An IDC Analysis


New Delhi, 09 March 2004

This is Part 2 of our analysis on Nuclear Proliferation by Pakistan. Part 1 may be found under 'Previous Stories' on our What's Hot page. 

Nuclear Proliferation by Pakistan: International Reponses


By Alok Kumar Gupta*

The task before the international community is to ensure that the proliferation — horizontal as well as vertical — of nuclear weapons is curbed. The world community is advocating that all the countries that posses these weapons must ensure that there are no leakages of sensitive material or knowledge from their nuclear installations. The nuclear developments in Pakistan, thus, have the gravest of implications not just for the South Asian region but also for the future of global security. This is more so in the wake of massive growth of the network of international terrorism and incidents like 9/11 in US. Therefore, the issue for nuclear transfers from Pakistan seems unlikely to end by raising mere concerns. It confronts the world with a major challenge. The ‘Khan-network’ was one of the most well-organized, well-ramified across continents, complex and relatively successful networks in the world to smuggle nuclear weapons technology to other countries. It operated with a factory making centrifuge components in Malaysia, with middlemen from Sri Lanka, Germany and Holland, with hardware shipments routed through Dubai, and meetings in places such as Istanbul in Turkey and Casablanca in Morocco, besides Islamabad, Pyongyang and Tehran. However, the kind of responses that have come from the international community over the recent proliferation issue on account of Pakistan’s exposure can be grouped into following categories:

  • Those who wants to punish Pakistan for proliferation;

  • Those who advocate unproliferation to be forced upon Pakistan;

  • Those who want a long-term systemic course of action for strengthening the global nuclear order to prevent recurrence;

  • Those who are concerned about its proliferation in the hands of non-state actors and the consequent catastrophe.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed El Baradei commented in the newspaper that the “father of Pakistan’s atom bomb was just the tip of the iceberg in a global black market that sold nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea. Dr. Khan was not working alone but he had help from people in many different countries.” Mr. El Baradei said he was not even sure that Dr. Khan was the head of the nuclear black market, stretching across Europe and Asia and created to skirt sanctions for the sale of sensitive technology to countries under embargo. He also confessed of it being of number one priority to investigate and unearth the complete picture and the network of proliferation. The 35-member Board of Governors of IAEA was also concerned about the possibility of other customers in the nuclear black market. According to Mr. El Baradei the case of Malaysia, where a company had manufactured high quality centrifuge parts for Libya, showed nuclear know-how had proliferation to many countries across the world. He was disturbed about the fact that many countries are now capable of producing equipment and materials that can lead to a nuclear weapons programme.

The Dierector-General of IAEA called the ‘Khan-network’ as probably the core of “the Wal-Mart of private sector proliferation’. According the El Baradei, an international “nuclear black market has emerged, driven by fantastic cleverness. Designers are drawn in one country, and there is no clarity about the end user….Nuclear businessmen, unscrupulous firms, and perhaps also the state bodies are involved….”

Russia’s Response

The Russian defence ministry, as reported in the newspapers, voiced extreme concern over the nuclear technology transfers from Pakistan. The defence ministry expressed its concern that the case illustrates the absence of universal rules of the game in controlling the production of weapons of mass destruction. It also stressed that there is need for national Governments to bear legal responsibility for violating the ban on WMD proliferation and UN alone can create an effective mechanism to stop the spread of sensitive technologies. Russian officials also emphasized on a resolution in the Security Council to check the problem of proliferation and falling it into the hands of terrorists.

Malaysia’s Protest

The allegations that a Malaysian company produced centrifuge components for Libya’s nuclear weapons programme has produced first bump in US-Malaysian relations since the Malaysian Prime Minister, Abdullah Badawi, took office nearly four months ago. Malaysia’s protest stated that the country was ‘offended’ that Mr. Bush named the nation as a source of parts to Libya’s programme without specifying other nations. The protest came in response to Washington’s demands from Malaysia to tighten export control to prevent proliferation. Malaysia went to the extent of summoning the US Embassy charge d’affaires to protest what the Government regards as Malaysia being singled out by the US president George Bush in calling for global crackdown on nuclear black market.

India’s Response

Official India has wisely declined to comment on these developments and has maintained a deafening silence. The three countries allegedly assisted by Pakistan do not threaten India in any manner. The reticence to comment on the subject also accords with the current policy of refraining from the practice of trying to portray Pakistan as an irresponsible country at any and every turn.  However, certain unofficial responses have always been there in which politicians and bureaucrats have tried to take the offensive that the matter is no more an internal affair of Pakistan and the world community must take cognizance of such developments and punish the culprit. India has tried to show that it had been vocal about nuclear proliferation from Pakistani land in the past and had also informed the US, but its warnings were not given due importance.

China’s Response

China too has chosen to maintain silence as many experts have expressed their opinion and are firm that the ‘Islamic Bomb” has its origin in China. This is in fact widely believed that the real source of the bomb is China as many of the missiles also have been provided by China to Pakistan either directly or via North Korea. The Chinese silence on the recent issue in fact strengthens this argument. 

