The controversial statement by American Presidential hopeful Mr Donald Trump whereby he invited India to keep a check on ‘unstable Pakistan’s nuclear weapons’ as Pakistan — according to him — is likely to go rogue, has popped up many questions. Fragility of peace in the capricious and highly volatile security complex of South Asia that is mainly triggered by action-reaction syndrome of Indo-Pak nuclear relations has always been keenly watched by Washington.
Inferiority in terms of conventional weapons and the urge to attain nuclear parity with India have been stimulating the endeavours of Pakistan to expand its nuclear muscles. With a zeal to check the growing nuclear potential of the latter and in order to maintain a containment balance in the heart of Asia, the United States is bolstering strategic relationship with India (Section 123 Agreement was a strategic move in this direction). The US wants to look China in the eye and devoid Pakistan of its nukes with an aim to handicap China’s strategic balance.
Clues from the Trump’s statements evince how the nuclear hoax is going to play out or they, at least, give indication of nefarious future designs of US strategic politics. Glimpses from the past bear testimony to the fact that Pakistan’s nuclear potential has remained an eyesore for the West, though, over time, it was overshadowed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions that kept on festering West with agony inasmuch as Israel had to avowedly pronounce its intensions of a pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.
But, the July 2015 P5+1 Accord eased tensions and cleared the air of uncertainty about Iran; however, it has brought Pakistan’s nuclear issue back to the limelight and it is in debate among Western circles nowadays. Despite being involved in a conventional weapons and nuclear arms race, Pakistan’s archrival India was not the first country to intrigue against Pakistan; quite surprisingly, it was Israel whose relentless pressure compelled the US to have constant watch over the nuclear programme of Pakistan.
Azriel Bermant, a research associate at Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, wrote in Daily Haaretz: “One could argue that Islamabad poses more of a threat to Israel than Tehran does.” Israel was so preoccupied with Pakistan’s nuclear programme in the 1970’s — when it was in its embryonic phase — that the US cables about Pakistan’s swiftly advancing nuclear programme revealed that Israel was ready for a pre-emptive strike on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities in 1979. However, it was ultimately deterred by excessive heat of US pressure.
Nevertheless, Israel launched an intelligent hunt in Europe and elsewhere using threats and other heinous tactics to discourage the nuclear supplies to Pakistan through individuals. For instance, Peter Griffin, a nuclear supplier, was threatened in Germany to quit the deal of the shipment of equipments aimed at steering the nuclear programme of Pakistan.
“We don’t like what you are doing. So, stop it!” This was the message conveyed to him. He was not the only one targeted. The managing director of CORA, who was accused of exporting classified equipment to AQ Khan Laboratory Kahuta, died in a Mossad-planted bomb in Switzerland in 1979.
Where Israel was more concerned with the inaction of USA, there the latter was chewing over its future diplomatic bargains. To quote an instance, in November 1995, Israel intercepted an intelligence cable of a conversation between AQ Khan and North Korean foreign minister Kim Yong-nam that allegedly was about the procurement network of AQ Khan who had offered an exchange deal for the No-dong Missile Technology and had vowed to establish a uranium enrichment plant in North Korea in return. Israeli chief of Defence Forces Moshe Ya’alon informed the US authorities, but the disinterest they showed frustrated Israel.
As a matter of fact, the inaction on the part the US does not mean ‘no action at all’; the US wanted to frame Pakistan through blackmailing diplomacy and it did when the time was ripe in the wake of 9/11. One of the admonishing points the US made to Musharraf asking for a supportive role as frontline state was an attack on Pakistani nuclear facilities if Pakistan failed to comply, then having strong intelligence information of the whereabouts of the nuclear sites. The bargain did actually work.
Musharraf had the intelligence that the Israeli Elite Force of Counterterrorism Unit was jointly training with the US Special Forces on an undisclosed location orchestrating a contingency plan to attack and take the nukes off Pakistan. Though, it never could operationalize, it was confirmed by the Japan Times soon saying, “Threat to divest Pakistan of its ‘Crown Jewels’ cleverly used by the US.”
Under these circumstances, Musharraf reshuffled the nuclear security structure by constituting National Command Authority and by creating six different secret locations where the disassembled parts of the nuclear devices were preserved. The US is not sure of the exact location of the sites and assumes that there might be more such nuclear sites.
Dr Samar Mubarakmand, a nuclear scientist associated with the nuclear programme of Pakistan, once said, “Pakistani nuclear weapons are stored in three to four different parts at three to four different locations” which makes them highly secure in a risk-free structure. In 2011, Pakistan trained another 8000 personnel to ensure security of nuclear arsenal after an article by Geoffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic raised eyebrows in the international media circles.
The US has, every now and then, expressed reservations on the security of Pakistani nukes. In his first year in the White House, President Obama had explicitly stated:
“We have huge national security interest in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you do not end up having a nuclear armed militant state.”
His concerns are now being reiterated and strongly endorsed by the presidential aspirant Donald Trump.
The reason why Trump is instigating an international caution to watch over the Pakistani nukes is the rapid growth of Pakistani nuclear arsenal and the development of miniaturized tactical nukes being out of the purview of Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). According to 2015 report of Institute for Science and International Security, this growth will make Pakistan the largest de facto nuclear state in the world by 2020 with a projected stockpile of weapons grade uranium sufficient for 200 plus nuclear weapons. An international discourse is being engineered by the US and Israel that the 200 nukes of Pakistan, despite having a world class security mechanism, are more threatening to the world than the combined 15, 465 nukes of US and Russia.
It is well known that Trump is one of the least popular aspirants of presidency creating elsewhere racial aversion against himself among the Muslims and liberal humanists alike, yet he is regarded as most likely to be the next president. Why does he appear so certain of his position despite the popularity ratio are touching the bottom? The fact of the matter is, he is voicing the covert US strategic policies that have been in play for decades.
Presidents are no more, but endorsers, refuters, enforcers, intensifiers and accommodators of the policies engineered by CIA in collaboration with the security think tanks. This is how the US global security system has been operating since it was pioneered by John Foster Dulles, the former Secretary of State under Eisenhower. The dynamics of US politics concerned with the international security have been moulded and shifted accordingly.
Bush’s aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq was the necessity of the time for the strategic positioning of US troops and to exploit the energy resources. Obama’s reconciliatory approach was a hoax to display indirect control and presence in Middle East and let them bleed each other out. Obama’s softer tone also was successful in striking a deal with Iran. If the cards are properly on play, Trump is most likely the next president.
Indian influence is higher than ever in Afghanistan. Taliban are at each other’s throats. Ethnic, sectarian and political tensions are on the boiling point. China is pacing toward the accomplishment of String of Pearls through CPEC. This can be the right time to implant US designs and make a policy shift toward Pakistan as the region is pregnant with uncertainty and miscalculations. Pakistan has very confidently and frequently declared its nukes safe, but the Western propaganda is unabating.
There must be a reason that Obama in his farewell speech symbolized Pakistan as an underlining challenge to US and the world. There must be a reason that Trump is so sure of his victory later this year.
The writer is a lecturer in International Relations at Preston University, Islamabad.