Khan Defends Pakistani Nuke Program

Pakistan established its nuclear weapons program as a defensive measure to avoid falling victim to "nuclear blackmail" from neighboring rival India, former top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan wrote in a commentary published by Newsweek on Monday (see GSN, May 16).

"India is engaged in a massive program to cope with the nonexistent threat posed by China and in order to become a superpower," Khan wrote. "India doesn’t need more than five weapons to hurt us badly, and we wouldn’t need more than 10 to return the favor. That is why there has been no war between us for the past 40 years."

Khan confessed in 2004 to providing nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. The scientist, who was released in 2009 from a five-year term of house arrest, said he has "little knowledge" of Pakistan's present nuclear weapons efforts (see GSN, Jan. 5).

Recent analyses have indicated that Islamabad could be holding more than 110 fielded nuclear arms, and that the South Asian state continues to ramp up its plutonium-production capacity.

"My guess is that our efforts have been to perfect the design, reduce the size of the weapons to fit on the warheads of our missile systems, and ensure a fail-safe system for their storage," Khan stated. "A country needs sufficient weapons to be stored at different places in order to have a second-strike capability. But there is a limit to these requirements."

The scientist highlighted the deterrent value of a nuclear arsenal.

"No nuclear-capable country has been subjected to aggression or occupied, or had its borders redrawn," Khan wrote. "Had Iraq and Libya been nuclear powers, they wouldn’t have been destroyed in the way we have seen recently. If we had had nuclear capability before 1971, we would not have lost half of our country -- present-day Bangladesh -- after disgraceful defeat."

Pakistan initially set aside $10 million in nuclear weapons funding annually, and it later increased the yearly budget to $20 million when the program reached "full capacity," he wrote, adding the funds covered "all salaries, transport, medical care, housing, utilities, and purchases of technical equipment and materials."

"This is but half the cost of a modern fighter aircraft. The propaganda about spending exorbitant sums on the nuclear program circulated by ignorant, often foreign-paid, Pakistanis has no substance," Khan said.

India and Pakistan "can’t afford a nuclear war, and despite our saber rattling, there is no chance of a nuclear war that would send us both back to the Stone Age," he wrote.

Khan added: "Our nuclear weapons program has given us an impregnable defense, and we are forced to maintain this deterrence until our differences with India are resolved. That would lead to a new era of peace for both countries. I hope I live to see Pakistan and India living harmoniously in the same way as the once bitter enemies Germany and France live today" (Abdul Qadeer Khan, Newsweek, May 16).

Meanwhile, Pakistan's test last month of the nuclear-capable Hatf 9 short-range ballistic missile suggests the nation's armed forces intend to boost its reliance on the weapon, potentially inviting an arms race with neighboring powers, Reuters on Sunday quoted U.S., Pakistani and Indian experts as saying (see GSN, April 19).

The Pakistani military said the weapon accommodates nuclear warheads to increase "deterrence at short ranges."

Such smaller nuclear weapons are considered a greater threat to be employed in combat, resulting in limits to nuclear arsenal reductions by various governments, according to Reuters.

"Pakistan's development and testing of nuclear-capable short-range missiles is a destabilizing and potentially dangerous development," said Daryl Kimball, who heads the Arms Control Association in Washington. "It suggests that Pakistan would seriously contemplate use on the battlefield in the event of an incursion by Indian forces."

New Delhi could deploy nuclear warheads on lower-range missiles as a means of addressing the perceived danger posed by Islamabad, according to Reuters.

"Our capability in the area of low-yield fission devices is well known," said one former Indian weapons scientist involved in the country's most recent nuclear-weapon tests in 1998. Pakistan conducted test detonations following the 1998 Indian blasts (Sanjeev Miglani, Reuters, May 15).

May 17, 2011
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Pakistan established its nuclear weapons program as a defensive measure to avoid falling victim to "nuclear blackmail" from neighboring rival India, former top Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan wrote in a commentary published by Newsweek on Monday (see GSN, May 16).

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