Monday, June 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Chinaís covert aid to Pak continues
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 22
China continues to maintain its close and covert assistance to Pakistan in nuclear and missile technologies, say independent diplomatic observers as well as western intelligence reports.

Apart from providing Pakistan with tested Lophor nuclear technology and missiles, China has sought to encircle India by placing nuclear warheads at strategic positions in Tibet and stationing of nuclear submarines and listening posts in Coco Islands of Myanmar.

The USA, which ignored its own intelligence reports for years of strategic collusion between China and Pakistan, came out with a damning report on June 3, 1999, accusing Beijing of destabilising activities by stealing US nuclear secrets and proliferating them to third countries.

The western intelligence agencies had blown the whistle on Sino-Pakistani covert relationship in the field of missile and nuclear technology many years ago.

According to a 1996 CIA report, the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation sold a special industrial furnace and high-tech diagnostic equipment. It was subsequently found that the equipment was intended for the Khushab facility of Pakistan where high temperature furnaces are used to mould uranium or plutonium.

The heavy water research reactor at Khushab is a central element of Pakistanís programme for the production of plutonium and tritium for advanced compact warheads. The Khushab facility, like that at Kahuta, is not subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections.

Khushab, with a capacity variously reported at between 40 and 70 MWT, was commissioned in March 1996 and had been under construction with Chinese assistance since the mid-1980s. Till 1995, the US Government had no indication that Pakistan had the capability to reprocess plutonium.

The USA obtained a commitment from China not to supply to Pakistan the heavy water necessary to start the unsafeguarded plutonium production reactor, but in March 1998, China had supplied Pakistan with far more heavy water than needed to operate the safeguarded KANUPP nuclear power reactor. The suggestion was obvious that the Chinese supplies enabled Pakistan to divert heavy water from the civilian plant to the Khushab military plant.

The plutonium production reactor at Khushab began operating in April 1998. Plutonium is the preferred material for building light sophisticated warheads since highly enriched uranium generally results in bulkier weapons.

Western intelligence reports confirm that the Khushab reactor provides Pakistan the ability to produce enough plutonium each year to fabricate at least one bomb, and perhaps as many as three to five bombs depending on the efficiency of the bomb design and the reactorís actual output.

The West has repeatedly expressed about the continuing Chinese assistance to Pakistan. However, little has been done as politico-strategic compulsions have always taken precedence over taking stringent steps.

India has consistently voiced its concern over the safety of Pakistanís nuclear and missile programmes and cautioned the international community that the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) technology may proflierate from Pakistan to terrorist outfits.

As Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reached Beijing today on a six-day crucial visit, he has done so against the backdrop of Chinaís continuing tactical and strategic relationship with Pakistan as well as Beijingís unswerving stand on key issues such as the border dispute and the status of Tibet.

Diplomatic observers feel that India has been placating China from 1947, notwithstanding the Chinese aggression of 1962. In 1950, India recognised Taiwan as a part of China. In 1954, India accepted Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.

In contrast, China has refused to recognise Sikkim as part of India and claims Arunachal Pradesh as its territory. Besides, it continues to have control over some 38,000 sq km of Indian territory in Aksaichin and a sizeable strategic land in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir which Pakistan illegally transferred to China in 1963.

The observers here feel that the recent recharging and regrouping of the Al-Qaida in Afghanistan-Pakistan belts should make China wary as these activities are bound to impact Chinese interests. Osama bin Laden has gone on record lending his support to the liberation of the Muslim-dominated Xinjiang province of China.

The latest video purportedly on behalf of the Al-Qaida wherein the outfit has claimed responsibility for the recent bombings in Saudi Arabia and Morocco is the latest wake-up call for China and a warning that Beijing should hold its horses in continuing to assist Pakistan in nuclear and missile technologies.

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