this is an ongoing challenge.

•  Islamist takeover as a result of elections or collapse of government. At the heart of the current crisis in Pakistan is the question of political elections. A serious question is whether Islamic extremist groups and Islamist political parties could gain power in Pakistan through the election process. According to the International Crisis Group, “Poll after poll has found that if fair and free elections were held under constitutional protections and monitored by national and international observers, the result would be a moderate, pro-Western, anti-extremist government in Pakistan.”[2] Extremist Islamist parties have never won more than 11 percent of the total votes in a Pakistani election.[3] Questions have also been raised about the reliability of the Pakistani military, given the ethnic diversity that exists within its ranks. The military in Pakistan has become more ethnically diverse in recent decades and contains Baluchis, Pashtuns, Punjabis, and Sindhis. This has not been a cause for concern about potential factionalism as the troops are professionally trained and have proven to be cohesive in the current political crisis.

•  Assassination attempt or elimination of key leaders leading to a loss of control of the nuclear program. Several attempts have been made on Musharraf’s life, all unsuccessful. The control system over nuclear assets, however, includes at least 10 senior officials, military and political, who are fully competent to assume responsibility for the nuclear weapons program. Ultimately, the political decision-makers control the budget and are responsible for the development and management of the nuclear program. Their actions are strongly guided by recommendations from the deep professional core of specialists that assist the political representatives with the management of the system.

•  Secondary proliferation. The discovery of the Khan covert nuclear technology proliferation network revealed serious security weaknesses, but most of his activities predated the establishment of formal command-and-control mechanisms. In the wake of that scandal, Pakistani officials declared that they would never again let anyone transfer nuclear technology to any country or entity, and actions have been taken to control individuals and facilities in the nuclear complex better.

Nuclear Weapons Assets Authority

Many of these concerns have been eased by the establishment of the NCA and the SPD.

The National Command Authority (NCA)

The NCA was established to create an institutionalized command-and-control mechanism over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programs. Responsibilities of the NCA include employment and deployment aspects of the nuclear force, coordination of activities of Pakistan’s strategic organizations, arms control and disarmament issues, and oversight of the implementation of export controls and safety and security of nuclear installations and materials.

The NCA has a three-tiered structure with two committees, the Employment Control Committee and the Developmental Control Committee, constituting one tier; the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) another tier; and the three services’ strategic forces commands the final tier.

The Employment Control Committee is the NCA’s main policymaking organ. It functions as a political-military committee. It has the president as its chairman, the prime minister as the vice chairman, and the foreign minister as its deputy chairman.

The Development Control Committee is a military-technical committee that translates the policy decisions taken by the Employment Control Committee into force goals and oversees their achievement by the strategic organizations.

The Strategic Plans Division (SPD)

The SPD is tasked with daily management of Pakistan’s strategic assets, liaising with all strategic organizations, and oversight of the budgetary and administrative aspects of these organizations. The SPD also oversees a security division of 9,000-10,000 personnel who are responsible for securing all strategic infrastructure.

The SPD itself has four main directorates. The Operations and Planning Directorate, as the name suggests, carries out the operational planning. The CCCCIISR (Computerized Command, Control, Communications, Information, Intelligence and Surveillance Directorate) is responsible for developing and maintaining strategic command and communication links. The Strategic Weapons Development Directorate carries out liaison with the strategic organizations, scrutinizes their budgetary demands, and carries out audits of funds. The Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs directorate provides policy recommendations on all arms control and disarmament issues and participates in relevant bilateral and multilateral nonproliferation discussions.

There are some subsidiary organizations, such as the Consultancy Directorate, comprised of technical experts who provide technical advice on all construction projects, and the Strategic Forces Communications Planning (SFCD) cell, comprising communications experts to assist the CCCCIISR directorate. The Security Division is by far the largest component in terms of number of personnel, and its primary responsibility is to provide internal and external security to all sensitive installations and sites.

The Services’ Strategic Forces Commands

The third tier of command comprises the three services’ strategic forces commands. The primary responsibility of these commands is to exercise technical, training, and administrative control over the strategic delivery systems. The operational control, however, rests with the NCA. The army strategic force command possesses ballistic and cruise missiles, while the air force strategic command has the aircraft capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The naval strategic force command was the last to be established, and there is no public information as to whether they already have nuclear delivery systems and weapons or whether this capability is still evolving.

