"[Arms Control Today] has become indispensable! I think it is the combination of the critical period we are in and the quality of the product. I found myself reading the May issue from cover to cover."

– Frank von Hippel
Co-Director of Program on Science and Global Security, Princeton University

U.S., Pakistan Seal Combat Aircraft Deal

Wade Boese

Pakistan’s air force will receive a major makeover courtesy of the United States. Under two recently finalized agreements and a pending deal, Washington will upgrade Islamabad’s fleet of existing U.S. combat aircraft and deliver up to 62 new and used fighter jets.

On Sept. 30, Pakistan signed one agreement for 18 new F-16C/D fighters with the option to buy 18 more and another contract for the modernization of 34 previously purchased U.S. F-16A/B aircraft. A third deal signed that day covers bombs and missiles, including AIM-120C missiles, which enable pilots to fire at foes before they are within visual range. Earlier cost estimates put the full package at $5 billion.

Also in the works is a transfer of 26 used U.S. F-16s to Pakistan. A Department of State official informed Arms Control Today Oct. 19 that the Pentagon is still selecting the planes.

The transactions culminate a five-year reconciliation between the United States and Pakistan after a long, bitter dispute linked to Islamabad’s nuclear arms endeavors.

During the 1980s when the United States partnered with Pakistan to combat Soviet forces in Afghanistan, Washington turned a blind eye to Pakistan’s suspected nuclear weapons program while providing conventional weapons to the country. The year after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States halted arms supplies, including F-16s, because President George H. W. Bush did not certify to Congress that Islamabad did not have a nuclear bomb.

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks led to a U.S. re-evaluation of relations with Pakistan as Washington sought allies to help depose Afghanistan’s Taliban regime. President George W. Bush promptly waived U.S. arms sanctions on Pakistan, including those levied for its May 1998 nuclear tests. (See ACT, October 2001.) In March 2005, the United States announced its willingness to resume exports of F-16s, which can be modified to deliver nuclear arms.

Given that complicated history, Pakistan’s close ties to China, and the 2004 exposure of a sprawling nuclear black market run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, the United States insisted that Pakistan adopt extraordinary security precautions for the planes after receipt. These include enhanced U.S. access. The first new fighters are scheduled for delivery in 2009, although the used planes could be shipped sooner.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia Cleared for U.S. Arms Buys

Wade Boese

Key lawmakers this summer slammed the Bush administration for its handling of up to $5 billion in proposed combat aircraft sales to Pakistan, but Congress still let the weapons deals proceed. Legislators also recently assented to $9.7 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

The 1976 Arms Export Control Act requires Congress to receive notice of proposed arms sales exceeding $14 million that do not involve Australia, Japan, New Zealand, or NATO members, all of which have a higher reporting threshold and a shorter congressional review period. In all other cases, lawmakers have 30 calendar days to block a notified deal by passing a joint resolution of disapproval.

On June 28, the Pentagon detailed plans to provide Pakistan with 36 F-16C/D combat aircraft, an assortment of F-16 engines and upgrade kits, and thousands of bombs and missiles, including 500 advanced air-to-air missiles. Describing Pakistan as a “vital ally,” the Pentagon stated the arms would be used in fighting terrorists, such as al Qaeda, and “would not significantly reduce India’s quantitative or qualitative military advantage” in the region. With India, the Bush administration is pursuing closer military ties, including offering F-16s, as well as an enhanced civil nuclear trade relationship.

The United States and Pakistan have tangled for years over sales of F-16s, which can be built or modified to deliver nuclear weapons. The United States provided Pakistan with 40 F-16s during the 1980s but then halted deliveries in 1990 over Islamabad’s covert nuclear weapons program, which Pakistan unveiled to the world with nuclear tests in May 1998.

The United States resisted Pakistan’s pressure to end the F-16 freeze until President George W. Bush relented in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the subsequent U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan. The two countries started negotiating possible sale options in 2005, and the Pentagon transferred two older-model F-16s to Pakistan in December. (See ACT, January/February 2006.)

Still, the administration’s formal announcement to deliver three dozen new F-16s to Pakistan sparked an uproar from House International Relations Committee members, who convened a July 20 hearing to upbraid a senior administration official about the deal. Although some committee members faulted aspects of the sale, much of the outcry stemmed from the administration’s failure to follow traditional procedures.

Specifically, the administration did not give the 20-day advance notice typical for formal arms sales notifications. This period is intended to allow reservations about a particular sale to be expressed and worked out privately to avoid public quarrels.

At the hearing, Committee Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.) charged that neglecting the pre-notification process constituted a “deliberate and, we believe, wholly inappropriate maneuver by the State Department to diminish the Congress’ lawful oversight of arms sales.” Consequently, he said, “long-standing congressional concerns about the potential for technology diversion remain.” The Department of State administers arms sales policies and licensing, while the Pentagon helps negotiate and implement U.S. government weapons transfers to foreign governments.

Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs John Hillen defended the administration’s approach at the hearing. He contended the administration had taken “unprecedented” steps to keep Congress appraised and would require Pakistan to enact stringent measures to prevent unauthorized individuals from gaining access to or stealing U.S. technology. “The security plan greatly exceeds United States Air Force standards for our own security of these weapons systems,” Hillen claimed.

Ranking panel member Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) severely rebuked Hillen, charging that “the centrifugal force of this spin threatens to fling the facts right out the window.” He blasted the administration’s behavior as a “colossal mistake” and an “arrogant usurpation of congressional authority.”

Hyde and Lantos introduced legislation the same day that, among other things, would have codified the 20-day pre-notification practice. A congressional staffer told Arms Control Today Aug. 15 that the legislation is no longer under consideration because the administration provided assurances that the Pakistani case “was not a precedent and would not happen again.”

Some legislators objected to the sale for reasons other than procedure. Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) argued that F-16s were not the proper weapons for Pakistan because the planes are suited to fighting “sophisticated air forces, not the Taliban, not radical Islam,” and could be converted to deliver nuclear weapons.

Hillen responded that Pakistan had employed F-16s in “hundreds of missions in the global war on terror.” He further said that the F-16s to be delivered to Pakistan “will not be nuclear capable” and that Islamabad has “given no indications that they want to [modify F-16s to deliver nuclear weapons].” The Arms Export Control Act prohibits any U.S. arms recipient from using imported weapons “for purposes other than those for which furnished.”

Whether Pakistan configured previously imported U.S. F-16s for nuclear missions is uncertain. Political-military affairs bureau spokesperson Jason Greer declined to answer Arms Control Today questions on the subject. A July 6 report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which conducts studies for lawmakers, noted that “the 32 F-16s that Pakistan already fields are believed to be nuclear capable.”

Democratic Reps. Gary Ackerman (N.Y.) and Edward Markey (Mass.) proposed separate legislation to block the sale, but neither effort garnered much support.

Markey’s bill sought to tie the F-16 sales to Pakistan halting construction of a new heavy-water reactor, which was exposed publicly July 24 by the Washington-based nongovernmental Institute for Science and International Security. Once operational, the reactor could produce enough material to build up to 50 nuclear weapons a year, the organization reported. Administration officials, who claimed Washington knew of the project for “some time,” said they are urging Pakistan not to use the reactor for military purposes, but Markey argued on the House floor July 26 that U.S.-supplied F-16s might someday be carrying nuclear bombs made possible by this uncompleted facility.

Although nearly double the value of the sales to Pakistan, the proposed weapons deals with Saudi Arabia announced in July did not provoke any notable congressional reaction. Riyadh is now cleared to acquire 24 UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters, 58 M1A2S Abrams tanks, 724 light-armored vehicles, 1,700 night vision goggles, and thousands of radio systems. The sales also include upgrades for 315 M1A2 tanks and 12 AH-64A Apache attack helicopters already in the Saudi arsenal.

Since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saudi Arabia has amassed significant quantities of foreign weaponry. An August 2005 CRS report identified Saudi Arabia as receiving nearly $55 billion in arms imports from 1997 to 2004, ranking it as the top arms importer for that period among developing world countries. This total far surpassed the second-highest tally of $13 billion for China.


