When Prithvi spooked Pakistan to tread the path of nuclear proliferation
New Delhi, June 04: More than developing a nuclear bomb for its own, Pakistan's larger malaise is proliferation of the centrifuge technology. Pakistan indulged in clandestine nuclear trading with both North Korea and Iran. AQ Khan, the father of Pakistani atomic bomb, was at the helm of it all.
At one point of time, Islamabad was working on a Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan bloc that could defy India and the West. Pakistan also traded centrifuges for missiles with North Korea.
It all started when India launched Integrated Guided Missile Development Program in 1983 which was aimed at achieving self-sufficiency in the development and production of wide range of ballistic missiles.
Prithvi was the first missile to be developed under the program. Developed as a battlefield missile, Prithvi could potentially carry a low yield nuclear warheads. At that time, Pakistan did not have a missile to match Prithvi's striking capabilities so they approached North Korea for Nodong missiles. In exchange, North Korea demanded centrifuge technology from Pakistan. A deal was struck and North Korea and Pakistan began to share missile expertise in 1992.
North Korea, Pakistan and the AQ Khan network:
North Korea and Pakistan began to share missile expertise in 1992. In 1993, December, former Pakistan PM Benazir Bhutto initiated a deal with North Korea for Nodong missiles. Pakistan, at that time, was also worried about India's rapid advances in missile technology.
Father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan then stepped in to provide Pakistan with an alternative nuclear weapons delivery option by obtaining intermediate-range liquid-fuel ballistic missiles from North Korea.
In November 1995, North Korea and Pakistan apparently struck a deal for 12-25, Nodong missiles, and at least one transporter erector launcher or mobile erector launcher, the delivery of which reportedly began in 1996-97. It is widely assumed that the provision of centrifuge technology was part of the deal and was given to North Korea in exchange for the Nodong missiles, according to the book "AQ Khan and onward proliferation from Pakistan".
AQ Khan is also said to have helped Iran in developing nuclear weapons. AQ Khan's nuclear network came to light when American intelligence operatives came to know about five giant cargo containers full of specialized centrifuge parts being loaded into one of the nondescript vessels that plied the Straits of Malacca.
The shipment was later seized near Suez Canal. That seizure led to the unravelling of a trading network that sent bomb-making designs and equipment to at least three countries -- Iran, North Korea and Libya.