"But What was the immediate threat?," ask the
pundits. "Why now?," they demand. I K Gujral adds the considerable
weight of having been Prime Minister to the argument: as one who had
access to secret information as Prime Minister, he tells Parliament,
I say that when I left office there was no threat that warranted the
By 1969 Gujral was in Mrs Gandhi’s inner circle.
Mrs Gandhi had the first explosion in May 1974. Could Gujral tell us
what was the immediate threat in May 1974?
The shafts in which the explosions have been
conducted now were dug in 1981. And they were dug and prepared
because Mrs Gandhi had decided that we had to move to the next
stage, and a series of explosions had to be undertaken. Could
someone go back to those days and tell us what was the immediate
threat in 1981?
The decisions taken, second thoughts set in: and
that unfortunately was not special to the nuclear programme --
Sanjay’s death had disoriented Mrs Gandhi, she began to hesitate and
fumble on every matter.
But, as Mr R Venkatraman has confirmed, the
decision was retaken in 1983: he has said that he personally went
down in the shaft to see things for himself. Any recollection of
what was the Immediate threat then?
Rajiv decided in 1990 to have the explosions
conducted. Scientists were revved up. Any recollection of
Narasimha Rao scheduled to have the tests done In
December 1995. Any recollection of what...? The news leaked to the
Americans. They publicised the plans. And brought to bear the
requisite pressure -- something which was not hard to do on that
Gujral says that when he left office there was no
threat. How come then that simultaneously his Defence Minister
Mulayam Singh claims credit for having "signed the file" for the
tests? The Defence Minister’s secret information versus the Prime
Minister’s secret information?
But so much of the information is public knowledge
that one has no option but to conclude that the effort these
personage should have devoted to planning a response, they expanded
on shutting their eyes.
Everything that follows has been taken from
American sites on Internet. Much of it is from the sites maintained
by the Centre for Non-proliferation Studies, Monterey Institutes of
International Studies, Monterey, California -- that is, the very
first sites to which anyone with the slightest interest in the
subject will go.
The pattern the information reveals hits one like a
truck. First, to the knowledge of every concerned authority,
Pakistan has been for twenty years single-mindedly pursuing a
nuclear weapons programme: that programme has been nothing but a
nuclear weapons programme, as will become obvious in a moment.
Second, its own efforts towards this goal floundered almost at the
outset: it, therefore decided to buy, smuggle, steal, get whatever
was necessary -- for this reason, its programme has been a
Third, its principal helper in the venture has been
How very short public memory Is, how assiduously
facts are obscured from our people -- that is what strikes one as
one reads the facts today. For all of them have been published from
time to time -- Just that Prime Ministers do not seem to have read
them, and the rest of us, attaching no Importance to them, soon
28 January, 1998: In the Hearing
of the Senate Select Committee on "Current and Projected National
Security Threats," the Director of the CIA said, "Conventional arm
sales have lagged in recent years, encouraging Chinese defence
industries to look to WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) technology
sales, primarily to Pakistan and Iran, in order to recoup. There is
no question that China has contributed to WMD advances in these
There has been a tightening recently, the CIA
Director said more on this in a moment -- and added, "But China's
relations with some proliferant countries are long-standing and
deep, Mr Chairman. The jury is still out on whether the recent
changes are broad enough in scope and whether they will hold over
the longer term. As such, Chinese activities in this area will
require continued close watching."
June 1997: In his report on The
Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction
and Advanced Conventional Munitions, July-December 1996, the
Director of the CIA said that during the period covered by the
report China "was the primary source of nuclear-related equipment
and technology to Pakistan."
7 August, 1996: In its annual
report on "Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control
Agreements," the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency stated,
"Prior to China’s NPT accession, the United States concluded that
China had assisted Pakistan in developing nuclear explosives. Since
China's accession to the NPT, it appears that China may have
continued to assist Pakistan's unsafeguarded nuclear program and may
have continued contacts with elements associated with Pakistan's
nuclear weapons related programme. The United States Government has
continuing concerns regarding possible continuation of China's past
nuclear weapons assistance to Pakistan and Beijing's compliance with
its NPT obligations."
September 1996: The Washington
Times, a paper which has been following Chinese activities in this
sphere with diligence, cited a report of the CIA dated 14 September
1996, saying that China had sold a special industrial furnace and
high technology diagnostic equipment to unsafeguarded nuclear
facilities in Pakistan -- "unsafeguarded" facilities are ones which
are being kept by the country out of the reach of international
The Centre for Non-proliferation Studies account of
the news story records, "The equipment reportedly is of a dual-use
nature and could be applied to either civilian or military
applications. The report also said that Chinese technicians were in
Pakistan in September 1996 to install in the equipment. The China
Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) reportedly may have
arranged the transfer.
According to the CIA report, 'In the aftermath of
CNEIC’s ring-magnet sale to Pakistan and China's May 11 commitment
not to provide assistance to unsafeguarded nuclear facilities,
senior-level government approval probably was needed for this most
recent assistance'. The report also alleged that China planned to
submit false documentation on the equipment’s final destination.
High-temperature furnaces (also called vacuum or 'skull' furnaces)
can reportedly be used to mould uranium or plutonium into bomb cores
for use in nuclear weapons, and mould titanium for missile nose
cones and other key components. The equipment may have been headed
for Pakistan's Khushab heavy water reactor."