Indo-Pakistani Talks Advance

William Huntington

Pakistan and India are nearing final agreement on a proposal to reduce the risk of nuclear accidents or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons. According to a joint statement produced at the most recent round of talks on nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) in Islamabad April 25-26, the two nations “held detailed discussions on the draft text” of the proposal presented by India and “agreed to work towards its finalization,” possibly as early as July.

Subsequently, on April 27 India and Pakistan turned to discussing conventional CBMs and agreed to seek new accords on a number of issues, including finalizing a set of rules governing those sections of their border not in dispute. These rules would address such concerns as the setback distance for construction of facilities on either side of the border. Although most of the boundary between India and Pakistan is recognized as a legitimate international border by both sides, certain areas, most notably Jammu and Kashmir, are disputed.

Further, the two countries agreed to enhance the existing agreement barring the development of new defensive works along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, establish rules for holding meetings between sector-level military commanders, and finalize an agreement on the expedient return of “inadvertent line crosser(s).”

In addition, Pakistan presented India with a draft text on the prevention of incidents at sea.

Nuclear negotiators are set to meet again soon. Pakistani Additional Secretary for Foreign Affairs Tariq Osman Haider, who led the Pakistani delegation, was quoted by Reuters April 26 as saying that “finalization of the [nuclear] agreement would take place during the next round of foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi in July.”

However, even as CBM talks continue, Pakistan’s National Command Authority in May said it will not only maintain its missile program but further improve its strategic capability. Islamabad claimed it was reacting in part to the pending U.S.-Indian civil nuclear deal and its potential effect on regional stability.

Four rounds of nuclear CBM discussions have taken place since 2004 as part of the “composite dialogue” framework set up between the nations to resolve contentious issues. There have been three rounds of similar conventional talks.

As recently as 2002, India and Pakistan deployed significant numbers of troops along their border during a confrontation stemming from Indian accusations that Pakistan had aided terrorist attacks on its territory. (See ACT, April 2002.)



U.S. Combat Aircraft Delivered to Pakistan

Wade Boese

The United States delivered two F-16A combat aircraft to Pakistan Dec. 13, marking the first such transfer since 1990 when Washington had halted exports of F-16s to Islamabad because of its nuclear weapons program. The planes can be converted to deliver nuclear bombs.

The Pentagon supplied the two fighters through its Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program, which enables foreign governments to acquire arms or military equipment retired from U.S. military service. These exports are generally conducted with little or no charge and provided “as is.” In this case, Pakistan did pay for some refurbishment work, a Pentagon spokesperson told Arms Control Today Dec. 16.

More F-16s might be in the EDA pipeline for Pakistan, but the Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on that possibility. Jane’s Defense Weekly reported in August that “at least 10 additional refurbished” F-16s could be supplied in 2006.

Pakistan has grander plans. Islamabad reportedly was negotiating much of last year for a separate purchase of some 70 new F-16s. But Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf said in November that his government would postpone the F-16 buy while the country recovered from a devastating earthquake one month earlier.

The Bush administration announced in March that it would favorably consider Pakistani requests for F-16s. (See ACT, May 2005.) Washington had provided 40 of the fighters to Pakistan before 1990. But that year, President George H. W. Bush concluded that he could no longer certify to Congress that Islamabad did not possess a nuclear explosive device. U.S. law prohibited military exports to Pakistan in such an instance.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush, eager to secure Islamabad’s help in the U.S.-declared global war on terrorism, waived this restriction and others imposed for Pakistan’s May 1998 nuclear tests. At the same time, Bush lifted similar sanctions on Pakistan’s neighbor and nuclear rival, India. But he held back from selling either country advanced fighters. (See ACT, October 2001.)

Now, Washington is offering U.S. fighters to New Delhi as well. A traditional Russian arms client, India is weighing the purchase of 126 new combat aircraft.


Subcontinental Nightmares

Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons. By Sumit Ganguly and Devin T. Hagerty

Robert M. Hathaway


Although tensions between India and Pakistan have ebbed over the past two years, South Asia remains a brew of festering national, religious, sectarian, communal, and ethnic animosities. India and Pakistan have fought four wars since the two countries achieved independence in 1947, and both tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Periods of “peace” routinely see artillery exchanges, cross-border infiltration, and the sponsorship of insurgency in the territory of the other. Many Pakistanis believe that India has unjustly occupied territory that rightfully belongs to their country. Kashmir remains a flashpoint, which as recently as 2002 contributed to the mobilization of one million heavily armed men along their common border.

It is unsurprising then that President Bill Clinton once famously called South Asia “the most dangerous place in the world.” Many South Asians view remarks such as those of Clinton as condescending and racist, implying that Asians, unlike Americans and Russians during the Cold War, cannot be trusted to manage their nuclear arsenals with restraint and common sense. These criticisms have come even as Pakistan has occasionally sought to play on U.S. nuclear fears to prod Washington into greater activity to help resolve the political disputes— Kashmir above all—that, left unchecked, might lead to war in the subcontinent.

After all, with the exception of the sharp but brief engagement on the heights of Kargil in 1999, India and Pakistan have not fought a full-fledged war since the Bangladesh crisis of 1971. So, how have these two bitter rivals, despite repeated crises and profound mistrust, avoided a major war over the past few decades? How crucial have the United States and other outside powers been in restraining such a conflict? Will this good fortune continue?

In Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons, Sumit Ganguly and Devin T. Hagerty attempt what they describe as “the first comprehensive analysis of Indo-Pakistani crisis [behavior] in South Asia’s nuclear era.” They do not use “comprehensive” in the traditional sense of all-encompassing or exhaustive, but rather to indicate that their purview encompasses all the Indo-Pakistani crises, major and minor—six by their count—over the past 20 years. Short chapters offer concise but useful summaries of each of the six: the brief 1984 flurry when Islamabad (and Washington) worried that India might launch preventive air strikes against Pakistan’s nascent nuclear facilities; the 1987 “Brasstacks” crisis; the April 1990 war scare; the mutual fear of pre-emptive nuclear strikes that followed the May 1998 nuclear tests first of India, then Pakistan; the 1999 Kargil war, which may have resulted in nearly 2,500 battle deaths; and the 2002 standoff that followed the December 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building in New Delhi.

The underlying premise of Fearful Symmetry is that Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons capabilities and the possibility that military conflict might escalate to the nuclear level have been the main deterrent to a major war in the six crises of the past 20 years. The authors quite sensibly place considerable emphasis on the “stability-instability paradox,” which holds that nuclear weapons can be simultaneously stabilizing and destabilizing. At the macro level, nuclear arsenals provide stability because both sides fear that full-scale hostilities could escalate to the nuclear level. However, the mutual possession of nuclear weapons also permits, even encourages, small-scale probes, such as that undertaken by Pakistan in Kargil in 1999, because decision-makers assume that their adversary’s response must of necessity be proportionate.

The study’s finding that nuclear weapons have been a force for peace in South Asia is plausible insofar as it goes, yet leaves the reader unsatisfied. The authors announce that they write from “a theoretical perspective” best described as “mere realism.” Still, one hungers for some tangible proof regarding the efficacy of deterrence, rather than its mere assertion. In this context, proof would probably require access to key internal documents central to the Indian and Pakistani decision-making process or unusually candid interviews with leading political and military actors who actually participated in the key decisions for war and peace. Ganguly and Hagerty are probably correct that a fear of escalation to the nuclear level was a factor in such decision-making. They may even be correct that it was the decisive factor. Nonetheless, they might have tempered their repeated assertions to this effect by conceding that the evidence leading to such a conclusion is lacking and their judgments are necessarily speculative.

Ganguly, a prolific scholar, has elsewhere argued[1] that Pakistani decision-makers have consistently and grossly underestimated Indian military prowess and likely Indian responses to military challenges, a theme to which he and Hagerty return in the current study. Nor has the record of Indian decision-making been exemplary; note the authors’ indictment of the misjudgments that left New Delhi unprepared to detect the Kargil incursion at an early moment. This being the case, then, one can draw little comfort from their confidence that nuclear deterrence, because it has succeeded in the past, can be relied on to save the region from large-scale war, conventional or nuclear. Indeed, the authors concede that India and Pakistan are each years away from adequate safeguards against the accidental launch of a nuclear armed missile. Nor do they give sufficient attention to the nightmarish scenario of a crazed fanatic or group of extremists deliberately throwing the region into nuclear Armageddon, a scenario that, after the September 11 terrorist attacks, one cannot absolutely dismiss.

