by Mohsin Ali O.B.E.
"I AM BECOME DEATH, THE SHATTERER OF WORLDS..."
These were the words from the Hindu scriptures the BHAGAVAD GITA that came
to the mind of sanskrit scholar Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the
American atomic bomb (code name, The Fat boy), as he watched the first
nuclear weapon explode across the New Mexican desert in the summer of 1945.
And these frightening words nearly came true during the 1962 CUBAN missile
crisis when the world, for the first time, came within minutes of being
destroyed by Soviet-U.S. nuclear strikes.
In sharp contrast to Lord Krishna's ancient words, the Chinese leader Mao
tse-tung in 1946 declared: "The atom bomb is a paper tiger which the United
States reactionaries use to scare people. It looks terrible, but in fact it
isn1t...all reactionaries are paper tigers."
He also famously said in 1938: "Political power comes out of the barrel of a
gun." And, "Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with
bloodshed." President Bush in a major speech on February 11 on the dangers
of nuclear proliferation proposed strong measures to prevent the spread of
nuclear weapons and restrict the production of nuclear fuel to a few
nations. He argued for the change by saying that the world's consensus
against proliferation meant little unless it was translated into action.
"Every civilized nation has a stake in preventing the spread of weapons of
The President called for new international efforts to prevent terrorists and
renegade countries from acquiring nuclear technology on the black market.
He proposed new restrictions that would limit the ability of countries to
obtain reprocessing and enrichment technology for what they say are peaceful
civilian uses, such as power plants.
The world's need to develop alternative nuclear and other energy sources
will continue to grow as the demand for oil becomes greater.
Please note this startling projection. Within possibly the next 30 years the
combined demand for oil of India and China, with a total population of over
two billion, will amount to 120 million barrels daily. Currently, the whole
world, including the U.S., consumes 60 to 70 million barrels of oil daily.
President Bush warned that chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear
weapons are becoming easier to acquire, build, hide and transport.
Weapons of Mass Destruction -- atomic, biological, chemical -- along with
global terrorism are the biggest danger in this new century. The worst
nightmare would be terrorists getting hold of nuclear weapons and material.
So the President proposed expanding the U.S. program that helps pay to
destroy badly guarded nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union and to
retrain its scientists. This could also be expanded to offer scientists in
such countries as Libya and Iraq jobs and other financial rewards so they
do not look to sell their services elsewhere.
Even accidental releases of radio activity can be devastating across
continents. Remember the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion in the
Today, there are nine nuclear powers -- the U.S., Russia, Britain, France,
China (the ĪBig Five1 U N Security Council permanent members with veto
powers) ; and late comers Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
Israel has never admitted that it has nuclear weapons and will not allow
U.N. experts to inspect its nuclear facilities.
Israel, India and Pakistan also refused to sign the key 1963 Nuclear Partial
Test Ban Treaty, the protracted and complex negotiations of which I covered
in Geneva as Reuters diplomatic correspondent.
The U.S. continues to shield Israel's nuclear activities and has not taken
any action against it as it did when it imposed trade and other sanctions on
India and Pakistan when they carried out nuclear tests during the Clinton
The U.S. acquired nuclear weapons in 1945 and now has an estimated 10,640
warheads. The Soviet Union acquired them in 1949 and Russia now has 8,600;
Britain in 1952 and has 200; France in 1960 and has 350; China in 1964 and
has 400; India in 1974 and has 30 to 35; Pakistan in 1998 and has 24 to 48;
Israel has about 100 to 200 nuclear warheads; North Korea in 2,003 and has
at least two. It is not publicly known when Israel got its first nuclear
President Bush in his policy speech, for the first time, made a sensational
and detailed disclosure of how American intelligence operatives had traced a
clandestine nuclear network of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of
Pakistan's nuclear bomb, which had supplied nuclear material and know-how
to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
Dr. Khan operated a shopping venture that sold the know- how, designs and
equipment for making nuclear weapons and even arranged delivery. His
audacious and lucrative enterprise, started in the late 1980s, began
unraveling last October when Italian authorities seized illegal centrifuges
from a ship which was on its way from Malaysia to Libya.
