PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR CAPABILITY (Senate - February 20, 1992)


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From the New York Times, Feb. 19, 1992
The Chastened Pakistanis: Peace With United States Is Aim
From the Washington Post, Feb. 7, 1992
Pakistan Official Affirms Capacity for Nuclear Device: Foreign Minister Vows To Contain Technology

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Mr. PRESSLER. Mr. President, on February 6, 1992, the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, Shahryar Khan, while on a visit to Washington, admitted that his country has the components and technology necessary to assemble `at least one' nuclear weapon. I found the Foreign Secretary's admission very interesting for two reasons.

First, it marked the first time the Pakistani Government has publicly admitted that it possesses a nuclear device. Second, it came less than a month after I met with Foreign Secretary Khan and other government officials in Islamabad.

Mr. President, the admission demonstrates that United States policy toward Pakistan is beginning to produce results. In the early 1980's there was an increasing belief on the part of many in this Nation, myself included, that Pakistan

was developing a nuclear weapon. As a result, in 1985, Congress adopted an amendment, which I sponsored, tying the continuation of foreign aid to Pakistan to the President's ability to certify that the country did not possess a nuclear device.

In 1990, the President was unable to continue making that certification and, under the provisions of the Pressler amendment, as it has come to be known, foreign assistance to Pakistan was cut off. Throughout it all, government officials in Pakistan continued to deny that their country had developed a nuclear weapon. That is no longer the case.

I applaud Pakistan's decision in this matter. This admission was necessary if any progress is to be made with regard to nuclear nonproliferation in that part of the world. As I have said previously, I also applaud Pakistan's support for the proposed five-power talks involving the United States, Russia, China, India, and Pakistan designed to open a dialogue on ways to reduce the nuclear threat in that part of the world. Indeed, I would take this opportunity to once again call upon India to offer its support for such a process.

Having said all this, Mr. President, let me also say that more must be done to stem the tide of nuclear proliferation in South Asia. Until that goal is achieved, the United States should not abandon its policy toward Pakistan. That policy is working. Progress is being made.

I will continue, at every reasonable opportunity, to encourage all developing nations to follow the lead of the world powers and begin to reduce stockpiles of both nuclear and conventional weapons. Recent events in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere have created a unique opportunity to make meaningful progress toward establishing a safer world. However, these efforts will prove futile unless all countries are brought into the process.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that articles from the New York Times of February 19, 1992, and the Washington Post of February 7, 1992, concerning this issue, be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the articles were ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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From the New York Times, Feb. 19, 1992


The Chastened Pakistanis: Peace With United States Is Aim


Islamabad, Pakistan, February 17: Faced with an embargo on virtually all American aid and a cutoff of major military sales because of its nuclear weapons program, Pakistan has embarked on the precarious process of recovering its friendship with the United States.

In the last few weeks, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has moved with some decisiveness to persuade Washington that it should not abandon Pakistan, now that its role as a gateway to China and, more important, as a front-line adversary of the Soviet Union is no longer needed.

In rapid succession, Pakistan publicly admitted the extent of its nuclear weapons program, withdrew its military support for Afghan rebels while endorsing a United Nations peace plan and violently halted a march by Kashmiri secessionists toward the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir.

These steps, Western diplomats here say, reflect an emerging pragmatism in foreign affairs intended both to blunt India's efforts to dominate South Asia and to lay claim to being the rightful partner of the newly independent Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union. None of this will be possible, Pakistani officials say, if relations with Washington deteriorate further.


`Some sense has been shaken in with no aid coming in,' said senior military officer, who insisted on anonymity. `There is the feeling that we have to get our act together as a nation. I think we have been generally chastened and chastised.'

Yet Mr. Sharif is finding that domestic political dangers and newly emerging regional interests are conditioning both the pace and nature of his overtures to Washington.

The reversal of the Government's Afghanistan policy and the suppression of the Kashmir march, in particular, have drawn the wrath of the fundamentalist Jamat-e-Islami party. The party's leader, Qazi Hussain, insists that the only legitimate government possible in Afghanistan is one led by the fundamentalist rebels, who deserve to rule because, in his view, they drove out the Soviet Army.