A new, analytically sophisticated study by Indian scholar Arpit Rajain, Nuclear Deterrence in Southern Asia: China, India and Pakistan, reminds us that no consideration of nuclear deterrence in South Asia is complete if it focuses exclusively on India and Pakistan. China also is an integral element in the security equation of South, or, as Rajain prefers, “Southern,” Asia. To Rajain, this “triangular nuclear competition...is qualitatively different, has far more variables working simultaneously and remains geo-strategically more dangerous” than the Soviet-U.S. nuclear rivalry of the Cold War. Rajain also argues that the psychological attitudes of decision-makers at moments of crisis will perhaps influence their choices in irrational or at least unpredictable ways, which should further erode our confidence in deterrence theory predicated on a rational actor model. Decision-makers in Beijing, Islamabad, and New Delhi, Rajain warns, “should not lull themselves into thinking that a credible minimum deterrent posture would prevent crisis and outbreak of hostilities.” Ganguly and Hagerty would not disagree with this caution, but the tone of their study is considerably less emphatic on this point.

As for U.S. actions, Ganguly and Hagerty judge that in some instances, as during the 1999 Kargil war, the United States has played a constructive role in lowering tensions. On other occasions, however, especially during the 1984 and 1998 crises, Washington has been “inept,” “ineffective,” or “counterproductive.” The United States, they add, can and should do more to encourage forward movement on the contentious Kashmir issue, now as always the most likely trigger for a major Indo-Pakistani war. Washington must move from crisis management to conflict resolution, they contend. The book’s final chapter offers a step-by-step road map for Washington to encourage a more positive Indo-Pakistani relationship.

If all that were required was a more proactive U.S. policy. Yet, Ganguly and Hagerty acknowledge that a resolution of the Kashmir dispute would undermine the dominance, even the legitimacy, of Pakistan’s major power brokers: the army, of course, but also neo-feudal landowners, the business establishment, and “Islamists of various sociopolitical hues.” A splendid new book by Husain Haqqani, Pakistani journalist, scholar, and former adviser to Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, makes much the same point. Continued hostility between India and Pakistan, Haqqani argues in Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military, provides the Pakistan army with a justification for retaining the reins of political power.

Haqqani offers a sobering exploration of the unholy alliance, historical and current, between the Islamists and Pakistan’s all-powerful army. Almost from the moment of Pakistan’s creation, he writes, the country’s leaders, not seeing the mullahs as a serious threat and believing they could use an Islamic ideology for their own ends, promoted the idea of Pakistan as an Islamic state. Ayub Khan, who seized power in 1958 as Pakistan’s first military ruler, “envisioned Islam as a nation-building tool, controlled by an enlightened military leader rather than by clerics.” The parade of generals who succeeded him, up to and including Pervez Musharraf, have followed the same course. Yet, by embracing the notion of an ideological state, the nation’s civilian and military leadership opened the way for a time when the mullahs would demand a controlling voice in the affairs of that state.

To this day, Haqqani writes, Musharraf views the country’s secular politicians, not the Islamists, as his principal rival for political power and regards the latter as useful political allies. This gives Pakistan’s Islamist parties a greater influence than they could hope to exercise in an open, democratic political system because, when given the opportunity to vote in free elections, Pakistanis have consistently opted for secular rather than religious leadership. Today, as in the past, military rule foments religious militancy in Pakistan with sweeping implications for important U.S. national security objectives. The alliance between mosque and military, Haqqani judges, “has the potential of frustrating antiterrorist operations, radicalizing key segments of the Islamic world, and bringing India and Pakistan yet again to the brink of war.” In the struggle against terrorism, he cautions, Pakistan is a U.S. “ally of convenience, not of conviction.”

The Pakistani army for 50 years has been guided by a national security policy tripod, the three legs of which emphasize Islam as the national unifier, rivalry with India as the principal objective of the state’s foreign policy, and alliance with the United States as the handy means to defray the costs of Pakistan’s massive military expenditures. All three policy legs, Haqqani stresses, have served to encourage extremist Islamism. So long as this policy tripod continues to dominate the mindsets of Pakistan’s leaders, genuine peace with India will remain impossible.

Almost from the beginning, U.S. thinking about Pakistan has been characterized by willful self-delusion. Washington wrongfully assumed a similarity of U.S. and Pakistani aims during the Cold War. A Republican White House and a Democratic Congress thought they could use Pakistan’s intelligence services to unleash jihad in Afghanistan without having to worry about how else Islamabad might employ the jihadis. The United States allowed itself to believe that generous military assistance during the 1980s would give Pakistan the confidence to forgo the development of a nuclear weapons capability. Even in the face of compelling evidence that Pakistani officials at the highest levels have peddled nuclear secrets to anyone with cash, Washington has pretended that Islamabad shares its nonproliferation agenda. Successive U.S. administrations have seen the army as a bulwark against the Islamists and have viewed Pakistan as a force for moderation in the Islamic world. All comforting pipe dreams divorced from reality.

Today, the argument takes the form that abandoning Musharraf opens the door for religious extremism. This line of reasoning fails to recognize how responsible the army is for the rise of religious zealotry in Pakistan. Washington professes to see the army as the only realistic alternative to Islamist radicalism, but given the alliance between mosque and military, sustaining the military’s right to govern Pakistan has the effect of perpetuating the influence of radical Islamists. Continued U.S. support for the Pakistani military, Haqqani warns, “makes it difficult for Pakistan’s weak, secular, civil society to assert itself and wean Pakistan from the rhetoric of Islamist ideology.” The United States, in this analysis, becomes an enabler of the very extremism it opposes.

It is a lamentable fact that Pakistan’s civilian politicians have failed their country badly. Haqqani’s study reminds us, however, that the army has never permitted the politicians to govern nor allowed politics to take its course. Here as well, Washington has been something of a co-conspirator, making but meek protest as the military and the intelligence services manipulate elections, harass civilian politicians, and support Islamic parties that promote extremism and spew anti-American hatred. A senior U.S. official recently observed that Musharraf is a “hero in our eyes.”[2] Little wonder the general does not take Washington’s periodic comments about democracy seriously. Little wonder that the Pakistani man in the street finds it difficult to accept the sincerity of America’s fine words about promoting democracy in the Islamic world.

The United States, Haqqani writes, can no longer afford to ignore “ Pakistan’s state sponsorship of Islamist militants.” This dark picture of Pakistan contrasts starkly with the image of Pakistan as a moderate, tolerant, progressive state that Musharraf evokes when addressing Western audiences. Perhaps closer to the truth were his 2004 remarks to Pakistani editors, when he declared that “ Pakistan has two vital national interests: Being a nuclear state and the Kashmir cause.” Each, notably, brings Pakistan into conflict with the United States and with India.

So, what might be done to reduce the dangers inherent in the region? Rajain worries that deterrence may not suffice and urges all three Southern Asian nuclear powers to negotiate transparent confidence-building measures and to guard against miscommunication, misperception, and misinterpretation. Ganguly and Hagerty display greater faith in the efficacy of deterrence but call on the United States to be more proactive in brokering a political settlement in Kashmir. Haqqani believes that the Kashmir dispute will not be resolved nor peace between India and Pakistan ensured until Washington severs its support for military regimes in Islamabad. For starters, perhaps we can have a little less talk of Musharraf being a “hero in our eyes.”

Robert M. Hathaway is director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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1. Sumit Ganguly, Conflict Unending: India-Pakistan Tensions Since 1947 ( New York and Washington, DC: Columbia University Press and Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 2001).

2. Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright, “Earthquake Aid for Pakistan Might Help U.S. Image,” The Washington Post, October 13, 2005.


