WESTERN institutions’ hue and cry over Pakistan’s nuclear programme and strategic assets comes in no dearth, but the recent report of King’s College London (KCL) – titled as “Pakistan’s Strategic Nuclear and Missile Industries” – is the first of its kind, as it attempts to hit hard on Pakistan’s missile program, along with overall nuclear programme, in such detail. KCL, as is well-known, is a premier, globally renowned institution serving as one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research universities, and is considered as an authoritative source of academic research, which is globally valued.
Pakistan has faced allegations repeatedly that being a non-NPT state, it has proliferated nuclear technology to other countries, and also proliferated technology inwards to make its own bomb. Notably, the same argument is not applied to India, which is also a non-NPT state but is generally presented as having a ‘responsible’ record at the proliferation front. Pity, that is. It was on the back of such a ‘record’ that India was granted a highly controversial waiver in 2008 from NSG, allowing it to have nuclear trade with cartel’s countries.
Similarly when in May 2016 both India and Pakistan applied for the NSG membership, India received a welcoming response with the support by the US, while Pakistan is consequently fighting its case on the criterion based approach. Thanks to some strong opposition to ‘pick and choose’ type of approach – from within NSG spearheaded by China – US and other India-backers have so far not been able to have their way. Seen in this backdrop, the timing of launch of the report becomes very significant. Targeted, indeed.
Coming to the allegations and concerns raised in the report, as far as self-sufficiency is concerned, there is no industry in the world which can be termed as wholly self-sufficient in producing all the equipment it needs. Many countries prefer to buy a products/material instead of producing the same, even after having an ability to produce, because production may be a costly affair, as compared to buying it. The technology that Pakistan is accused of importing with dual-use has a wide number of potential applications in the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear weapon production and other strategic applications, as well as having efficacy in civil industries.
It would not be wrong to assume that this report from such as well-known institution seems to be aiming – at this crucial moment – to impact negatively on Pakistan’s entry into the cartel by influencing the opinions of policy-makers and opinion-makers in the different capitals vis-à-vis Pakistan’s membership of NSG. While a decision is to be made by the Group’s members with consensus, which seems hard to achieve at the moment, such reports may give an edge to the Indian bid – image wise, precisely – as Pakistan has been insisting on uniform and transparent criteria for non-NPT states, while India is insisting for a ‘merit-based’ approach.
Pakistan has presented a strong case for its bid to enter into the group on the basis of its strong commitment to the international objectives of the nuclear non-proliferation and robust command and control systems of its civilian nuclear programme. It is well known to the world that Pakistan has instituted an elaborate export control regime, legislative framework and comprehensive regulatory and administrative measures. Its export control lists are in harmony with those of the NSG, Missile Technology Control Regime and the Australia Group.
Islamabad’s official position is that Pakistan’s desire to participate in the NSG stands on solid grounds of technical experience, capability and well-established commitment to nuclear safety. But this report, as mentioned above, could give an advantage to India and questions could be raised on the Pakistan’s commitment to export control regime and its opposition to the “exclusive membership” of the NSG for India.
— The writer works with the Institute of Policy Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.