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India Worried About Pakistani Nuke Arsenal Defenses

May 26, 2011


India’s defense chief on Wednesday voiced worries about the defenses of nuclear weapons in rival Pakistan following a militant siege this week of a naval base in Karachi, Reuters reported (see GSN, May 24).

“Naturally it is a concern not only for us but for everybody,” Defense Minister A.K. Antony said on the question of whether the assault by a minimum of six Pakistani Taliban fighters on the Mehran Naval Station had raised doubts about the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, the Press Trust of India reported.

“Our services are taking all precautions and are ready round-the-clock. But at the same time we don’t want to overreact,” Antony said.

Though estimates vary, recent analyses indicate Islamabad could hold more than 110 nuclear weapons. The country’s is viewed as having the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal.

Some defense authorities have said the Sunday siege could have involved insiders at the base, renewing worries about Pakistani military personnel who might have extremist affinities (see GSN, Jan. 11; Reuters, May 25).

Separately, not long before he became Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari in 2008 told U.S. envoys he supported providing U.N. investigators access to nuclear scientist and proliferator Abdul Qadeer Khan, Asian News International reported on Wednesday (see GSN, May 25).

The United States has long pressed for access to Khan, Pakistan’s former top nuclear weapons scientist who in 2004 confessed to exporting nuclear technology and information to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

A U.S. diplomatic memo leaked by the antisecrets group WikiLeaks detailed an April 2008 conversation between Zardari and two U.S. diplomats — then-U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson and Deputy Chief of Mission Peter Bodde.

“Zardari said flatly that the reports about GOP [government of Pakistan] interest in releasing Khan were untrue,” the cable reads. “If I had my way, I would give the [International Atomic Energy Agency] access to Khan,” the cable quotes Zardari as saying.

Washington at that time was concerned that Islamabad would free Khan from house arrest. He was released in 2009 (Asian News International/Yahoo!News, May 25).

In exchange for his release, Khan agreed to terms that limited the areas to which he could travel and prohibited him from talking to certain people, The Hindu reported.

The same day that a court ordered Khan to be freed, Pakistani Interior Secretary Kamal Shah passed on to Patterson a list of the terms of Khan’s freedom agreement, according to a February 2009 cable. Among other things, the terms prohibited Khan from seeking trips to any “strategic organizations” or their affiliates. He could not speak to any individual employed at one of these entities “without the prior permission of the authorities,” according the terms set by the Islamabad High Court.

Khan was to give Pakistani officials one to two days prior notice of any trip to “outstation destinations.”

There were some terms that Khan did not agree to that were imposed by the Islamabad High Court “in view of the peculiar nature of the case, its international ramifications and considering all surrounding circumstances,” according to the document.

Khan was ordered to “join the pending inquiry/investigation on proliferation, as and when required by competent officials”; to relinquish “any material or document etc. on Pakistan’s nuclear program, if any, in his control”; to abstain from “exploiting specific media personnel to influence public opinion on various national/international issues without government clearance”; and to abstain “from indulging in any political activities and high profile socialization, whatsoever” (Nirupama Subramanian, The Hindu, May 25).

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