A Review of Fearful Symmetry: India-Pakistan Crises in the Shadow of Nuclear Weapons by Sumit Ganguly and Devin T. Hagerty

India, Pakistan Sign Missile Notification Pact

Erin Creegan

India and Pakistan Oct. 3 finalized an agreement to notify each other in advance of ballistic missile flight tests. This long-awaited move aims to reduce tension between the two nuclear neighbors.

Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri oversaw the signing of the pre-notification agreement, which went into force that day. The two sides had nearly completed the agreement earlier this year when the foreign ministers met in August, but the signing was delayed by prolonged negotiation over the final wording of the agreement.

Officials said that, under the accord, the country’s defense ministries will provide their counterparts at least 72 hours of notice before conducting a ballistic missile flight test. India and Pakistan agreed not to allow trajectories of tested missiles to approach or land close either to their accepted borders or the Line of Control, the cease-fire line running through the disputed region of Kashmir. They pledged not to allow tested missiles to fly closer than 40 kilometers from these boundaries or land closer than 70 kilometers away.

The agreement states that pre-notification applies only to tests conducted with surface-to-surface ballistic missiles launched from land or sea. The agreement does not apply to cruise missiles. Cruise missiles are powered their entire flight and can be maneuvered, while ballistic missiles are only powered for the first few minutes of their flight and follow a charted trajectory to the ground. Pakistan tested its first cruise missile Aug. 11. The agreement also does not apply to surface-to-air missiles. India conducted two such missile tests on the day of the agreement’s signing.

According to a representative from the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., who spoke to Arms Control Today Oct. 25, the limitations on missiles covered by the agreement reflected mutual reservations. The official said the missiles covered by the agreement represent a feasible de-escalation commitment by India and Pakistan, with the hope of inching toward more comprehensive commitments.

International reaction to the Agreement on Pre-Notification of Flight Testing of Ballistic Missiles was positive. A Department of State official told Arms Control Today Oct. 14 that the United States welcomes this achievement and is pleased with the commitment both countries have shown to the peace process.

India is estimated to have 45-95 nuclear warheads while Pakistan is believed to have 30-50 nuclear weapons. The countries’ geographical proximity assures mutual vulnerability to attack within a few minutes.


New Details Emerge on Pakistani Networks

Paul Kerr 

New details are emerging about Pakistan’s role as both a customer and supplier of materials and equipment with potential nuclear weapons applications as international investigations pry deeper into the country’s clandestine procurement networks.

Islamabad admitted in early 2004 that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the “father” of its nuclear weapons program, had been running a clandestine proliferation network that supplied countries such as Iran, Libya, and North Korea with uranium-enrichment technology. Khan developed the network through contacts he had cultivated while obtaining materials and equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

Uranium enrichment increases the concentration of the uranium-235 isotope, producing either low-enriched uranium for civilian nuclear reactor fuel or highly enriched uranium (HEU). If enriched to high enough levels, HEU can be used as fissile material in nuclear weapons.

Khan’s network supplied Iran and Libya with technology and equipment for gas centrifuges, which enrich uranium hexafluoride gas by spinning it at very high speeds. In the Libyan case, Tripoli has acknowledged that the network also supplied Libya with uranium hexafluoride and designs for a nuclear weapon.

The United States has repeatedly stated that there is no evidence that Pakistan’s government was involved with or supported the Khan network. Washington has repeatedly expressed satisfaction with Islamabad’s cooperation, despite Pakistan’s refusal to allow any outside officials to question Khan.

Pakistan as Supplier


Pakistan has recently stepped up its cooperation with an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation into the sources of some enriched uranium particles found in Iranian facilities. Iran has admitted to enriching uranium to very low proportions of uranium-235, but IAEA inspectors have found particles enriched to much higher levels. (See ACT, April 2005.)

As part of the investigation, IAEA inspectors have already taken environmental samples at several locations in Pakistan to determine where the uranium might have been enriched. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri told reporters April 1 that Islamabad has now agreed “in principle” to send centrifuges to the IAEA for additional sampling, but will not allow agency inspectors to interview Khan or inspect Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported last November that the IAEA’s evidence so far “tends, on balance, to support” Iran’s claim that the particles came from imported centrifuge components, but indicated that there could be other explanations for the uranium’s presence.

North Korea

The United States has recently publicly disclosed an intelligence assessment that North Korea supplied Libya with uranium hexafluoride via the Khan network.

Speaking to an audience in Seoul March 6, then-U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill indicated that Washington has “evidence” that the material originated in North Korea and “was brokered through Pakistan with the knowledge that it would end up in Libya.”

A March 22 Department of State press statement emphasized that Washington “has no evidence that the Government of Pakistan authorized the transfer.” Several months ago, National Security Council officials briefed Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean officials about the intelligence.

Press reports of the shipment, which perhaps added a new piece to the Khan network puzzle, first appeared almost a year ago. Tripoli had disclosed that it had the nuclear material following its December 2003 decision to give up its nuclear weapons efforts, which included a uranium-enrichment program. (See ACT, March 2004.) The IAEA has since reported that Libya ordered 20 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride from the Khan network, but it has not yet disclosed the material’s country of origin. Malaysia’s inspector general of police reported in 2004 that uranium hexafluoride had been shipped from Pakistan to Libya.

North Korea has indigenous supplies of natural uranium, but whether it can produce uranium hexafluoride is unclear. In February interviews with Arms Control Today, government sources expressed skepticism that Pyongyang was Tripoli’s uranium supplier. (See ACT, March 2005.)

Pakistan as Customer

The recent indictment of a Pakistani businessman for violating U.S. export control laws came shortly after a March 15 Reuters report that Pakistan is continuing to acquire material and equipment from overseas for its nuclear weapons program.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, announced April 8 that a federal grand jury in Washington had indicted Humayun Khan for violating U.S. export control laws by acquiring material with potential nuclear weapons applications.

ICE also revealed the same day that Asher Karni, an Israeli citizen living in South Africa, had pled guilty this past September to assisting Khan’s acquisition efforts.

According to court documents, Karni had oscilloscopes and triggered spark gaps shipped from U.S. firms to his company in South Africa, called Top-Cape Technology, at Khan’s direction. Karni obtained three oscilloscopes between March and August 2003. He then re-exported them to two companies in Pakistan.

Karni also obtained 66 spark gaps from a U.S. manufacturer and then sent them to Pakistan via the United Arab Emirates. However, U.S. officials who had been alerted to Karni’s efforts persuaded the manufacturer to disable the spark gaps.

Oscilloscopes can be used to obtain data from tests of nuclear weapons and related components. Spark gaps can serve as detonators for certain types of nuclear weapons.

Karni was arrested in January 2004 as he attempted to enter the United States. Khan remains in Pakistan.

An ICE official told Arms Control Today April 21 that the investigation is ongoing, adding that additional domestic and foreign entities could have been involved in the scheme.

Mohammed Sadiq, Pakistan’s deputy chief of mission in the United States, told the Pakistani newspaper Dawn April 10 that Khan “was not involved in procuring triggers or other equipment for Pakistan’s nuclear programme.”

ICE also announced that Karni pled guilty to exporting items to India that are “controlled for nuclear non-proliferation reasons.” It did not elaborate.

Pakistan, India Get Green Light to Buy U.S. Fighter Jets

May 2005

By Wade Boese

The Bush administration March 25 announced its willingness to sell advanced fighter aircraft to India and Pakistan, reversing 15 years of U.S. policy to deny Islamabad such arms because of its nuclear weapons ambitions. The decision came shortly after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited South Asia in a bid to further cultivate the two countries.

Asserting that U.S. arms sales to the nuclear rivals would not upset the regional military balance, administration officials said March 25 that they would negotiate with Pakistan about its long-standing request for F-16 fighters, which can be modified to deliver nuclear weapons. The officials also said U.S. manufacturers of the F-16 and F/A-18E/F combat aircraft would be permitted to compete for India’s tender for 125 new fighters.

Islamabad has not officially disclosed how many jets it is looking to buy, but it is thought to be seeking about two dozen. An administration official told reporters that “there is no set limit on what the [United States] is going to be willing to sell Pakistan.” When it worked with the United States to oust Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1980s, Pakistan acquired 40 F-16A/Bs.