International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

A delegation of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for its service to mankind by highlighting the hazards of nuclear wars, met the senior leaders of India and Pakistan in the last week of February 2004 to impress upon them the need for both the countries to give up their nuclear weapons programme and instead focus more on improving health care and other basic amenities of their citizens. The forum was led by its President Ronald McCoy. Stressing that South Asia has been converted into a tinderbox since India and Pakistan became nuclear powers in 1998, Mr. McCoy said that studies had shown that even in a limited nuclear exchange against five of the largest cities in India or Pakistan, there would be at least three million deaths. It was clarified that both the countries must put an end to further development and deployment of nuclear forces and missile capabilities. They must abandon their nuclear arsenals and embrace human security.


The dubious means used to acquire Pakistan’s nuclear bomb-making capability was tolerated in the past, but in the post-Iraq world, where a country was invaded to thwart what was touted as nuclear proliferation on the basis of dubious intelligence, a facility that “leaks” weapons’ technology has to be dealt with sternly. However, Pakistani establishment can sacrifice anyone, including the one-time national hero, Dr. Khan, in order to keep its nuclear assets and, simultaneously, satisfy the American-led international community that something is being done to tackle nuclear proliferation.

Critics of the Bush administration have been repeatedly making the point that the US has been letting Gen. Musharraf off the hook on many serious issues especially in the realm of proliferation to such countries as Iran, Libya, and North Korea. The reason for the soft approach is for all to see Washington does not want to get on the wrong side of Gen. Musharraf especially in the context of the cooperation on the war on terror. And in the immediate case the Republican administration has not publicly criticized Pakistan for fear of adding to the political pressures of Gen. Musharraf.

The greatest challenge confronting the global community today is to protect the WMDs from falling into the hands of terrorist groups. As a country, Pakistan has committed several irresponsible acts and has gone Scot free. International relations are governed by binding treaties and covenants. Thus, Pakistan will be required to take some big and hard decisions in order to emerge as a reliable and responsible nation. Saving the world from a nuclear jihad should be the top priority today.  Diplomatic endeavor should be for constructive utilization of nuclear energy and not nuclear war. Moreover, the world now stands warned with the recent exposure. So long as there are nuclear weapons, and they remain the currency of power, the danger of their proliferation persists. There is no alternative to the complete abolition or proliferation of these evil instruments of mass destruction.

The international community or the powers of the world that matter, have chosen to maintain a silence or have categorized it as the internal affairs of Pakistan. Those who chose to react on the matter have been very guarded in their responses, probably on account of the dynamics of international interdependence.  But they have forgotten that they can play their role and provide security to their people within their country only when peace prevails in the world. A disturbed and irresponsible neighborhood always adds to the threat perceptions of the others. Therefore, the need of the hour is to discuss it on an international forum and adopt a consistent policy which would go a long way. Such a policy must be driven by a pragmatic approach and not by partisan politics in the international relations. Not non-proliferation but unproliferation of the nuclear haves is the solution against this evil and of course some deterrent punishment for the violators of world peace should also be there.  


  1. Prakash Nanda, “Double Standard” Sahara Time, February 14, 2004.

  2. Praful Bidwai, “Global Nuclear Bazaar” Frontline, vol.21, no.4, February 14-27, 2004.

  3. “A.Q. Khan tip of the iceberg: IAEA” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 05, 2004.

  4. Amit Baruah, “Scientist’s admissions expose Pakistan” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 06, 2004.

  5. Vladimir Radyuhin, “Russia expresses alarm” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 06, 2004.

  6. B. Muralidhar Reddy, “Powell talks to Musharraf on probe into Khan episode” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 09, 2004.

  7. Sridihar Krishnaswami, “Nuclear designs originated in China: daily” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 15, 2004.

  8. Sridihar Krishnaswami, “Step up fight against spread of WMD, says Bush” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 12, 2004.

  9. “E.U. troika to raise n-issue with Pakistan” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 17, 2004.

  10. Amit Baruah, “Consultations to check n-proliferation welcomed” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 13, 2004.

  11. “India, Pakistan must proceed with caution” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 10, 2004.

  12. “Nuclear proliferation a matter of global concern” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 19, 2004.

  13. C. Raja Mohan, “India determined to contribute to new nuclear order’ The Hindu,  New Delhi, February 19, 2004.

  14. Amit Baruah, “N-proliferation not an internal issue: Sinha” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 07, 2004.

  15. M.R. Srinivasan, “Pakistan’s nuclear deals” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 13, 2004.

  16. C. Raja Mohan, “Responding to Pakistan’s proliferation” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 12, 2004.

  17. B. Muralidhar Reddy, N-restraint regime offer made during talks: Pakistan” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 21, 2004.

  18. C. Uday Bhaskar, “The Tale of Exposed Feathers” Sahara Time, February 21, 2004.

  19. Swami Chinmayanand, “Nuclear proliferation and testing can’t be internal affairs of any country” Sahara Time, February 21, 2004.

  20. S. Sreedhar Rao, “Lifting the veil and beyond” Sahara Time, February 21, 2004.

  21. Gen. V.N. Sharma, “Pak had bribed some European countries” Sahara Time, February 21, 2004.

  22. B. Raman, “Nuclear Doublespeak” Sahara Time, February 21, 2004.

  23. “Physicians against nuclear war to talk to India, Pakistan” The Hindu, New Delhi, February 25, 2004.

(*Alok Kumar Gupta is a Lecturer, at the School of Policy Science, 
National Law University, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India.)

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