Pakistan believes that nuclear weapons are its “crown jewels” and a deterrent against India, a top US military official has said, even as he expressed deep concern over the safety of the nukes in the country.
He said that Pakistan’s nuclear programme is different from those of Iran and North Korea because it makes ‘extraordinary efforts’ to protect its nuclear weapons while there’s no reason to trust those two countries.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen’s statement at a public forum in Aspen, Colorado, follows a meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group in New Zealand last week where the United States, contrary to media speculations, did not raise a Chinese plan to build two nuclear reactors in Pakistan.
“These are the most important weapons in the Pakistani arsenal. That is understood by the leadership, and they go to extraordinary efforts to protect and secure them. These are their crown jewels,” the admiral said.
Resuming US-Pakistan relations that had ended in the 1990s also was important in light of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, he said.
Admiral Mullen not only defended Pakistan’s efforts to protect its nuclear arsenal but also pointed out that the Pakistani programme aimed at deterring a perceived threat from India, unlike those of Iran and North Korea that Washington says would have destabilising affects around the world.
“I have raised this issue with the Pakistani military since Day 1,” he said. “As much as we are focused on this (terrorism) threat — and the Pakistanis are more than they used to be – they see a threat in India and (having nuclear weapons) is their deterrent. They see this as a huge part of their national security.”
As for efforts by Iran and North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons, Admiral Mullen described a different situation. “There isn’t any reason to trust (Iran),” he said. “There is an uncertainty associated with Iran that is very consistent with Iran for a long time.”
North Korea’s desire for nuclear weapons and its increasing aggressiveness were cause for concern, the US military chief said, adding that he’d put North Korea “at the top of the list” of nuclear proliferation concerns.
The Chinese plan for building two additional nuclear plants in Pakistan, however, was raised informally during the five-day NSG meeting but was not placed on the agenda, apparently because Beijing ignored all efforts to hold a public debate on this issue.