The United States halted additional F-16 deliveries to Pakistan in 1990 after President George H. W. Bush could not certify to Congress under U.S. law that Islamabad did not possess a nuclear explosive device. Pakistan responded to Indian nuclear tests in May 1998 with tests of its own, leading to U.S. economic and military sanctions on both governments.

Most of these sanctions were lifted in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks as the Bush administration moved to secure Indian and Pakistani support for its war on terrorism. (See ACT, October 2001.) Yet, Washington remained reluctant to resume F-16 sales to Pakistan because of regional tensions and the risk of upsetting India.

The Bush administration contends conditions have now changed. Rice said April 5 that there has been a “significant improvement in relations between the two” since they almost came to blows in June 2002. Claiming that the administration has successfully “de-hyphenated the relationship” so Washington can pursue relations with both on “independent tracks,” Rice maintained that “we are creating a new set of circumstances in which the balance will be more stable by an American defense relationship with both of them.”

The budding U.S. relationship with India in the military sector, as well as in the civilian space and nuclear fields, appears to have tempered Indian reactions to the proposed U.S. sale of fighter jets to its neighbor, which New Delhi has vigorously opposed in the past. Indian officials made clear they still have reservations about the deal but have muffled their complaints. During Rice’s visit to the region, Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh noted March 16 that U.S.-Indian relations have reached a point where disagreements can be discussed “freely and frankly” and that India had made its position on U.S. F-16 sales to Pakistan well known.

A major arms client of Russia, India is increasingly eyeing U.S. weaponry. In addition to the potential fighter aircraft sale, the United States and India are discussing missile defenses. The two sides held a March 3-4 meeting on the subject in Hyderabad, India, and the U.S. government permitted Raytheon Corp., a U.S. company, to brief Indian officials for the first time on its Patriot system, which is designed to provide a defense against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

Major U.S. arms companies also participated in force for the first time, according to an Indian government spokesperson, at an Indian aerospace exposition in February. Lockheed Martin Corp., which builds the F-16, and Boeing Corp., which manufactures the F/A-18E/F, exhibited at the event.

Although India may have stifled its objections to the United States selling F-16s to Pakistan, some U.S. lawmakers, many of whom describe themselves as friends of India, are expressing their concern.

A bipartisan group of 20 legislators from the House of Representatives sent a March 23 letter to President George W. Bush opposing such a transaction on the grounds it “would undermine our long-term strategic interests.” They argued that Pakistan intends to use the planes against India and not in fighting terrorism, as the administration contends.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), one of the letter’s signers, also introduced bipartisan legislation April 12 that would condition military assistance to Pakistan. A key provision would first require a certification that Islamabad had cooperated fully in shutting down the nuclear black market network run by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan and had granted the United States “unrestricted opportunities to interview” Khan. Pakistan has not given any outside officials access to Khan, but Rice asserted March 17 that the United States has “good cooperation with Pakistan” regarding the Khan network.

Two congressional staffers told Arms Control Today in April that the Ackerman-backed legislation, the Pakistan Proliferation Accountability Act of 2005, faces an uphill fight despite general congressional unease over Pakistan’s proliferation record. Most lawmakers view Islamabad as an essential ally in the war on terrorism.

Regardless of the bill’s fate, Congress possesses the authority to pass a joint resolution to block a proposed arms sale once an administration issues a formal notification of a completed contract. Still, Congress has never successfully done so. Sometimes, arms sales are amended or abandoned before a formal notification due to strong congressional pressure. A formal notification on the proposed Pakistani deal has yet to be made and could take months, depending on the pace of contract negotiations.

Lockheed Martin, which has delivered more than 4,400 F-16s to the United States and 23 other countries, wants to wrap up the deal quickly. Currently, the final F-16 is scheduled to roll off the assembly line in 2008, and the manufacturer wants to solidify the Pakistani deal to extend production longer.

Similarly, Boeing is eager to make India its first foreign customer for the F/A-18E/F. Company spokesperson Patricia Frost told Arms Control Today March 15 that the firm is “very excited about this opportunity.”

The Bush administration March 25 announced its willingness to sell advanced fighter aircraft to India and Pakistan...

Arming Dictators, Rewarding Proliferators

Daryl G. Kimball

Last year, Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf pardoned his former nuclear weapons program chief Abdul Qadeer Khan for masterminding a global black market trade that delivered advanced nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran, and North Korea. For more than a decade, the Khan network secretly transferred some of the most sensitive technology, including uranium-enrichment devices and, in the case of Libya, even design and engineering plans for nuclear bombs.

U.S. officials claim there is no evidence of official Pakistani government involvement, but they also acknowledge they still do not understand the full extent of the Khan network or whether it is shut down. New evidence has recently emerged that Pakistan continues to advance its own nuclear program through illegal means.

Yet, even as Musharraf continues to shield Khan from outside interrogation, President George W. Bush announced last month that he wants to supply Pakistan with F-16 jets to facilitate Musharraf's continued support in fighting al Qaeda. As a counterbalance, Bush has held out the possibility of selling advanced fighter jets and missile defenses to Pakistan's longtime rival, India.

The Bush administration's F-16 decision not only symbolizes Washington's abandonment of meaningful efforts to curb Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, but it contributes to the escalating South Asian arms race. The move further undermines the credibility of Bush's nonproliferation policies and global efforts to reinforce the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which neither India nor Pakistan have joined.

U.S. policymakers first began to overlook Islamabad's nuclear activities when they sought Pakistan's support to counter the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But with the end of the Cold War and the steady advance of the Pakistani bomb effort, Washington began to condition its support in order to push Pakistan toward a more responsible nuclear policy.

It was President George H. W. Bush who, in 1990, stopped earlier deliveries of F-16s to Pakistan by invoking the U.S. law that blocks military assistance to Pakistan if it acquires nuclear weapons. At least three years earlier, Pakistan had completed its quest to build the bomb with the help of Khan's clandestine network and foreign technology.

Following India and Pakistan's 1998 nuclear tests, Washington imposed further sanctions and urged the nuclear rivals to refrain from deploying their arsenals, join the nuclear test ban treaty, halt the production of fissile material, and improve export controls. Although India and Pakistan waited out the sanctions and resisted most of the U.S. arms control overtures, these and earlier nonproliferation efforts tempered the South Asian arms race.

The current U.S. policy favoring South Asian arms procurement rather than restraint is based on the erroneous assumptions that the nuclear rivalry can be managed and U.S. military technology is needed to buy "strategic partnerships" with New Delhi and Islamabad. Under this formula, Indian and Pakistani nuclear forces will be neither minimal nor stable. Certain U.S. arms transfers can lead each side to make countermove after countermove.

Pakistan says the F-16s will help it close the conventional weapons gap with India. However, Pakistan will likely outfit its new F-16s with nuclear weapons and base them in hardened shelters to reduce the vulnerability of its nuclear-armed forces to Indian air attacks. India, in turn, will surely seek U.S. assistance to improve its early warning and air strike capabilities.

India's strategic doctrine already calls for deploying a larger number of nuclear weapons on missiles, submarines, and aircraft, in part to counter Pakistan's nuclear-capable missile force. Future U.S. missile defense cooperation with India would likely prompt Pakistan to deploy a larger number of its nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

As Indian and Pakistani nuclear weapons capabilities have increased, crises have persisted and the consequences of war have grown. Although tensions between India and Pakistan have eased, it was as recently as 2002 that the two states were on the verge of their fourth war. The United States has a strategic interest in maintaining close relations with both India and Pakistan, but it can and should do so without exacerbating their nuclear arms buildup.

Although Khan may be under house arrest, there are disturbing signs that the regime continues to use the black market to improve its nuclear capability. An ongoing U.S. Department of Commerce investigation has found that in 2003 a front company with close ties to the Pakistani government made clandestine purchases of U.S. high-tech components used in nuclear weapons in violation of U.S. laws.

Pakistan's support for anti-terrorism can be maintained without sacrificing the effort to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons. The United States should use its aid to support Pakistan's economic and political development and should condition further military assistance on Islamabad's support for nuclear restraint. At a minimum, U.S. officials must leverage aid to win full cooperation from Pakistan in stopping nuclear smuggling and to certify that it has finally ended all black market nuclear activity.


