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Third Demension to the N-threat We Face

Arun Shourie


 

 

    Remember that incident in April 1996, about the ring magnets? "Baseless", the Chinese thundered.

    When they could not deny the sale any longer, they acknowledged the shipment but insisted that the ring magnets were for hold your breath -- windshield wipers for cars!

    And anyone who didn't take their word for it was part of an evil conspiracy. When no one bought that silly story, they insisted that, whatever the ring magnets may have been for, the sale had been made by their atomic agency without the knowledge of the Central Government!

    Even so, in May 1996, China gave a commitment that it would not sell or in any way transfer anything or provide any form of assistance for unsafeguarded nuclear facilities.

    But just a while later, their shipment of high-temperature furnaces and high technology diagnostic equipment for Pakistan's Khushab plant was caught -- the Chinese had full knowledge that Khushab is an unsafeguarded facility: they had helped build it in the First place!

    At first it was the same story: Vigorous denial, allegations that conspirators were trying to denigrate China, which remained a responsible nuclear State fully alive to its responsibilities and commitments.

    Within months, China changed track again: The sale had indeed taken place, the Chinese Government now said, but it had taken place a while before May 1996!

    The sequence on missiles is exactly the same. China was nailed exporting M-11 missile technology to Pakistan. For that reason the US had, by its law, to impose sanctions on China.

    In November 1991, China gave a verbal assurance to the US, records the CNS website, that it would adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime [MTCK] guidelines.

    The US lifted the sanctions. In February 1992, China gave written assurances on this count.

    But in August 1993, the US had to impose sanctions once again as China continued the transfer of M-11 missile technology, to Pakistan.

    China denounced the sanctions as "groundless", and, the website reports, threatened the US that it would scrap its promise to abide by the guidelines.

    In October 1994, China signed a joint statement with the US agreeing to ban all exports of MTCR-class missiles, and the US agreed to lift the sanctions.

    But soon it was found that China continued to transfer what it had been transferring.

    "Ballistic missiles per se are not weapons of mass destruction," its analyst wrote in an official publication, "but rather a carrier vehicle. Likewise, fighter aircraft are also a carrier vehicle that can carry nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons... Limiting missile exports without limiting fighter plane exports is clearly a double standard."

    In any case, the commitment we had made was that we would not transfer missiles, China said, but these are just components and parts of missiles.

    For reasons we shall notice in a moment, the Clinton administration had been bending backwards to paper over what China had been doing.

    But in April 1997, even its Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Einhorn had to say, during his testimony before a Senate Committee.

    "We have had no reason to believe that China has violated its pledge not to export such missiles. However, concerns about transfers of missile-related components, technology, and production technology persist, raising serious questions about the nature of China's commitment to abide by MTCR guidelines."

    At the least, said Einhorn, China does not Interpret the commitments we think it has undertaken the way we and other MTCR members do.

    Moreover, he added, exempting the Chinese government from being held responsible, "as we learn more about current Chinese procedures for controlling missile-related goods and services, we become more skeptical about the ability of Beijing's control system to implement missile restraints effectively."

    In September 1997, The Washington Post reported that the Clinton administration was preparing to certify that China was adhering to commitments not to export nuclear weapons-related material to countries such as Pakistan and Iran.

    "Experts say China continues to exchange, of views on issues or mutual concern, the Prime Minister said, adding that it has been supplemented by the exchange of views at the official level, including the framework of the joint working group. Mr Vajpayee said that through these exchanges India had conveyed to the Chinese, side concerns arising from actions affecting the country’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and security. He stated that bilateral trade between the two countries had recorded a rapid growth in the last few years.

    Bilateral trade for 1997 amounted to $ 1.83 billion, an increase of 30.2 per cent over 1996. He said there, was considerable Potential to expand bilateral economic and commercial co-operation. Mr Vajpayee said the exchanges in diverse fields including the military, have continued to develop in recent years.

    The then Union Defence Minister Sharad Pawar had visited Beijing in July 1992, which had led to commencement of exchanges between the military establishment of the two countries, he said. Recalling that China's President Jiang Zemin visited India in November 1996, the Prime Minister said the two sides agreed to build a constructive and cooperative relationship oriented towards the 21st century.


    The Pioneer
    June 4, 1998



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