The Centre records that the Pakistani Embassy
spokesman vigorously denied the sale: "We deny that there was any
nuclear-weapons related transfer to Pakistan." As usual Pakistan saw
itself as a victim: "I regret to say," the spokesman solemnly
declared, "that we seem to be becoming the victims of a series of
leaks, some of which are... simply motivated or inspired by the
electoral fever in the United States and by their own internal
shadow-boxing among themselves."
The Chinese were cleverer -- we did it, but
earlier, they exclaimed! The Chinese Embassy spokesman dismissed The
Washington Times report as "groundless," recalls the CNS site. It
had conducted an internal investigation of the sale, the Chinese
Government told the US Administration, and had established that the
sale had taken place in late 1995 and early 1996 -- that put the
sale a few convenient months before China signed the pledge on May
Late 1995: "The CIA told the State
Department," recalls the CNS account, "that a China National Nuclear
Corporation (CNNC) subsidiary, the China Nuclear Energy Industry
Corporation (CNEIC) had supplied Pakistan's unsafeguarded state-run
A Q Khan Research Laboratory in Kahuta, a reported nuclear weapons
laboratory with 5,000 specialised ring magnets for the top
suspension bearing of high-speed gas centrifuges to be installed at
the facility. The deal was valued at between $ 50,000 -
"Ring magnets" are devices used in centrifuges
which can make weapons-grade enriched uranium.
"Groundless", fumed China. It warned" the US not to
impose sanctions on the basis of mere "rumours." Pakistan was as
vehement. Soon China acknowledged that a sale had indeed taken place
--- but that the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation had made
the sale on its own! The central Government of China had not known!
A sale of components vital for a nuclear weapons programme, a sale
by a Government Corporation, a sale by a Corporation of not just any
Government but of the Government of China, and yet "it was made
without our knowledge"!
1994, 1993: Agreements signed with
much fanfare between Pakistan and China for financing and deepening
their cooperation for Pakistan's "peaceful" nuclear programme. But
this time let us start from the earlier dates in the CNS sites.
1974: Convinced about what
Pakistan was up to, "Western countries embargo nuclear exports to
1977: "Leybold Heraeus of Hanan
Germany sells Pakistan vacuum pumps and equipment to be used in
1981: "Albert Goldberg is arrested
in November at a US airport while attempting to ship two tons of
zirconium to Pakistan. Zirconium is used in nuclear reactor
operations that can lead to nuclear weapons........"
1983: "China reportedly supplies
Pakistan with enough highly enriched uranium for one to two nuclear
weapons.... China supplies Pakistan with a complete design of a 25kt
nuclear bomb.... Senior Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer
Khan orders over 6,000 tubes made of special steel to be used for
uranium enrichment... In June a US State Department memo says that
US intelligence agencies believe the Pakistani centrifuge program is
intended to produce material for nuclear weapons.... In July a
report published in the USSR says that Pakistan can make five atom
bombs in a year."
1984: "Pakistani citizen Nazir
Vaid is caught smuggling electronic components, potentially useful
for nuclear weapons, from the United States."
1985: "In July a US television
station reports that Pakistan has tested US-made krytron electric
triggers in conventional explosions. Krytron triggers can be used in
the detonation of nuclear devices."
1986: US intelligence agencies
allege that Pakistan is producing highly enriched uranium, which may
be used in nuclear weapons... In September Pakistan conducts 'cold
tests' of a nuclear implosion device at Chagai."
1987: "Pakistan acquires a tritium
purification and production facility from West Germany. The plant
can produce up to 10g of tritium daily. Tritium can be used to
produce a thermonuclear device."
1989: "A 27k research reactor
(PARR-2) is built at Rawalpindi with Chinese assistance... Western
intelligence sources indicate that China is arranging for Pakistan
to tests its nuclear device at China's Lop Nor nuclear test
1990s: "China reportedly provides
assistance for the construction of the Chashma plutonium
1991: "In September, Prime
Minister Benazir Bhutto said that Pakistan could 'rapidly produce' a
nuclear weapon in the event of a serious threat."
1992: "In February, Pakistani
Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan confirmed that Pakistan has the
components necessary to construct at least one nuclear weapon...
1993: "China's National Nuclear
Corporation begins work on a 300MW pressurised-water reactor at
Chashma... A report by The Stockholm Peace and Research Institute
(SIPRI) says that approximately 14,000 uranium-enrichment
centrifuges have been installed at Kahuta... German officials seize
approximately 1,000 gas centrifuges bound for Pakistan."
1994: "Former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif says Pakistan has a Nuclear bomb."
1996: "Pakistan expects to
complete its unsafeguarded 40 MW heavy-water reactor at Khushab. US
officials believe that the reactor is being built with Chinese
Three conclusions stare one in the face:
The threat comes not from the recent explosions
which Pakistan has carried out. it has consisted in the programme
-- single-minded and clandestine -- which Pakistan has been
pursuing for twenty years to acquire nuclear weapons.,
Its principal supplier and guide in this
programme has been China;
Information about this programme, as well as
about the pivotal role of China in it, has been public
And yet the assertion, "As Prime Minister I had
access to secret information. And on the basis of that I tell you --
with full sense of responsibility -- that when I gave up my office,
there was no threat."
All I can say is that perhaps Prime Ministers are
kept so busy reading "secret information" they have no time to
notice what is staring everyone in the face.
But even this is but a part of the story, as we