India, Pakistan Nuclear Acquisition Networks Larger than Expected
Hundreds of foreign companies are actively securing elements for India and Pakistan’s nuclear programs, taking benefit of gaps in the global coordination of the industry, according to a report by a U.S.-based research group.
Using open-source data, the nonprofit Centre For Advance Defense Studies (C4ADS) report presents one of the most extensive surveys of networks providing the opponents, in a region considered as one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear flashpoints.
“India and Pakistan are taking advantage of gaps in global non-proliferation regimes and export controls to get what they need,” said Jack Margolin, a C4ADS analyst and co-author of the report.
It is occasionally possible to determine whether individual transactions are illegal by using publicly accessible data, Margolin said, and the report does not imply that organizations considered broke national or international laws or ordinances.
But past reports by the think tank, whose financial supporters include the Carnegie Corporation and the Wyss Foundation, have usually led to action by law enforcement agencies.
Spokespersons from the offices of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan did not react to requests for comment. Pakistan’s military, which plays a vital role in decision-making for the nuclear weapons plans, also refused to comment.
To identify companies included, C4ADS analyzed more than 125 million records of public trade and tender data and reports and then compared them upon already-identified entities listed by export control specialists in the United States and Japan.
Pakistan, which is subjected to strict international export limitations on its program, has 113 suspected foreign suppliers listed by the United States and Japan. However, the C4ADS report found an additional 46, many in shipment centers like Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
“In Pakistan’s case, they have a lot more stringent controls, and they get around these by using transnational networks… and exploiting opaque jurisdictions,” Margolin said.
The founder of Pakistan’s atomic bomb, AQ Khan, agreed in 2004 to trading nuclear technology to North Korea, Iran, and Libya. He was liberated a day later by Pakistani authorities, which have refused calls from international prosecutors to investigate him.
India has a waiver that permits it to buy nuclear technology from international runs. The Indian government will enable inspections of some nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency, however not all of them.
Neither India or Pakistan has endorsed the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, adhered to by most nuclear powers. Consequently, they are not compelled to submit to IAEA oversight over all of their facilities.
C4ADS identified 222 companies that traded with the nuclear facilities in India that had no IAEA oversight. Of these, 86 companies did business with more than one such nuclear facility in India.
“It’s evidence that more needs to be done, and that there needs to be a more sophisticated approach taken to India,” Margolin said. “Just because the product is not explicitly tied for a military facility, that doesn’t mean that the due diligence manner ends there.”
India and Pakistan have gone to war three times – twice over the contradicted Kashmir region – since they won liberation from the British colonial government in 1947.
Having for years quietly developed nuclear weapons aptitude, the two revealed themselves atomic powers following tit-for-tat nuclear experiments in 1998.
A few years later, in 2002, the two opponents nearly went to war for a fourth time, following an attack by Pakistan-based militants on the parliament in New Delhi. And a year ago, a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in a section of Kashmir controlled by India sparked another flare-up in tensions.
Both countries are expected to have around 150 useable nuclear warheads, respectively, according to the Federation of American Scientists, a nonprofit group trailing stockpiles of atomic weapons.