Turning a Blind Eye Again? The Khan Network's History and Lessons for U.S. Policy

Leonard Weiss

A little more than one year ago, the world learned that Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan had provided nuclear-weapons-related technology to a number of countries, including North Korea, Iran, and Libya. Yet, the revelations could hardly have come as a surprise: the supply network was used by Pakistan over the past 25 years to obtain technology, components, and materials for its own nuclear weapons.

Far more remarkable was that, although Khan’s activities had been tracked by U.S. intelligence for more than two decades, little attempt had been made to roll up the network he created. Rather than focusing on this profound long-term strategic danger to national security, the United States had chosen to pursue short-term, tactical foreign policy gains with Pakistan.

This misguided policy approach continues today as the Bush administration has chosen to subordinate nonproliferation goals, including fully breaking apart the Khan network, to the short-term goal of building a relationship with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The president has also not proposed a long-term strategy to prevent a similar network from popping up in the future.

A Checkered History
The U.S.-Pakistani relationship has a checkered history: U.S. interests for most of Pakistan’s history have been driven by Cold War considerations, while Pakistan’s interests have been driven by fear of India and the fate of the contested province of Kashmir.

For the United States, Pakistan’s strategic geographical position in South Asia was an obstacle to Soviet access to the Arabian Sea and Moscow’s political designs in the Middle East generally. India, on the other hand, was more sympathetic to Moscow as India’s ruling party was ideologically oriented toward a socialist model of economic development. In 1954, the United States and Pakistan signed a mutual defense agreement. A year later, Pakistan acceded to the U.S.-backed South East Asia Treaty Organization as well as the Central Treaty Organization, formerly known as the Baghdad Pact. In 1959, a U.S.-Pakistani military cooperation agreement took effect.

By 1959, the Pakistani government had effectively ceded remote areas of its northern provinces to the CIA and the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) for the collection of intelligence on Soviet activities. From these facilities, the United States eavesdropped on Soviet nuclear facilities in Kazakhstan.[1] Secret bases in the Peshawar area were used for U-2 flights over the Soviet Union.[2] Despite this, U.S. relations with Pakistan were not stable. During and immediately after the 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pakistani wars, the United States suspended military assistance to both sides, causing a cooling of the Pakistani-U.S. relationship.

Meanwhile, the USSR-China split and the Sino-Indo border war of 1962 created conditions for China and Pakistan to pursue a closer relationship, which flourished despite U.S. concerns. The relationship deepened as China provided assistance to Pakistan during the U.S. military embargo.[3]

U.S. assistance to Pakistan was restored in 1975 but was cut off again in 1979 when Pakistan imported nuclear enrichment and reprocessing technology following enactment of the Symington[4] and Glenn[5] amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act.

This cutoff did not last long. The mujahideen, a group of Islamic warriors, or jihadists, had taken up arms in revolt against the Soviet-backed Afghanistan government that was attempting to bring some secularization to Afghan society (via, e.g., a literacy campaign for girls, the banning of dowries for brides, and legislated freedom of choice in marriage). The United States saw this as an opportunity to destabilize the Communist government by covertly assisting the mujahideen through the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI). The presidential “finding” approving the covert program was signed in July 1979, and the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in December, rendering prescient a prediction made in writing by then-national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to President Jimmy Carter that the Soviets would react in this way to the U.S. aid.[6] Once the invasion began, Brzezinski sent Carter another message on December 26, 1979, saying, “This will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, and, alas, a decision that our security policy toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.”[7]

In addition to undercutting a key U.S. nonproliferation pillar, the assistance to the mujahideen also boosted Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, including the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda. It was not the last time that an overemphasis on short-term, tactical foreign policy considerations would lead to long-term damage to U.S. national security.

Still, in the context of the Cold War, Carter’s policy was backed by much of the foreign policy establishment, including by President Ronald Reagan when he took office in 1981. The Reagan administration pushed through a $3.2 billion economic and military assistance package for Pakistan with a legislated six-year waiver of the sanctions against Pakistan for its nuclear violations. Such waivers were extended, and assistance for the mujahideen via Pakistan continued until the Soviets began to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1988.

The Origins of the Khan Network
During all of that time, the policy of assistance to the mujahideen was accompanied by a consciously adopted “blind eye” to the Pakistani nuclear program that allowed Khan to obtain all the technology, materials, and equipment needed to build nuclear weapons. In 1984, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Dean Hinton wrote in a classified evaluation letter on the work of CIA station chief Howard Hart, “Collection efforts on the Pakistani effort to develop nuclear weapons is amazingly resourceful and disturbing. I would sleep better if he and his people did not find out so much about what is really going on in secret and contrary to President Zia’s assurances to us.”[8]

The passage of laws in 1985 designed to sanction Pakistan if it was found either to possess the bomb (the Pressler amendment)[9] or attempt to export nuclear-weapon-related materials or equipment from the United States illegally (the Solarz amendment)[10] were rendered ineffective.[11]

To build his bomb, Khan initially stole centrifuge designs and a list of about 100 suppliers of centrifuge parts and materials from the URENCO uranium-enrichment facility in the Netherlands. From Pakistan, he began his shopping spree. He received materials from Africa and components and advanced machinery from Europe, with shipments and payments directed through the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The trade involved firms or agents in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, and Turkey, among others. “They literally begged us to buy their equipment,” Khan said in a 2001 publication celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Kahuta laboratory that now bears his name.[12] Businessmen flocked to Pakistan to offer high-tech equipment for what they had to know was a Pakistani bomb program.

The United States was hardly unaware of this. The NSA was routinely intercepting faxes and telexes from high-tech firms in Germany and Switzerland looking for a Pakistani nuclear connection,[13] and they were aware of assistance coming from firms in Turkey. Indeed, dozens of démarches were issued to the Turkish government during the late 1970s and 1980s protesting ongoing shipments of electrical components—many of them made in the United States—to Pakistan. Turkey claimed that its export laws were insufficient to allow the government to interfere with such trade. After some time, Turkey passed a stronger export control law, but its enforcement was feeble. Additionally, the U.S. government refused to acknowledge the Turkish role officially because doing so would have required the cutoff of military assistance to an important NATO ally.

Warnings about the dangers of the Pakistani program were being constantly and publicly issued during this period, most prominently by Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio). In speeches, op-eds, and congressional testimony, Glenn warned that Pakistani nuclear weapons development, if not stopped, would lead to weapons technology finding its way to the Middle East, particularly to Iran.[14] It was a natural deduction to make: intelligence reports contained evidence of a Pakistani/Iranian nuclear cooperation agreement, and news reports quoted intelligence sources saying that Saudi Arabia and Libya were helping to finance the Pakistani bomb. These warnings had little effect on the Reagan or George H. W. Bush administrations, who did all they could to keep Congress in the dark about the details of the Pakistani program.

The Pressler amendment was not invoked until 1990, after the Soviets had left Afghanistan and despite intelligence that Pakistan had manufactured their first weapon nearly three years earlier. According to former deputy CIA director Richard Kerr, Pakistan had the bomb by 1987.[15] When then-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto visited the United States in 1989, she was told that the determination of “no possession” made that year would be the last one.[16]

Yet, there is little evidence that any of Khan’s suppliers were shut down at the time. Khan realized that he could use the network he had created, now also including Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, to enable other countries with nuclear ambitions to obtain critical components and materials for their own weapon programs, with Pakistan (and Khan) reaping large rewards in the process.

Marketing Khan’s Wares
Khan established his laboratory’s technical bona fides by having his scientists publish papers and reports, beginning in the late 1980s, on the design, construction, and testing of centrifuges.[17] These papers contained just enough details to make them credible without providing a blueprint for others to replicate the Pakistan machines. It was at about that time that Iranian scientists began receiving training in Pakistan (1988) and assistance for Iran’s centrifuge program in 1989. The Khan laboratory began publishing brochures, distributed at arms fairs, advertising equipment for sale that was useful in the construction and operation of centrifuges, including vacuum devices to enable rotors to spin in relatively frictionless chambers.[18]

The Khan laboratory was not the only one, however, touting sales and delivery of equipment useful for nuclear-enrichment purposes. In 1999, following its nuclear-weapon tests the previous year, the Pakistani government put out its own advertisement of procedures for the export of nuclear equipment and components. The ad also listed equipment for sale, including “gas centrifuges and magnet baffles for the separation of uranium isotopes.”[19] Musharraf later stated that the Pakistani government was not aware of nuclear transfers arranged via Khan or his laboratory.

