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Growing Pak-China nuke ties: House panel says India must enhance deterrence

Anirban Bhaumik, DH News Service, New Delhi, Aug 12 2017, 9:42 IST
The committee, which is headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, studied India-Pakistan relations and submitted its report to the Lok Sabha on Friday. PTI File Photo

The committee, which is headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, studied India-Pakistan relations and submitted its report to the Lok Sabha on Friday. PTI File Photo

India must augment its nuclear deterrence to meet any challenge from Pakistan, a parliamentary panel has recommended after taking note of the growing Beijing-Islamabad cooperation in missile and atomic weapon programmes.

Concerned over Pakistan's “expanding” arsenal of atomic weapons and its “deliberately ambiguous doctrine” of using such weapons, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs “strongly” recommended that India must “aggregate its nuclear capability and enhance its deterrance capabilities”.

The committee, which is headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, studied India-Pakistan relations and submitted its report to the Lok Sabha on Friday.

It noted that India's “no-first-use” nuclear doctrine was “well-articulated and specific”. But, the panel observed, Pakistan has “deliberately pursued an opaque and ambiguous” nuclear doctrine, refusing to abjure “first-use” of nuclear weapons.

The Ministry of External Affairs told the panel that China's support to nuclear programme of Pakistan dated back to 1960s and had now reportedly extended to areas like nuclear fuel mining and exploration, supply of nuclear warhead designs, enriched fuel, transfer of dual use technology and materials for the development of nuclear weapons, delivery systems for nuclear weapons and training of the scientific personnel. “China has reportedly helped Pakistan build and operate plutonium based reactors in Khushab (in Punjab province of Pakistan). The Khushab reactors will enable Pakistan to produce weapon grade plutonium,” the MEA informed the committee.

The parliamentary panel also learnt from the MEA that China would reportedly supply enriched fuel for Pakistan's Chasma I, II, III and IV and the proposed Karachi II and III reactors for their lifetime. Beijing had also purportedly committeed to bear “a large portion of of all costs” required for not only the operational reactors of Pakistan, but also the ones, which are still under construction, the MEA informed the panel.

Pakistan, like India, is neither a signatory of to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, nor a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group, but China is.

The NSG guidelines prohibit its members to engage in civil nuclear commerce with Pakistan or any other non-NPT country. Only India, despite being a non-NPT country, got a waiver from the NSG in 2008. Beijing, however, argues that its nuclear cooperation with Islamabad is based on an agreeement the two nations signed before China joined the NSG in 2004.

As the text of the 1986 civil nuclear cooperation agreement between China and Pakistan was not made public, it is difficult for the international community from validating Chinese and Pakistani representations.

New Delhi has been concerned over Islamabad's pursuit for developing low-yield and short-range tactical nuclear weapons designed for use against opposing troops on the battlefield. It has also been alarmed by Islamabad's move to deploy such weapons as a deterrent against “surgical strikes” or incursion by India into Pakistan or territory under illegal occupation of Pakistan. As the tactical nuclear weapons are more portable and mobile, both India and United States have been worried over the possibility of such weaponry falling into the hands of terrorists in Pakistan.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs stated that it was “in agreement with the government's assessment of the Pakistani nuclear threat and the possibility of inadvertent tactical nuclear weapons use, which would have serious implications not only on the region, but across the globe”.

The MEA also told the parliamnentary panel that Pakistan's “precarious security situation” raised doubts about the “security of the nuclear power plants” in the neighbouring country.

A Q Khan, the founder of nuclear program of Pakistan, was in 2003 found to have traded know-how and technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea. Islamabad, however, swept under the carpet the proliferation network run by Khan. “Pakistan claims to have taken some steps to safeguard its assets and technology. However, there are reports that the A Q Khan network has never been fully dismantled and may still be active,” the report of the parliamentary panel quoted MEA officials saying.

“For the dialogue process (between India and Pakistan) to restart, Pakistan must abide by its 2004 commitment of not allowing its territory for use of terrorism against India,” noted the parliamentary panel. It also noted that Pakistan must realize that India's “goodwill and generosity” could not be taken for granted.

“The Government must evolve the modalities and framework for engagement on the basis of the Simla Agreement of 1972 and the Lahore Declaration of 1999 and proceed in an incremental manner,” observed the parliamentary panel. “Peace on the Line of Control, elimination of cross-border terrorism and genuine investigation and punishing the perpetrators of Mumbai and Pathankot attacks could be the probable centre point of the agenda (of India-Pakistan engagement).”


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