Security of Nuclear Weapons Assets and Facilities

The number of Pakistani nuclear weapons and the size of its fissile material stockpiles are not known in detail. It has been estimated that Pakistan has enough fissile material for about 60 weapons and has produced about 1.3 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and slightly more than one-half ton of plutonium.[4] A number of steps have been taken to protect both the weapons and components in storage as well as nuclear facilities and stockpiles.

Nuclear Weapons Security

Pakistan can deliver its nuclear weapons either by aircraft or by surface-to-surface missiles. The weapons are believed to be kept separate from their delivery systems, with the nuclear cores removed from their detonators.[5] Some estimates claim that the weapons themselves may be scattered, at up to six separate locations.[6] It may be difficult to ascertain the number of actual weapon-storage sites, but nuclear weapons certainly would be dispersed at multiple sites.

Despite their disassembled status, General Khalid Kidwai, head of the SPD, has stated that the weapons could be assembled very quickly.[7] Although not originally equipped with permissive action links (PALs), which require the entry of a code before the weapon can explode, each Pakistani warhead is now fitted with this code-lock device, according to Samar Mubarakmand, one of Pakistan’s top nuclear officials and scientists in an interview with a private TV network in 2004.[8] The employment of PALs was publicly confirmed in November 2006 by General Kidwai.[9] In addition, Pakistan follows a two-man rule to authenticate the codes that call for the release of the weapons. It may in fact be a three-man procedure in some cases. Such authentication processes are standard in advanced nuclear-weapon states.

Fissile Material Protection, Control, and Accounting

Since 1998, the SPD has been responsible for conducting external audits on all nuclear inventories and implementing regular and surprise inspections at facilities. Any nuclear or radioactive materials that enters into the safeguarded system comes under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which monitors and tracks the movement of materials through the system until they are disposed.

Four of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, the Karachi and Chashma-1 power reactors and the Pakistan Atomic Research Reactors I and II in Rawalpindi, currently operate under IAEA safeguards. Several key nuclear weapons-related facilities are not subject to IAEA inspections. One is the Khan Research Laboratory, where weapons-grade uranium is produced. Other uranium-related facilities not under safeguards are the enrichment facilities believed to be at Golra, Sihala, and Gadwal. The Pakistani government has never officially acknowledged the existence of these facilities, and it does not provide them on the list of facilities exchanged with India on January 1 every year. Plutonium-related facilities not subject to safeguards include the Khushab research reactor, which is estimated to have a capacity of about 50 megawatts, sufficient to produce the plutonium necessary for a few nuclear weapons per year, and New Laboratories, a plutonium-reprocessing plant.[10]

Sensitive Facility Perimeter Security

Perimeter security is an integral element of all nuclear installations, civilian or military. Central responsibility for the security and physical protection of nuclear facilities resides with the SPD. There is presently a multilayered approach to perimeter security:

•  Inner perimeter. This has traditionally been the responsibility of the respective organizations, but the security in these facilities is now overseen by the elements of the coordinated security division of the SPD. This division is headed by a two-star general. These forces operate on a permanent basis and receive special training. Certain facilities are also protected by air defense elements and are designated as no-fly zones.

•  Outer perimeter. Fencing has recently been strengthened at facilities, and new technologies and electronic sensors, including closed-circuit television cameras, have been installed.

•  Third Tier. Counter-intelligence teams work on identifying external threats to facilities.

Transportation Security

Materials, such as spent nuclear fuel and high-activity radioactive sources are more difficult to defend from adversaries while in transit than when in fixed locations. The key concern in Pakistan is that armor-piercing weapons could penetrate transportation containers and release radioactive materials. Officials are therefore seeking to acquire additional specialized vehicles to prevent sabotage attempts. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) in October 2000 and is working to ensure it meets all the guidelines included in the convention, which covers domestic and international transportation of nuclear materials. Officials are also considering accession to the July 2005 amendments that are intended to strengthen the CPPNM.

Personnel Reliability Program (PRP)

The security clearance and screening processes of individuals for employment in the strategic organizations was a disjointed and fragmented process in the past that has now been consolidated through the institution of a personnel reliability program (PRP). This program covers all persons working in the sensitive areas of the nuclear system. The SPD has overall approval of key personnel and also retains information on all retired personnel. Since 2001, the personnel system has been strengthened and integrated into the nuclear establishment. Also, as the nuclear departments have grown, there is less of a sense of “family bonding” and more accountability. Any individual assigned to a strategic project or a sensitive task now undergoes a security clearance by Interservices Intelligence, Intelligence Bureau, Military Intelligence, and the SPD. This is similar to the U.S. system, and lessons have been learned and adapted from the U.S. PRP. After an initial screening, there are periodic clearance rechecks every two years or when a person is transferred from one area of the program to another. Additionally, random checks can be carried out when required. This process includes complete background checks on family, educational career, political affiliations, and inclinations.