The ads had the desired effect. Other countries began viewing Pakistan as a source for building nuclear weapons. Khan was contacted and began selling off surplus centrifuges and components.[20] Shipments were sometimes made using official government cargo planes to middlemen in other countries, who were used to disguise the origin of the cargo. Khan later arranged for parts to be ordered through his middlemen and to be delivered directly from his network sources. The spectrum of supplies that could be provided by the network included older and advanced centrifuges, bomb design (based on the original Chinese design given to Pakistan in 1983), electronic components, and advanced materials. The network also provided logistical and technical assistance. The network involved suppliers or middlemen located in a dozen countries, including Turkey, Malaysia, the UAE, Japan, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, the United States, Germany, Canada, South Africa, and Pakistan.

The sales were not only producing funds for support of Khan’s laboratory; they were also helping Pakistan in its development of missile capability, a program that was run out of the Khan laboratory as well. For years, North Korea had been selling missiles to Pakistan. Pakistan had been paying cash for the missiles but ran into a foreign currency reserves crunch around 1996.[21] At that point, it is believed, the North Koreans agreed to a barter transaction involving the provision of centrifuges in exchange for missiles. Khan has apparently made at least 13 visits to North Korea over the past decade that were known to U.S. intelligence.[22] Some reports suggest that North Korea and Iran (and Iraq prior to Operation Desert Storm) may have obtained uranium-melting information from Pakistan in the late 1980s.

In fact, Iran is believed to have been the first customer of Pakistan/Khan nuclear sales. A centrifuge sale took place around 1987, probably pursuant to the 1986 nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries. The precise origin of the Pakistani-Iranian nuclear connection is unclear and includes speculation that then-army chief Aslam Beg saw such cooperation as a way to finance Pakistan’s defense budget.[23] In any event, it apparently ended in the mid-1990s as a result of the civil war in Afghanistan.

Still, the help that Iran received from the Khan network, including advanced (P-2) centrifuge designs,[24] and the transfer of these and other technologies has helped lead to Iran’s emergence as a relatively near-term nuclear proliferation threat. In buying Khan’s wares, Iran took advantage of Article IV of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which made a just-under-the-threshold nuclear weapons program feasible and legal for an NPT signatory; facilitated a demand for nuclear-related components and equipment for such a program; and made it worthwhile for many high-tech companies, factories, and shippers to meet the demand.

Under Article IV, all states-parties to the NPT, including Iran and Libya, have the “inalienable right to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II.” Also, under Article IV, all states have “the right to participate in the fullest possible exchange of equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” This language allows a party of the NPT in good standing to develop the means to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium—key nuclear weapons materials that also have civilian uses—and stockpile them without limit as long as they are placed under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards.

Iran clearly desires to develop a facility capable of manufacturing HEU and may plan to escape ultimately from the NPT by invoking Article X. That article allows a party’s withdrawal without penalty by giving three months’ notice and declaring, with an explanation, that “extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of the treaty, have jeopardized [its] supreme interests.” Iran, which has agreed under pressure to suspend its nuclear enrichment development, is in violation of its safeguards commitments by not having informed the IAEA of equipment and materials it had either received from Khan or produced indigenously. The IAEA has taken the position thus far that the violations are technical in nature, not yet calling for referral to the UN Security Council.

9/11 and the Khan Network
The exposure of the Khan network resulted from its dealings with Libya, which began in the early 1990s. In October 2003, a German cargo ship, the BBC China, was intercepted at sea on its way to Tripoli and brought to an Italian port, where its cargo of components for 1,000 high-speed centrifuges were confiscated. The parts were made in Malaysia and shipped through the Middle East. The subsequent investigation by the IAEA resulted in a decision by Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to dismantle his illegal nuclear program and provide transparency to his interactions with the Khan network. Among the revelations was the startling fact that the Libyans had received an early Pakistani-Chinese nuclear weapon design, suggesting that weapon designs were now in play in the international nuclear black market.

Musharraf, under pressure from the United States, forced Khan to “retire” but still pardoned him for his transgressions. Musharraf has refused to make Khan available for interrogation, but some have suggested that, as a quid pro quo for U.S. forbearance, Pakistan may have passed back some information to the U.S. government concerning the Khan network’s assistance to Iran and perhaps elsewhere.[25]

According to a briefing given to Pakistani journalists on February 1, 2004, by Lieutenant General Khalid Kidwai, commander of Pakistan’s Strategic Planning and Development Cell, Khan signed a 12-page confession in which he admitted to providing Iran, Libya, and North Korea with technical assistance and components for making high-speed centrifuges used to produce enriched uranium.[26] In addition, according to three of the 20 Pakistani journalists who attended the briefing, Khan was defending himself by saying that he was pressured to sell nuclear technologies by two (now deceased) individuals associated with Bhutto,[27] that nuclear assistance to Iran was approved by then-army chief Beg, and that the deal with North Korea was supported by two former army chiefs, one of whom is now Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States.[28] Musharraf has also served as army chief. An independent interrogation of Khan and an investigation by the IAEA should be carried out to verify these claims.

Also requiring further investigation are the serious indications of possible nuclear collaboration involving Khan with Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt[29] and visits by Khan and his associates to Chad, Mali, Nigeria, Niger, and Sudan. Much more precise information is also needed regarding the trafficking routes used by Khan’s network for deliveries. Sea routes were used to deliver centrifuge components to Libya and Iran. Both sea and air were used to deliver missiles from North Korea to Pakistan, and both land and air were used to send uranium-enrichment equipment from Pakistan to North Korea.[30] The extent of available routes makes tracking such shipments a daunting task.

The reach of the Khan network in today’s technological environment strongly suggests that the arrests and administrative actions taken by various governments have not fully shut down the network or made it impossible to reconstitute interrupted sources of supply. We have also yet to draw appropriate lessons from the history of our involvement with Pakistan and the Khan network.

Lessons Not Learned
Khan’s downfall came soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks led to a renewed U.S. relationship with Pakistan. When the United States decided to bring down the Taliban government for hosting Osama bin Laden, it turned to its old friends in Pakistan who had long provided the Taliban with crucial assistance. Under U.S. pressure, Musharraf reversed course and supported the U.S.-led military operation against his former allies.

That move and Musharraf’s current assistance in the hunt for bin Laden has resulted in his being amply rewarded. He has received the lifting of all nonproliferation sanctions and the beginning of a multibillion-dollar aid program, despite his refusal to give up Khan to the IAEA for interrogation. Even another case of a Pakistani agent allegedly attempting to smuggle nuclear-related electronic components out of the United States has had no effect on our current cozy relationship with Musharraf, who presides over a military containing elements friendly to Islamic revolutionary fundamentalism. It is the “blind eye” redux, but with the Cold War replaced by the war on terrorism. Of course, this time there is an added peril: who will gain control of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons should Musharraf fall?

One lesson we should have learned from the history of our relations with Pakistan is that taking nonproliferation off the table in favor of pursuing other foreign policy goals may not help you achieve those goals, but will almost certainly result in proliferation. That does not mean that engagement with proliferators or potential proliferators is to be avoided. Rather, it means that engagement should be pursued with an objective of preventing, halting, or at least capping proliferation.

Although each case of proliferation has its own unique elements that must inform both bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, if a “norm” is to be respected, there should be consequences for a proliferator if all attempts at diplomacy have failed. This is the most obvious gap in the nonproliferation system: there is no international consensus on the penalties to which a proliferator ought to be subjected. Pakistan has escaped significant penalties despite its horrific proliferation record.

Being able to catch potential proliferators may be of little consequence if there is no agreement on what to do afterward, but catching proliferators early is also crucial if there is to be an effective nonproliferation regime. That requires an integrated, worldwide, intelligence operation, with a substantial human intelligence capability.

