Nuclear epics

By Usman Ali Khan

Indeed, the nuclear episode is said to originate when India detonated its first plutonium device in 1974 characterizing it as a “peaceful nuclear explosive” and Pakistan followed the suit for its survival. India, which has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and does not have International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on all nuclear material in peaceful nuclear activities, convinced the world of the need for greater restrictions on nuclear trade. Where up-till now India has entered nuclear cooperation deals with a dozen states especially the Indo-US deal, NSG waiver, MTCR membership and these are ‘indecent’ from the perspective of non-proliferation norms. This all is indeed a bizarre!

Pakistan since its inception has been under unsubstantiated allegation from analysts to torpedo its peaceful nuclear image with a basic aim to gain currency among international policy makers and take on a life of their own unless demolished forthwith.

Pakistan has been facing the problems and been criticized since early 2004 by the proliferation done by A.Q. Khan but the interrogators needs to ponder on the Indo-Iranian cooperative agreements to import fuel and technology that dates back to early 80’s.  Compounding this worrisome prospect, India’s relationship with Iran extends, for some, to the transfer of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)-related items. Both India and Iran appear to have engaged in very limited nuclear, chemical and missile-related transfers over the years.

With such large and growing stockpiles of nuclear-weapons-usable materials, No-doubt India has an impeccable proliferation record, India has a well-developed, active and secret Indian programme to outfit its uranium enrichment program where in 2003 India’s Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh stated that India “has and would continue to help Iran in its controversial bid to generate nuclear energy.”

A report published in Iran watch titled as “A History of Iran’s Chemical Weapon-Related Efforts” stated that:

Indian firms have also helped Iran build its chemical weapon infrastructure. In March 1989, the State Trading Corporation, an Indian government trading company, reportedly sold Iran 60 tons of thionyl chloride, a precursor chemical that can be used to produce mustard gas. The CIA last identified India as one of Iran’s primary suppliers of CW-related material during the second half of 1996; India has not been singled out as a country of concern for chemical proliferation to Iran since that time.

Interestingly this all doesn’t ends here, as in 1980’s; some secret shipments were arranged by India from Russia and Norwegian water to help start the Madras and Dhruva reactors. Secrecy was essential to enable India to start the reactors unfettered by international controls. Plutonium made in uninspected reactors is free for use in atomic bombs whereas plutonium made in inspected reactors is not.

Other shipments in that time frame reportedly were halted under U.S. pressure. In March 1989, Iran allegedly acquires 60 tons of thionyl chloride from India’s government-run State Trading Corporation. Thionyl chloride is a chemical weapon (nerve agent) precursor. India does not appear in the CIA’s unclassified nonproliferation report to Congress as a supplier of chemical-weapons-related exports to Iran since the report began publication in 1997. India signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993 and deposited its instrument of ratification until 1996. However, in December 2005, the United States imposed sanctions on Sabero Organic Chemicals Gujarat Ltd and Sandhya Organic Chemicals Pvt. Ltd, pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000. In July 2006, the United States imposed sanctions on Balaji Amines and Prachi Poly Products, chemical manufacturers, pursuant to the Iran and Syrian Nonproliferation Act.

Regrettably, the favors extended to India are irreversible in nature. Besides, India’s long road to nuclear legitimacy began with a bilateral deal with the United States in 2005. U.S. also yielded an exemption allowing it to trade in sensitive nuclear technology with NSG nations.

With suspicions and flimsy excuses the Obama Administration remains wedded to its engagement policy. It’s not about arms controls. It’s about export controls.

Last but not the least is to closely scrutinize the Indian procurement and export practices in defense and nuclear deal.

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Usman Ali Khan

Usman Ali Khan is a Researcher at the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad

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