From the Editor: Akhtar Mahmud Faruqui

March 24, 2006

US Refusal: A Blessing in Disguise?

The Press Conference at the Islamabad Aiwan-i-Sadr on March 4 furnished an unusual spectacle: US ambassador Ryan C. Crocker seated close to First Lady Laura Bush with eyes closed and presenting a picture of nonchalance, a diffident President Musharraf fidgeting nervously at the rostrum, and President Bush visibly lacking warmth and going through the formality of defining US-Pakistan ties.
The visit had earlier buoyed expectations. Only a few days ago, President Bush had told the PTV that the “first thing that’s really important for people to understand is that relations between our countries often times depend on the relations between the leaders…” His visit would give a chance to speak to the people of Pakistan, and say, look we care for you, and remind people that in our country there’s a great (community of) Pakistani Americans.
Yet, on March 4 such noble protestations hardly found a vocal expression. Instead, the US President made a jarring remark that rattled Pakistanis – within and without. “We discussed a civilian nuclear program, and I explained that Pakistan and India are different countries with different needs and different histories. So, as we proceed forward, our strategy will take in effect those well-known differences.”
Given the fact that both Pakistan and India enjoy equal nuclear power status, and both acted clandestinely and zestfully to reach the epic goal, the preferential reference to the latter sounded particularly stinging.
But the remark did not come as a complete surprise to knowledgeable viewers who were seized of the fact that US patronage of India’s nuclear strivings has had a precedent. India successfully graduated into the nuclear weapon club, thanks to the support that it unwittingly received from the US. Congressional Committee hearings on the first Indian nuclear explosion in the seventies led to the startling disclosure that over 1,100 Indian scientists and engineers had received training at various AEC facilities in the United States. What is more, a 72-million dollar US AID loan facilitated the installation of India’s first major reactor at Tarapur. As early as 1956, India imported 21 tons of heavy water for its CIRRUS reactor. It was plutonium from CIRRUS that was used for the 1974 Pokhran explosion.
Another Washington report identifies India as one of the nine sensitive countries “which obtained US government technology and computer codes useful for developing atomic weapons despite laws limiting the release of such data.” The USA indirectly assisted India to stage its 1974 nuclear explosion through the liberal publication of unclassified (fuel) reprocessing information. The latest nuclear deal between the US and India therefore should not come as a complete surprise.
A reason advanced for signing the March 2 agreement in Delhi was that India, unlike Pakistan, has not been a nuclear proliferator! The facts speak to the contrary. India’s role in aiding and abetting Iran’s nuclear program is well known. So also its shady dealings with Iraq. To cite just one example: On January 19, 2002, the Los Angeles Times splashed a screaming headline over the front page “Indian Firm Aided Iraq”. The disclosure came at a time when the US was abuzz with war preparations against Baghdad. The Times charge was well substantiated. Said a paragraph preceding the explosive text: “In defiance of UN resolutions, a company used deceit to export material that could be used in weapons, Indian court records show.” Replete with evidence, the exhaustive story by Times Staff Writer Bob Drogin in New Delhi, was revealing: “An obscure Indian trading company has provided the first clear evidence that Iraq obtained materials over the last four years to produce or deliver weapons of mass destruction. The company, NEC Engineering Private Ltd., used phony customs declarations and other false documents, as well as front companies in three countries, to export 10 consignments of raw materials and equipment that Saddam Hussein’s regime could use to produce chemical weapons and propellants for long-range missiles, according to Indian court sources…”
Regretfully, while efforts to smear Pakistan have followed an unrelentingly uniform pattern, such disclosures hardly recur in the Western media and are conveniently forgotten by journalists, diplomats, politicians, and administration!
What is the immediate offshoot of the March 2 Indo-US nuclear agreement? Pakistan is being advised to harness alternative sources of energy! A country outclassed in conventional resources and in pressing need of nuclear power is being asked to spurn the nuclear energy option. Is history in the process of repeating itself?
There is the singularly inexplicable precedent of India playing foul in the seventies by conducting a nuclear test and restrictions being imposed on Pakistan to penalize Islamabad so as to curtail its nuclear strivings! Soon after the Indian explosion, Canada backed out from its agreement to extend technical support and fuel to the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP). Blackouts were predicted in Pakistan’s ‘city of lights’ – Karachi – as the nuclear plant meeting one-third of the city’s needs at that time found itself precariously perched. Numerous measures were taken to scuttle Pakistan’s peaceful program: even young scientists aspiring to pursue nuclear science studies at foreign universities were barred from doing so. Inertia crept into the vibrant research centers and gleaming research reactors established by the visionary Dr I. H. Usmani whose quest for quintessential excellence was inspirational.
The restrictions took their toll. During an exasperating period of several years not a single megawatt nuclear capacity was added to the grid. Karachiites gained familiarity with KANUPP’s “teething problems,” “load shedding” operations and “reactor tripping” outages. But the blackouts proved a passing phenomenon. Thanks to painstaking strivings and subsequent successes on several fronts – uranium exploration, prospecting and mining in D. G. Khan; laboratory undertakings at PINSTECH whose architectural beauty was competently matched by R&D; training at the Center for Nuclear Studies and the Karachi Nuclear Power Training Center; development of indigenous nuclear expertise – KANUPP began to puff and gradually gathered steam on locally manufactured nuclear fuel. The restrictions imposed by Canada and other Western countries came to be regarded as a blessing in disguise as Pakistan was launched on a self-reliant course. Pakistani scientists bravely demonstrated that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
The March 4 memories hurt but as a nation we have to learn from past experiences and move on. Blissfully, there is infinite hope in the words of the late Professor Abdus Salam: “Ours is a numerous - potentially a great - nation. Our tragedy is that we do not seem to realize this; we act in a narrow manner only befitting a small nation. Our people have a natural endowment of first-class talent in science - once it is developed. I am not saying this as a starry-eyed patriot. I know this from experience after a lifetime of supervising researchers of many nationalities. Likewise, there is no question that we have a great talent in technology. Could a people who can write a whole surah of the Holy Book on a grain of rice not succeed equally when it comes to microelectronics?”

–afaruqui@pakistanlink.com


- afaruqui@pakistanlink.com

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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