Challenges remain, however, in controlling nuclear expertise. Pakistan has re-employed scientists with potentially sensitive expertise in other areas of the nuclear program to continue to use their knowledge. Once the system becomes more saturated and more scientists leave the program, dealing with these alumni will become more of a problem. Pakistan has spoken with the United States on this issue and is exploring ideas for scientists who leave the program, including retraining them in other areas of expertise. In the United States, scientists have a permanent obligation regarding the protection of sensitive information regardless of whether they have left government employment. This issue needs to be addressed in greater detail in order to devise an effective and sustainable system for Pakistan.

Nuclear Energy and Radiation Security and Authority

The civilian elements of Pakistan’s nuclear program are overseen largely by the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) and the PAEC.

The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA)

The PNRA was established in January 2001. It is the national statutory nuclear authority responsible for regulating all aspects of radiation and nuclear energy. The PNRA issues licenses for imports and exports of radiological substances and controls, regulates, and supervises all matters relating to nuclear safety and radiation protection. Previously, the PAEC was responsible for overseeing nuclear safety and security. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, the PNRA tightened its security and physical protection regime. The PNRA Ordinance of 2001 empowers the PNRA to “ensure that appropriate measures for physical protection of nuclear installations and nuclear materials are taken by the licensee.” The federal government retains the authority to create legislation and regulations for imports and exports, and the PNRA is responsible for issuing licenses and conducting inspections of the licensees. Applications are received at the PNRA and reviewed at the Regional Nuclear Safety Directorates. The capacity and expertise of companies are evaluated, and licenses and no-objection certificates are only issued to qualifying companies. The Ministry of Commerce is responsible for issuing the import and export procedures through the chief controller of imports and exports. Customs authorities are then responsible for controlling the entry and exit of nuclear and radioactive materials.

In 2002 the PNRA streamlined nuclear disaster management by announcing a host of new measures for protecting “the plant and society from hazards that could be man-made or natural.” These measures included stricter quality control and monitoring for infrastructure and equipment, multiple physical barriers to uncontrolled release of radioactive materials, radiation protection and acceptance criteria, and disaster mitigation equipment and arrangements. The PNRA also addressed resource issues in nuclear facilities, including the division of responsibilities and quality of technical staff.

The PNRA has developed a five-year Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP) intended to enhance safety and security for all nuclear and radiation facilities and sources. The plan should ultimately boost the confidence of the nuclear energy sector and industry and the international community regarding compliance with international obligations. The key focus areas of the NSAP are:

•  Manage all sources under regulatory control, evaluate vulnerable facilities, and support their efforts. Inspections are held during use, storage, and transportation of any sources. The PNRA now conducts biannual assessments, and a follow-on process ensures that the findings are adequately implemented. The PNRA is also reassessing existing physical protection measures around facilities and providing guidance and training to strengthen these systems.

•   Establish a PNRA Nuclear Safety and Security Training Center. The center will focus on training programs related to nuclear security and physical protection of radioactive materials, emergency preparedness, detection equipment, recovery operations, and border monitoring. It will train PNRA staff and first responders, including officials from customs, border, local governments, and other law enforcement agencies. Thus far, the PNRA has been involved in training up to 200 staff.

•   Establish a National Nuclear Security Emergency Coordination Center (NuSECC). NuSECC has been established in Islamabad to coordinate government agencies, including customs, border, local governments, and PNRA regional directorates, which are based in Karachi, Chashma, and Islamabad. Three additional directorates are being created, and inspectorates are yet to be established. There is currently one mobile lab, and officials wish to acquire an additional five to be stationed at the directorates and inspectorates. NuSECC will also work on a communications system and evaluate the possibility of continual tracking of high-activity sources during movement.

•  Locate and secure orphan radioactive sources. Orphan sources are defined as “sources not under regulatory control, either because they have never been under regulatory control or because they have been abandoned, lost, misplaced, stolen or transferred without proper authorization.”[11] The PNRA has launched a campaign to locate all sources through physical and nonphysical searches and public outreach. Officials must locate, secure, and dispose of such sources to reduce the risk that they will be used to perpetrate malicious acts.

