New Delhi : Chinese assistance to Pakistan in developing a nuclear bomb emboldened it to fuel the Kashmir insurgency in 1989, says a noted security expert who has done considerable research on the issue.
“Till 1989, not much was known about Pakistan’s nuclear programme. The first indication was (disgraced scientist) A.Q. Khan’s interview to (Indian journalist) Kuldip Nayar in which he spoke about possessing the bomb. It all came together when the azadi movement erupted in 1989. There was the sudden realisation of Pakistan’s capability,” Rear Admiral (retd) K Raja Menon told IANS.
The Kashmir insurgency could “never have been embarked upon if the Pakistanis had not had their confidence bolstered by the ownership of nuclear weapons”, added Menon, a former assistant chief of naval staff (operations) who has also referred to the subject in his book “The Nuclear Strategy for India”.
Speaking on the subject at a seminar here last week, Menon said: “There is a direct link between Chinese nuclear assistance to Pakistan and trans-border terror attacks which we have been a bit shy of bringing to the notice of the Chinese authorities.”
“A great diplomatic offensive is called for to explain to the Chinese that instability on the sub-continent is initiated by Chinese nuclear assistance to Pakistan,” he said at the second roundtable discussion on “50 Years After 1962: India-China Relations” organised by the India International Centre, the Subbu Forum and the Society for Policy Studies (SPS).
Menon also wondered whether then Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf would have embarked on the 1999 Kargil war or terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba on the Dec 2001 parliament attack “without the confidence that conventional war has become difficult on the sub-continent”.
“The price to pay for indulging in terror attacks across the border appears to have been watered down by Pakistan’s nuclear weapons,” he added.
Thus, the “worst aspect” of the Chinese aid “has been the effect it has had on terror motivation from across the border”, Menon noted.
He also said that China’s “duplicity” in helping Pakistan develop its nuclear bomb while simultaneously improving ties with India was “unbelievable”.
“China has a record of duplicity with India that is unbelievable. Remarkably, the relationship between India and China began to improve from 1985 onwards but yet this was the very period when they were arming Pakistan against India.
“Every time there was a major state visit, behind the scenes the Chinese would be transferring some major weapon or component to Pakistan,” Menon said and then went on to list eight instances of this “duplicity”:
1981-83: Chinese foreign minister Huang Hua visits India on his first visit/China signs nuclear deal with Pakistan; Chinese give plutonium bomb design to Pakistan; CIA breaks open A.Q. Khan’s briefcase in the US and discovers the Chinese bomb design.
1987-88: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi makes what is called path-breaking visit to China/Chinese material starts flowing into Pakistan.
1989-90: Chinese premier Li Peng visits India; Sino-Indian relationship apparently thaws/China tests Pakistan’s bomb in Lop-Nor; Pakistan becomes a nuclear power/Missile collaboration deal signed; Transfers of M11 missiles starts.
1992: President R. Venkataraman visits China/China explodes bomb during the visit/M11 transfers completed.
1993: Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao visits China/Second consignment of M11 missiles shipped to Pakistan.
1994-96: Chinese President Jiang Zemin visits India/Entire M9 missile factory shipped to Pakistan/Two consignments of ring magnets sent to Pakistan for centrifuges/Furnace shipped to Khushab for plutomium bomb/M9 factory operational in Fatehjung.
1997-99: External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh visits China (1999)/North Korea’s No-Dong missiles transit China to Pakistan, refuelling in China/Pakistan tests Ghauri/Shaheen I comes out of Fatehjung.
2000: Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji visits India/Chinese aid to Pakistani scientists continues through visits and training.