IMTIAZ RAFI BUTT
May 24 - 30, 2010
By conducting five nuclear tests on 28 May 1998 Pakistan had given a fitting response to the Indian blasts and restored anew the military balance in South Asia. Israel, too, had got the message that it should stop blackmailing Arab countries. These tests had confirmed Pakistan's status as a nuclear power and given ample proof of her nuclear sophistication and potential as a Muslim State. They had also demolished the view held by Western observers/analysts that Muslim countries were way behind in modern science and technology. It was this assumption that had often prompted the west to refer sarcastically to the OIC as the Organization of Inefficient Countries.
HOW DID THE ARMS RACE ORIGINATE IN SOUTH ASIA?
It may be observed that the establishment of Israel and Israel's bellicose nuclear programme were, in the first instance, directed at the Arabs.
But as the Arabs were Muslims subscribing to the same faith as their Muslims brothers in the subcontinent, Pakistan and the Arab world came to be seen as a single political entity. The net result was that Pakistan became a joint target of India and Israel. David Ben Gurion addressing the Jews in Paris in 1967 had openly identified Pakistan as the prime target.
It would, therefore, be pertinent to give a glance at the nuclear policy of India and Israel and to view in this context the defensive nature of Pakistan's nuclear strategy. India's nuclear programme was launched in 1948 under the direction of Dr Bhabha. Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was its moving spirit. The primary objective of the nuclear programme was: to make India a great power in Asia with an effective naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
The Arab States of the Middle East, too, would succumb to their sphere of influence. They would thus succeed in bringing progress and prosperity to a poverty-stricken India with the abundant oil wealth of these countries. Moreover, in consideration of their big power status, the United States and Russia would deem it necessary to seek their approval before formulating any policy for South Asia in particular and Asia in general.
Pandit Nehru's political vision and Dr Homi Bhabha's personal rapport with the nuclear scientists and the chiefs of the atomic institutions in the west played a major role in marketing India a nuclear power.
When Canada initiated a plan to offer nuclear reactors to the third World, India took full advantage of it. In short, while the US, Britain, France and Germany provided nuclear technology and project to India, Canada also played a prominent role in this field.
Israel's nuclear programme was launched in 1952 under the leadership of Shipman Peres with France providing the first nuclear rector. Later, all western nations, including the US and Canada supplied it with nuclear technology.
The Dimona Nuclear Complex is a living proof of this act. It comprises a variety of projects. It is institutions like these that have helped to transform Israel into a modern and progressive nuclear state. Moreover, its super computer has lent a new excellence to its nuclear and space programmes, namely, its missiles.
While speaking of Israel one cannot resist the temptation of referring to the political leadership of the Middle East in general and the political insight of Gamal Abdul Naseer in particular. As stated earlier, Israel initiated its nuclear programme in 1952. It was in 1952 that President Naseer also came into power and created a furore in the entire Arab World.
His charismatic personality casts a spell on Arab intellectuals and especially the youth. The Soviet Union who was in search of a reliable and strong ally in the days of the Cold war found in him an ideal comrade and friend and a fiery opponent of American policies in the Arab World. What is amazing is that the Soviet Union at the time was completely at the mercy of Naseer.
President Naseer's crucial decision in 1956 to nationalise the Suez Canal jolted the world powers. The armed forces of Britain, France, and Israel launched a joint attack on Egypt. It was at this critical juncture that the Soviet Union stepped forward and threatened the invading armies with the use of nuclear weapons. Thus Egypt escaped the destruction of a war that was forced upon it. The question is was president Naseer not aware of Zionist designs in the wake of the establishment of the State of Israel? Was President Naseer not aware of the vested interests of the US and other Western powers that were linked with Israel in the Middle East? Was President Naseer not aware that Israel launched a massive nuclear programme with military objectives in view? Was he not aware that the real purpose of the nuclear programme was not merely to ensure the security of Israel but to transform it into a regional power? He must have surely that with Israel as a nuclear power Egypt would lose its military and political supremacy in the Arab world. If President Naseer was cognisant of these issues why did he not take advantage of Egypt's special status in Soviet foreign policy and launch a comprehensive nuclear programme of his own.
Had President Naseer so desired, he could have got anything from the Soviet Union for the asking. The takeover of the Aswan Dam was a laudable step but wherein lay the wisdom of not turning Egypt into a nuclear power.
One would be quite justified in concluding that while President Naseer did little or nothing for Egypt. Today Israel has a stockpile of atomic, hydrogen and neutron bombs and all the capitals of the Arab World are within the range of its nuclear missiles.
In Pakistan, the Atomic Energy Agency was established in 1957 and raised to the level of a commission during the tenure of Ayub Khan. It was entrusted as an additional charge to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Minister of Industry and Natural Resources. As an ardent student of history he was already aware of Bharati designs. But he was also aware of the importance and prestige of a nuclear state in international politics. When Canada started offering nuclear projects under the Colombo Plan, he decided to take full advantage of this historic moment. He succeeded in persuading Canada into providing one nuclear reactor, one reprocessing plant, and some technology relating to the manufacture of fuel.
In a memo to the President he wrote: "We should avail ourselves of this opportunity. I have brought Canada round to our point of view. The price of the reprocessing plant is 400 million dollars". The President replied: "I have spoken to Shuaib (Minister of Finance). He says that he cannot arrange the amount required for the reprocessing plant". The reprocessing plant could not come about but Bhutto did succeed in setting up a nuclear power-station in Karachi. Had the reprocessing plant been installed, a nuclear infrastructure would have been in place well before the seventies.
After the fall of the eastern wing, Bhutto became President of Pakistan, he convened a science conference in 1972 at Multan. In an exclusive meeting with the scientists he apprised them of his intention and work began in this direction. Sometime later he got in touch with Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, a scientist working in a nuclear establishment in Holland. Dr. Khan submitted a nuclear blueprint for national security based on the centrifugal system which Bhutto accepted enthusiastically. Thus came into being the uranium enrichment project at Kahuta. Bhutto entered into an agreement with Germany to secure a Tritium Purification Plant, which was later installed. He also signed in 1976 an agreement with France for the purchase of a 900-megawatt reactor and a reprocessing plant. The plant was about to be set up in 1977 when Bhutto was dethroned and lost his life as well. He was succeeded by General Zia who looked after and fostered the nuclear programme. Though he could not acquire the reactor and reprocessing plant from France, the war in Afghanistan at the time helped much to transform Pakistan into nuclear power.
While inaugurating his nuclear programme Bhutto had declared: "India has exploded a nuclear device in 1974. I cannot bear to see my helpless nation cringing before the might of nuclear India". Western imperialists killed Bhutto the man but they could not kill the idea. When Pakistan exploded its nuclear device it demolished in retrospect and in a symbolic way all the conspiracies that had been directed against him.
Today India has lost its predominance. Israel's aggressive too will soon change. Every country has its Bhutto and Naseers. History has an uncanny way of dispersing the mists of time and baring events and characters. Animated by their religious ideals, sense of political ascendancy and eight centuries of glorious rule, the Muslims of India achieved Pakistan under the able leadership of the Quaid-e-Azam. The same people were also fired with the resolve to emerge on the global stage as a respected and dignified nation. They have demonstrated their resolve.