An effective regime also requires constant review and improvement of export controls. The Khan network has made it imperative that export controls be applied to smaller specialized components than is currently the case. This evolution is particularly important in the case of fuel cycle facilities.

Khan’s ties with Iran and other countries point to another necessary remedy: the need to establish a new global norm regarding the use of nuclear energy. A new nuclear compact along that line should state that all new, major nuclear facilities are to be multinationally owned and operated. This is not as radical as it may seem; indeed, the Acheson-Lilienthal recommendations on nuclear control right after World War II proposed international ownership of the most dangerous nuclear facilities.[31] More recently, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has proposed an idea along this line but limited to new fuel-cycle and waste disposal facilities.[32] Nuclear reactors themselves would not be included in his proposal.

President George W. Bush has a different proposal to limit fuel cycle facilities. In a Feb. 11, 2004, speech, he proposed a ban on assistance by members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group for the construction of new enrichment and reprocessing facilities in countries not currently possessing such plants.[33] He did not back this up with a proposal for sanctions against those suppliers who would violate such a ban.

In his remarks, Bush also called on nuclear exporters to ensure that states have reliable access at reasonable cost to civilian nuclear fuel if they renounce enrichment and reprocessing. It is unclear if Bush is aware that one version of this proposal has been part of U.S. law for more than 25 years. Title I of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act (NNPA) of 1978 calls on the president to work with other countries to create an International Nuclear Fuel Authority (INFA) to guarantee nuclear enrichment services to non-nuclear-weapon states that agree not to build enrichment and reprocessing plants. There is some irony here because it has been reported that the president is opposed to the idea of international consortia in this arena.[34]

The president proclaimed correctly that “enrichment and reprocessing are not necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” Further, the administration has supported crafting a treaty, albeit without verification measures, to cut off production of fissile material for weapons. (See ACT, September 2004.) Neither Bush nor his aides, however, have called for a universal fissile material cutoff treaty that would end production of those materials in military and civilian facilities. Nor has Bush said that the United States should seek to amend its nuclear agreements with other countries to bar the reprocessing of U.S.-origin spent fuel for plutonium extraction.

A sensible extension of the president’s remarks about fuel cycle facilities would be to propose that nations should only seek nuclear energy when it is cost-effective for them to do so. This suggests that, instead of the Atoms for Peace program, which formed the foundation of the NPT, it would be more sensible from a security standpoint to begin an “Energy for Peace” program that would include cooperative assistance in energy planning to help determine the best, most efficient mix of energy technologies for individual countries. This idea was also made part of U.S. law in Title V of the NNPA but, as with an INFA, has yet to be implemented. Under an “energy for peace” philosophy, nuclear energy would only be used if it competed economically with alternative sources, taking into account environmental and other costs, including security.

Ultimately, the best insurance against the emergence of future Khan networks is the elimination of nations’ motivations for seeking nuclear weapons. The president stated that nuclear weapons “will not bring security or international prestige.” That is unfortunately not the way many view those weapons, including many in the president’s own administration, but the elimination of nuclear weapons is an appropriate goal to pursue. The nuclear-weapon states could take the first steps by a more forceful implementation of their own commitments under the NPT to make good faith efforts toward nuclear disarmament.


1. Seymour Hersh, “On the Nuclear Edge,” The New Yorker, March 29, 1993.

2. Ibid.

3. Jamshed Nazar, “A History of U.S.-Pakistan Relations,” Chowk, November 22, 2004.

4. The 1976 Symington amendment provided that any non-nuclear-weapon state importing or exporting unsafe, guarded enrichment materials, equipment, or technology would be prohibited from receiving U.S. economic or military assistance under the Foreign Assistance Act or the Arms Export Control Act. Pakistan’s importation of unsafeguarded nuclear materials and equipment for its Kahuta enrichment facility triggered the cutoff of U.S. assistance.

5. The 1977 Glenn amendment extended the Symington prohibitions and penalties to the import or export of reprocessing technology, materials, or equipment by a non-nuclear-weapon state regardless of whether safeguards are attached. It also prohibited the explosion of a nuclear device. Pakistan was in violation of this amendment as well. Both amendments contained presidential waiver authority, but the conditions for exercise of the waiver under the Symington amendment required the receipt of “reliable assurances” that no nuclear weapon was being developed. As a result, legislation was required to allow a waiver for Pakistan, whose assurances were not deemed reliable.

6. Brzezinski revealed this in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur.

7. See Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden (New York: Penguin Press, 2004).

8. Ibid.

9. The Pressler amendment required that, in order for Pakistan to receive economic or military assistance in any fiscal year, the president had to certify a priori that Pakistan did not possess a nuclear explosive device and that the U.S. assistance program would reduce significantly the risk that Pakistan would possess such a device. Pakistan’s continued progress on the bomb in the face of U.S. assistance meant that it was in violation of the Pressler amendment from the first subsequent delivery of U.S. assistance, but the Department of State essentially refused to implement the law, insisting that there was no difference between the “possession” test and the “risk” test. This refusal continued until the Soviets left Afghanistan.

10. The Solarz amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act prohibited military and economic assistance to any non-nuclear-weapon state that illegally exports or attempts to export nuclear-related items from the United States that would contribute significantly to the ability of that state to manufacture a nuclear explosive device. A presidential waiver of penalties was included.

11. When a Pakistani agent was caught violating the Solarz amendment, President Ronald Reagan imposed the penalty and then immediately issued another waiver to remove it. In another case, the violator was treated as if he was an independent contractor with no connection to the Pakistani government, despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary.

12. William J. Broad, David E. Sanger, and Raymond Bonner, “A Tale of Nuclear Proliferation: How Pakistani Built His Network,” The New York Times, February 12, 2004.

13. Hersh, “On the Nuclear Edge.”

14. See John Glenn, “Pakistan’s Bomb and the Mujahedin,” The Washington Post, November 4, 1987.

15. Hersh, “On the Nuclear Edge.”

16. Ibid.

17. David E. Sanger, “The Khan Network,” Paper presented at the Conference on South Asia and the Nuclear Future, CISAC, Stanford University, June 4, 2004.

18. Ibid.

19. Sharon Squassoni, “Weapons of Mass Destruction: Trade Between North Korea and Pakistan,” CRS Report for Congress, RL31900, May 7, 2003.

20. Broad, Sanger, and Bonner, “A Tale of Nuclear Proliferation.”

21. Squassoni, “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”

22. Seymour Hersh, “The Cold Test,” The New Yorker, January 27, 2003.

23. Gaurav Kampani, “Proliferation Unbound: Nuclear Tales From Pakistan,” Report for Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute for International Studies, February 23, 2004.

24. International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Report by the Director General,” GOV/2004/83, November 15, 2004.

25. See Seymour Hersh, “The Coming Wars,” The New Yorker, January 24 and 31, 2005.

26. John Lancaster and Kamran Khan, “Musharraf Named in Nuclear Probe,” The Washington Post, February 3, 2004.

27. David Rohde, “Pakistanis Question Official Ignorance of Atom Transfers,” The New York Times, February 2, 2004.

28. Lancaster and Khan, “Musharraf Named in Nuclear Probe.”

29. Christopher Clary, “A.Q. Khan and the Limits of the Nonproliferation Regime,” The Disarmament Forum, 2004.

30. Andrew Prosser, “Nuclear Trafficking Routes: Dangerous Trends in Southern Asia,” Center for Defense Information, Washington, DC, November 22, 2004.

31. “Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy,” Washington, DC, March 16, 1946.

32. Mohamed ElBaradei, “In Search of Security: Finding an Alternative to Nuclear Deterrence,” Presented at CISAC, Stanford University, November 4, 2004.

33. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “President Announces New Measures to Counter the Threat of WMD,” February 11, 2004.

34. See Carla A. Robbins, “Nuclear Nonproliferation Effort Snags,” The Wall Street Journal, January 27, 2005.

Leonard Weiss has worked on nonproliferation issues and legislation for nearly 30 years as a consultant and former staff director of the U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs. He was a chief architect of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978.


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