China, Pakistan and the Iranian bomb

While the international community is exerting increasing pressure onIranto resist from going nuclear, there is one issue that seems to have slipped under the radar. Hardly any attention is being paid to ensure thatSaudi Arabiadoes not follow the same route asPakistan. An Iranian bomb could be a threat toIsraelbut a Saudi bomb would destabilise not only the region but also the entire world.

What also needs to be borne in mind is thatIrancould not have taken these steps to acquire nuclear weapons capability ifPakistanhad not helped it with materials and technology. The maligned Pakistani nuclear scientist, A Q Khan, and his associates have been selling technical know-how and materials to Iranian nuclear scientists for several years. In fact,Pakistan’s nuclear scientists freely travelled back and forth fromTehranandIslamabadexchanging knowledge, most of which A Q Khan had stolen from his past employers.

So while the world’s attention is focused onIran, there is barely any concern about whatPakistanand its rogue military and nuclear scientists have done and, more seriously, what they can do in the future. For instance, it is more than likely thatIran, if and when it goes nuclear, would rely on underground proliferation networks like the ones run by A Q Khan. Going by the recent indictments levelled by theUS, proliferation networks still continue to operate, helping rogue countries such asPakistanto beef up their nuclear arsenal.

Likewise, the world must also keep an eye on the Chinese end of the proliferation mafia. The Chinese have been brazenly supplying both off-the-shelf and illicit nuclear and missile technology and materials to rogue countries such asNorth KoreaandPakistan. All the missiles, for instance, inPakistan’s arsenal have a Chinese origin. Without Chinese money and technical help,Pakistancould not have built and maintained nuclear power reactors which gave it enough uranium to produce 100 odd nuclear weapons. The Chinese hand in makingNorth Koreanuclear is also well documented.

What is less well known is the role played byChina’s hand inIran’s bomb. It is common knowledge thatChinahas an excellent relationship withIran. Trade between the two countries is quite significant, as is their diplomatic relationship.Iran’s belligerence against theUSis in some measure also encouraged by its rapport withChina. Therefore it is more than likely that Iranian nuclear scientists might be utilizing the expertise available within the Chinese nuclear establishment. In fact, bothChinaandPakistancould be involved in makingIrana nuclear weapons state.

Incidentally, if and whenIrangoes nuclear, two other countries in the neighbourhood will also declare themselves nuclear weapons states.Israelis known to have a fairly good nuclear arsenal already, and one that is ready to use.Saudi Arabiahas no known capability of producing a nuclear weapon but it has a surrogate state inPakistanwhich has over 100 nuclear weapons.Pakistanis also a country that has no economic future and has no clue as to how it will generate an economic miracle to cater to the needs of 200 million people, most of whom will require schooling, higher education and reasonable employment in the next decade or so. The only way out forPakistanwill be to put their bombs on sale. In fact,Saudi Arabiahas already indicated in unambiguous terms that in the event ofIrangoing nuclear, it will call uponPakistanto fulfil its obligation.

In fact, it is well known that the Pakistani arsenal was created with Saudi money, stolen technology and Chinese reverse-engineering techniques.Saudi Arabiahas been fundingPakistanthrough channels like the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) to create a nuclear weapons bank for Sunnis. The Pakistani bomb has been called the Islamic bomb; yet it might have been more appropriate to call it a Sunni bomb.

The world must therefore pay equal attention toPakistanandChinawhile dealing withIran’s nuclear ambitions. Targeting onlyIranwould leave the real culprits behind nuclear proliferation to get off scot-free.