•  Provision of detection equipment at strategic points. Detection equipment is intended to help prevent illicit trafficking of radioactive materials and sources and to assist rapid response in the instance of a nuclear or radiological emergency. Equipment will be provided to local governments, emergency response personnel, customs, and rangers at selected border points. Training will also be provided on how to operate the equipment and verify information obtained.

The PNRA evaluates its credibility against a set of performance indicators. These include peer reviews conducted by the IAEA International Regulatory Review Team and the IAEA Radiation Safety Infrastructure Appraisal mission. The PNRA also draws on local universities and other external associates to assist with self-assessments and promote transparency. Results from appraisals are posted on the PNRA website. Reports submitted by Pakistan in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which calls for national measures to prevent nonstate actors from obtaining highly dangerous weapons, and Pakistan’s accession to international agreements, including the CPPNM, also demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment toward addressing the challenges posed by nuclear security.

Export Controls

In 2000 the SPD issued internal export control guidelines for all nuclear organizations. Before the issuance of these guidelines, organizations acted independently; and their transactions invariably caused suspicions and concerns, especially given the strategic nature of these entities. Institutions now have to follow established procedures for all exports, including seeking clearance from the SPD and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Still, until 2004, Pakistan’s nuclear export control framework was largely governed by statutory regulatory orders, ordinances, and acts that supported regulations issued by the Ministry of Commerce. In the wake of the Khan scandal, many of these procedures and regulations were consolidated in 2004 in the Export Control Act, enacted to control the exports of goods, technologies, materials, and equipment related to nuclear and biological weapons and delivery systems.

The 2004 act also established controls over re-exports, transshipments, and transfers of goods and technologies that could contribute to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means of their delivery or contribute to the threat of international terrorism.

The transfer of nuclear-related equipment and technology is not permitted except for disused radioactive sources, empty containers of these sources, equipment for repair or maintenance from these facilities, and samples for analysis or study from national nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards.

The jurisdiction of the act extends to the entire territory of Pakistan and to any offenses committed by a citizen of Pakistan or person in the service of Pakistan, a Pakistani national visiting or working abroad, a foreign national while on the territory of Pakistan, or any ground transport, ship, or aircraft registered in Pakistan. The control list for the act encompasses the lists and scope of export controls maintained by the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and the Australia Group (for biological agents). The act also has a catchall clause. (A Chemical Weapons Convention ordinance had already been issued in 2000, which covered import/export requirements for the chemical industry.) The control list will be subject to periodic review, revision, and updating as and when required.

Exporters are required to maintain detailed inventories and records and to notify the relevant authority if they are aware or suspect that goods or technology are intended to be used in connection with weapons. Offenders face tough penalties, which include imprisonment of up to 14 years, a fine of up to five million rupees, and the seizure of all assets and property.

To ensure the successful implementation and enforcement of the act, a Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) has been created. This division is housed in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but it is multidisciplinary and includes personnel from customs; the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Commerce, and Defense; the Central Board of Revenue; the PAEC; the PNRA; and the SPD. The division will operate independently so that personnel will not face any conflicts of interest.

The SECDIV will formulate the necessary rules and regulations for its internal functioning and for the implementation of the act. It will develop structures for issuing licenses for all items as per the National Control List and develop an outreach program for industry and the media. There will also be an oversight board, headed by the foreign secretary and consisting of high-level officials who will meet periodically (possibly twice a year) to oversee implementation of the act. The procedures for the oversight board have not yet been established.

Radiological Source Security

The PNRA is tasked with protecting radiation workers, the public, and the environment against accidental or malicious acts involving nuclear materials and facilities that may result in exposure to the harmful effects of radiation. The security of radioactive sources is ensured through periodic physical verification and regulatory inspections. In recent years, the PNRA has conducted numerous, nationwide inspections of nuclear and radiation facilities, identifying weaknesses and recommending countermeasures. The PNRA has also launched an orphan-sources initiative through a public awareness and education campaign.

The PNRA continuously reviews and updates safety and security measures according to recommendations and guidance received from the IAEA. They are also committed to protecting investment in the nuclear industry by specifying stringent design and operational safety targets to help eliminate the probability of major economic loss due to an accident, incident, or malicious act.