Drawings of a nuclear warhead that Libya recently surrendered as part of its
decision to renounce banned weapons are of a 1960 Chinese design, but
probably came from Pakistan, according to diplomats and arms control
China is widely assumed to have been Pakistan's key supplier of much of the
clandestine nuclear technology used to establish Islamabad as a nuclear
power in 1998. Some of that technology was resold to what President Bush
described as "rogue regimes" through a black market network headed by Dr.
The drawings appeared to be of a design never used by Pakistan, which later
developed more modern nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the designs probably
came from China as part of a decades long transfer of technology that Dr.
Khan used to develop Pakistan's nuclear weapons soon after India's advent as
a nuclear power.
Libya surrendered the drawings to the United Nations Vienna-based
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December after its President
Muammar Gaddhafi volunteered to scrap all research into developing banned
Iran also recently announced it would not produce nuclear weapons. But it
has not abandoned its uranium enrichment program capable of producing
material for nuclear weapons.
North Korea continues to run a nuclear weapons program using plutonium. But
U S officials believe it has a program based on enriched uranium, possibly
using technology imported from Pakistan. North Korea has denied this
Dr. Khan became the focus of an international investigation on the basis of
information Libya and Iran gave the IAEA, which administers the 1970
International Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), about where they
covertly brought nuclear technology that could be used to make weapons.
Hundreds of millions of dollars were reported to have changed hands over the
past 15 years in Dr. Khan's secret nuclear procurement chain which ran from
Pakistan to Malaysia to Libya.
Dr. Khan has confessed to President Musharraf, asked for his pardon, and
publicly claimed that he carried out his nuclear black market trade without
the knowledge and permission of the Pakistan government.
The NPT has a fatal flaw. It allows nations to make uranium and plutonium
for nuclear power plants, even though the materials can be reprocessed for
bombs. So President Bush wants countries to openly purchase the fuel for
power plants if they cannot already make it. The IAEA would regulate such
sales under tough inspections.
Last May President Bush formed the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI),
a group of 11 countries that stop and search suspect cargo, such as the
intercepted Libyan shipment. He now also wants the U N Security Council to
pass a resolution criminalizing the spread of sensitive nuclear materials.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration has budgeted $10.7 billion for the
smaller "star wars" missile defense system, a project that risks China and
other nations will build more nuclear weapons.
Several international and American experts on arms control have strongly
criticized President Bush's speech. They claim that his call for changes in
international rules on the sale of nuclear equipment would effectively
revoke the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The other key nuclear agreement
is the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which was negotiated between
Washington and Moscow.
But Jesse Helms blocked its ratification by the Senate.
The NPT directs those states already possessing nuclear weapons to engage in
good faith negotiations at reducing and eventually eliminating these
Governments of non-nuclear weapons countries claim that the U.S. -- with its
overwhelming military advantage in the world, conventional and nuclear --
seems bent on continuing to create and threaten the use of nuclear weapons.
Such critics cite ongoing work on such weapons as a "Robust Nuclear Earth
Penetrator" as clear evidence of Washington's intentions to pursue nuclear
weaponry and not work towards its elimination.
President Bush has said, "We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants,
who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties, and then systemically break
Thus, his January 2002 Nuclear Posture Review calls for the development of
low-yield or so-called "mini-nukes" and integrates nuclear weapons with
conventional strike options.
It discusses the preemptive strike option which allows the possible
first-use of nuclear weapons, even against non-nuclear countries if
Washington believes a country may use chemical or biological weapons against
the U.S. or its allies.
In the post-Iraq invasion period this makes many governments and peoples
Critics of President Bush's latest proposals say that Dr Oppenheimer and his
colleagues from the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic
bomb, were correct in believing that the only real way of dealing with
nuclear proliferation is to ban nuclear weapons altogether, everywhere.
Mohamed el Baradei, the head of the IAEA, recently wrote: "We must abandon
the unworkable notion that it is morally reprehensible for some countries to
pursue weapons of mass destruction yet morally acceptable for others to rely
on them...and indeed to continue to refine their capacities and postulate
plans for their use."
