Thursday, November 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak-Saudi nuke nexus?
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 6
After the lid has been blown off from the Pakistan-North Korea nexus on nuclear weapons cooperation, a similar clandestine cooperation is understood to be on between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia with China playing a key role in the murky behind-the-scene international power games.

According to reports received here through diplomatic channels, Saudi Arabia has been secretly involved for years in funding Pakistanís missile and nuclear programme purchases from China.

In the past few years, China, which has a declared ambition of becoming a world superpower by the year 2025, has cleverly dovetailed its foreign policy, energy strategy and military and security imperatives in such a way that its clout with the oil-producing countries has gone up significantly. A clear example of it is that while until 1995 China was a net exporter of oil, in 2001, it imported over 60 million tonnes of Ďblack goldí.

The closeness between Islamabad and Riyadh has been phenomenal and cuts across party affiliations or the political set-up in Pakistan. It is not without significance that the first foreign tour of Gen Pervez Musharraf, who ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup on October 12, 1999, was to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, Mr Sharif himself, his younger brother and their families are living in Saudi Arabia after a secret deal between General Musharraf and Mr Sharif in which Riyadh had played a key role.

During Mr Nawaz Sharifís aborted prime ministerial tenure, Saudi Arabia had been funding Pakistanís nuclear and missile programme purchases from China. It is significant to note in this context that the North Korean missiles (red missiles painted green by Pakistan) trade-off for transfer of Pakistani nuclear arsenal know-how in the late nineties took place at a time when the Pakistani economy was in shambles. It is understood that Saudi Arabia bailed Pakistan out from this financial crisis, which some in diplomatic circles take as Saudiís funding of Pakistanís nuclear and missile programme purchases from China.

The Islamabad-Riyadh close cooperation was evident shortly after Pakistanís nuclear tests in May, 1999, when Saudi Prince Sultan visited Pakistan and toured the uranium-enrichment plant and missile-production facilities at Kahuta.

According to international strategic analysts, if these reports are correct, it connotes two things. One, Saudi Arabia has given money to China for Pakistanís missile and nuclear programme which means Riyadh could well be buying a nuclear capability from Beijing through a proxy state --Pakistan.

Secondly, it also means that Saudi Arabia could leapfrog to the status of a de facto nuclear state the day it wishes to buy a few shipments from Pakistan.

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