The total number of radiological sources in Pakistan is not clear, but 65 percent of the sources are claimed to be stored and 34 percent of sources are in use. Of the amount in use, 49 percent is under the PAEC, of which 26 percent is for medical use and 74 percent for nonmedical use, and 51 percent is non-PAEC, of which 12 percent is for medical use and 88 percent is for nonmedical use. The amount of category one, two, and three radioactive materials is claimed to be limited, and once its useful life is over, it must be returned to the government. For example, in hospitals, once a source has ended its effective life, the licensee must release the source to the PNRA, which in turn hands it over to the PAEC, the only government agency equipped to dispose of such materials. The PNRA would be required at some stage to develop its own waste disposal site because the disposal of such sources is its primary responsibility.

Pakistan has been working to ensure accurate tracking of all radioactive sources imported into the country. It is very difficult to secure all of Pakistan’s borders against illicit trafficking, especially because there are more than 2,000 miles of open borders with few legal crossing points. Yet, Pakistan has taken action to control the threat of radiological terrorism better. For example, the 2004 Export Control Act includes restrictions and penalties for transshipments. Pakistan has signed the Container Security Initiative, which provided for detectors in Karachi. Officials are engaged in discussions regarding possibly joining the Megaports Initiative. Pakistan also participates in the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database, which allows countries to share information on incidents involving theft, loss, or pilferage of radiological materials.

Officials claim that Pakistan is working at “optimum speed” to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Energy on export and border control programs. Useful assistance for Pakistan to help meet this challenge would include providing metal detectors for border crossing points and mobile labs to identify any suspicious substances that are intercepted. Pakistani officials note that anyone bringing sources into Pakistan would find it difficult to sell such materials because there are only a small number of end users and they are known to officials, thus making it easier to identify any new sources that appear on the market.

Cooperation With the International Community

The United States and Pakistan initiated a bilateral dialogue on improving nuclear security in the wake of a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell in October 2001. The results of the discussions have been very closely held, though not strictly secret, as references to the cooperation have been made in Western and Pakistani news media, in other expert publications, and in briefings to Pakistani parliamentarians.[12] The discussions have been conducted at the expert level and on a nonsensitive and nonintrusive basis, with Pakistan insisting on clear redlines. The scope reportedly includes export and commodity controls, PRPs, nuclear material protection, control and accounting, transportation security, sharing of best practices, training of security personnel, and the provision of equipment. According to the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the cooperation has been “in the nature of rudimentary training and ideas,” and the equipment provided for tracing nuclear materials is of a “basic nature.”[13]

This cooperation does not extend to the “safety” of nuclear weapons because of U.S. legal limitations as well as Pakistan’s insistence on nonintrusiveness and maintaining secrecy related to its nuclear weapons and their locations. Another very sensitive issue is the suggestion that the United States is engaging in contingency planning to “secure” or relocate Pakistani nuclear assets in case of a breakdown of order.[14] This is not part of the U.S.-Pakistani nuclear security dialogue. Pakistan would be very wary of continuing cooperation with the United States on nuclear security improvements should this issue become an official priority. It could raise the question of whether the United States has given up on the objective it had after the 1998 nuclear test of rolling back Pakistan’s nuclear capability. It also would raise questions about the sincerity of statements by knowledgeable current and former officials about the improved security and safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The IAEA is an important avenue for short- and long-term nuclear-security support for the safeguarded nuclear facilities in Pakistan. Pakistan is a member of the IAEA, and the IAEA has already made substantive contributions to their nuclear security efforts. Yet, although the IAEA plays an important role in verifying the implementation of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the IAEA is more than just an extension of the NPT. The IAEA was created by a statute more than a decade before the existence of the NPT. That statute states that any country can request the agency to apply safeguards to their nuclear activities, and the IAEA has already done so for four existing Pakistani nuclear reactors as well as to the Chashma-2 power plant, which is under construction.

Additionally, the PNRA, with assistance from the IAEA, has arranged a number of workshops in Pakistan to train personnel and first responders since 2005. Training is provided for many personnel, including customs officials, and is also now aimed at senior administration officials. The PNRA is currently planning additional workshops for 2008. The IAEA statute therefore provides a potentially useful tool for further cooperation in Pakistan.


The political crisis in Pakistan during the fall of 2007 has riveted attention on the security of the nuclear arsenal and infrastructure in that country. The main concerns are nuclear leakage and seizure of nuclear assets by radical groups or individuals.