Coincidentally, in a dramatic development, India and Pakistan held critical
talks in Islamabad in mid-February on a timetable to resolve decades of
It was the nuclear armed neighbors first peace talks in 2 1/2 years. The
discussions are aimed at ending a half century of conflict since they became
independent nations on August 15, 1947 following the partition of the Indian
subcontinent and the end of British rule there.
"There is a realization in India and Pakistan that war is NOT an option;
that you have to look at ways to find a peaceful resolution of the
outstanding disputes between the two countries," a Pakistani spokesman
said after a meeting between Foreign Ministry officials of the two
3There's new momentum; this momentum must be maintained,2 he added.
This seems to prove right the often repeated statement of Lady Margaret
Thatcher, former British Conservative Prime Minister, that the nuclear
"deterrence does deter" and that is why NATO must retain its nuclear
deterrent and the West must not give up its right of first use of nuclear
Under discussion between Delhi and Islamabad are eight key issues, including
the explosive divided region of Kashmir, confidence building measures in the
nuclear field, terrorism and drugs, and economic cooperation.
Kashmir has the been the cause of two of the countries1 three wars since
independence. A ceasefire line has divided the former princely Kashmir state
between India and Pakistan. Since 1989 more than 65,000 people have been
killed in an insurgency in the Indian controlled parts of the north
Himalayan Kashmir region.
In January Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee agreed to discuss
Kashmir and President Musharraf then promised firmly to put an end to
terrorism directed by Muslim insurgent groups against India from Pakistani
India, which is a majority Hindu state, accuses Pakistan of training and
arming Islamic guerrillas fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or
for the Kashmir state's merger with Pakistan.
Just a few years ago India and Pakistan were on the brink of a nuclear war.
What continues to make the situation extremely grave is that both have
nuclear weapons and, with only a few minutes warning time, a
misunderstanding or miscalculation could trigger an atomic holocaust. Both
India and Pakistan have short and medium range delivery missiles for
delivery of their reported total of some 80 nuclear warheads.
Published American studies estimate that a nuclear exchange between India
and Pakistan would initially kill 2 million people, cause 100 million
casualties and with radioactive fall out contaminate south and central Asia,
as well as much of the globe.
Einstein wrote in 1946: "THE UNLEASHED POWER OF THE ATOM HAS CHANGED
EVERYTHING SAVE OUR MODES OF THINKING, AND WE THUS DRIFT TOWARD UNPARALLELED
This frightening nuclear nightmare will be with us for a long, long time.
Will our world end with a nuclear bang or, as T. S. Eliot said, "a whimper."
Isao Hashimoto, "The Explosions of Every Nuclear Bomb to Date"
John J. Lumpkin, "U.S.
Missile Defense System Flunks Test," Associated Press, February 14, 2005
"Israeli businessman sentenced in nuke device plot," USA Today, August 5, 2005
[The ground-breaking deal now faces a major hurdle in the US, where it needs
the approval of Congress, and in the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group, an
international body that regulates the transfer of nuclear technology.--Jo
seals nuclear cooperation pact with India," Financial Times, March 2
[The FPC report says that Britain's independent deterrent is an illusion.
The missiles are stored in the United States and have to be collected by a
British submarine before it goes on patrol.
Aldermaston is run by a consortium headed by Lockheed Martin, a US company,
and there are 92 Americans working there, including the managing director
and four of his senior managers.
"The UK should cease to try to keep up appearances and adopt a policy based
on the reality that it is not an independent nuclear power," the FPC report
concludes.--Michael Smith, "Revealed:
UK develops secret nuclear warhead," Sunday Times, March 12, 2006]
[He was the CIA's expert on Pakistan's nuclear secrets, but Rich Barlow was
thrown out and disgraced when he blew the whistle on a US cover-up. Now he's
to have his day in court.--Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, "The
man who knew too much," Guardian, October 13, 2007]
[Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the
FBI, . . . says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in
the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who
were selling the information on to black market buyers, including
Pakistan.--Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, Joe Lauria, "For sale: West's deadly nuclear secrets," Sunday Times, January 6, 2008]
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