Yet, Pakistan has significantly evolved its technical and procedural nuclear security operations since its 1998 nuclear tests. It also has willingly engaged with international partners in an attempt to further strengthen its security and control processes. The major changes over the past nine years include the creation of the NCA, the establishment of the SPD, the development of a nuclear doctrine, the improvement of export controls, the integration of the command and control system, and the employment of permissive action links on nuclear weapons.

Although the concerns about Pakistan’s nuclear security during the current political crisis raised questions about the adequacy of the system, there have not been any examples to date of systemic failure. In fact, the weapons and facilities have been secure throughout the crisis, providing a measure of assurance that the last decade’s improvements are working.

These actions should build confidence in the international community that the Pakistani government is very serious about nuclear security and reducing the possibilities for proliferation. The evolution of this security system will need to continue well into the future, but a substantial foundation now exists on which these future improvements can be built.


Kenneth N. Luongo is executive director of the Partnership for Global Security and a former senior adviser on nonproliferation policy to the secretary of energy. Brigadier General (Ret.) Naeem Salik is currently the South Asia Studies Visiting Scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He previously served as director of Arms Control and Disarmament Affairs at the Strategic Plans Division of Pakistan’s National Command Authority. This article is based in part on the first of a series of workshops on the evolution, status, and future of nuclear security in Pakistan that the authors organized in the spring of 2007. The authors wish to acknowledge the contribution of Isabelle Williams in drafting the results of the workshop.


1. “Pakistan Nukes Under Control: Musharraf,” Agence France-Presse, November 13, 2007.

2. Thomas R. Pickering, Carla Hills, and Morton Abramowitz, “The Answer in Pakistan,” The Washington Post, November 14, 2007.

3. Trudy Rubin, “Worldview: Musharraf’s Dangerous Aim,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 7, 2007.

4. International Panel on Fissile Materials, “Global Fissile Material Report 2007,” October 10, 2007, pp. 8, 10, 14.

5. David Sanger, “So, What About Those Nukes?” The New York Times, November 11, 2007.

6. David Albright, “Securing Pakistan’s Nuclear Complex,” October 2001 (report commissioned and sponsored by the Stanley Foundation for the 42nd Strategy for Peace, Warrenton, VA).

7. Landau Network, “Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Stability, and Nuclear Strategy in Pakistan,” found at http://lxmi.mi.infn.it/~landnet/Doc/pakistan.pdf (mission carried out December 3-7, 2001).

8. Samar Mubarakmand recently retired as chairman of the National Engineering and Scientific Commission (NESCOM), which was created in 2001 as an umbrella organization to coordinate and oversee the activities of several independent entities, such as the National Development Complex, the main missile production facility. The interview was aired by Geo TV in April 2004 in the wake of Khan affair. He was a member technical in the PAEC before taking over as NESCOM chairman and was leader of the team that conducted Pakistan’s nuclear tests in May 1998.

9. Lt. General Khalid Kidwai, “Pakistan’s Evolution as a Nuclear Weapons State,” Address to the Center for Contemporary Conflict, November 1, 2006.

10. Joseph Cirincione with Jon B. Wolfsthal and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals: Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction (Washington DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2002).

11. Jamshed Azim Hashmi and Muhammad Khaliq, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Safety and Security Action Plan” Presentation to the Workshop on Building Confidence in Pakistan’s Nuclear Security, April 30, 2007, found at www.ransac.org/PDFFrameset.asp?PDF=hashmi_pnra.pdf.

12. Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “New York Times Story on Nuclear Cooperation,” No. 281/2007, Islamabad, November 19, 2007, found at www.mofa.gov.pk/Press_Releases/2007/Nov/PR_281_07.htm; Kenneth N. Luongo and Isabelle Williams, “Seizing the Moment: Using the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal to Improve Fissile Material,” Arms Control Today, May 2006; Paul Kerr and Mary Beth Nikitin, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Weapons: Proliferation and Security Issues,” CRS Report for Congress, RL34248, November 14, 2007; “Interview With Ambassador Robert Oakley,” Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, MSNBC, February 9, 2004; “U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms,” The New York Times, November 18, 2007.

13. Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “New York Times Story on Nuclear Cooperation.”

14. Frederick W. Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon, “Pakistan’s Collapse, Our Problem,” The New York Times, November 18, 2007.


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