But many of the Central Asian republics, wary of the encroachment of fundamentalism in their domains, are encouraging a moderate government in Kabul and have told Pakistan that they will not tolerate a rebel triumph. Among the more moderate members of the National Assembly here, Pakistan's larger regional interests are now seen as vastly outweighing any emotional commitment to the spread of militant Islam in Afghanistan.

`Unless we have a good relationship with Afghanistan, we have no chance of establishing social, cultural, economic and geographical links with the newly independent Muslim Central Asian countries,' Kunwar Khalid Yunus, a National Assembly member, wrote recently. `If we lose this chance again, as we did in the late 70's, and last year just because of zealots' pressure, God may not give us another opportunity.'


Mr. Sharif also decided that he could afford no more confrontations with India over the disputed territory of Kashmir. In the face of criticism from the religious right and the emotions of Kashmiris in Pakistan, he had a potentially incendiary march by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, the separatist group with the widest support in the Indian-controlled Vale of Kashmir, brutally halted.

But it was in Washington that Pakistan took its most risky step when the Foreign Secretary, Shahrya M. Khan, disclosed that Islamabad had the ability to make nuclear weapons. That acknowledgment, while confirming that the Administration had known all along, accomplished two things, in the view of Western diplomats.

First, it told the Bush Administration, which has invoked a law, the so-called Pressler amendment, to ban aid to Pakistan because of its nuclear program, that the country wanted to put its cards on the table ad begin the process of removing sanctions. Second, it renewed pressure on India to respond to Pakistan's call for talks on nuclear proliferation in South Asia.

Pakistan has suggested that the United States, Russia, China, India and itself discuss ways to reduce the threat of a nuclear exchange and hopefully lead to the banning of nuclear weapons in the region.

`The Pakistanis want to get out of Pressler,' said a Western diplomat here. `They are serious about the five-power talks. In itself they are not a way out of Pressler, but they provide a way forward.'

At the same time, the United States is clearly eager not to alienate the Pakistanis. Despite the ban on military sales, the Bush Administration has not only permitted, but, Western diplomats here say, assisted Pakistan in buying spare parts for its fleet of F-16 jets, purchases that State Department lawyers have determined to be permissible under the law. And last month Pakistan's Chief of Staff, Gen. Asif Nawaz, visited Washington, where he was treated much like a visiting head of state.


Prime Minister Sharif, with the cooperation of President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, a major force in the power structure, has moved to eliminate opposition to the new policies in the army, which had become more sympathetic to fundamentalism in recent years.

Most visible was his decision to retire a hard-core fundamentalist general, Hammed Gul, and to install as army chief General Nawaz, who has repeatedly stressed the need for the army to stay out of politics.

`As far as fundamentalism is concerned,' the senior military officer said, `we want to be practicing Muslims. We want to be moderates. This is what our religion teaches, moderation, tolerance, the middle path.'

At the same time, Pakistani officials regard with some amusement Washington's seeming frenzied concern about the spread of fundamentalism in Central Asia, fears they hope to exploit by presenting themselves as sober pragmatists who just happen to be Muslims. Because they see Central Asia as their natural ally, the Pakistanis are encouraging Washington to regard Islamabad as a partner in cementing links with the Central Asian republics, and in the process limiting the influence of Iran.

Whether this strategy will be effective is difficult to say at this point, but Western diplomats here are not immune to its appeal. A senior diplomat said, `There is a competition to see what is going on there.'


From the Washington Post, Feb. 7, 1992


Pakistan Official Affirms Capacity for Nuclear Device: Foreign Minister Vows To Contain Technology


Pakistani Foreign Secretary Shahryar Khan said yesterday his nation now has the components and know-how to assemble at least one nuclear explosive `device,' marking the first time a Pakistani official has confirmed publicly the extent of the country's nuclear program.

Khan's admission came after meetings with administration and congressional officials in which he reiterated Pakistan's pledge not to explode such a device or transfer nuclear technology to other Islamic states or Third World countries that have sought to obtain it.

`The capability is there,' Kahn told reporters and editors during a 45-minute interview at The Washington Post about Pakistan's nuclear capability, adding that his country possesses `elements which, if put together, would become a device.' He confirmed that these elements include potential weapons `cores' fashioned from highly enriched uranium, a fissile material commonly used to sustain a nuclear explosion.

Khan said he was speaking candidly to `avoid credility gaps' that he suggested were created by senior officials of previous Pakistani governments. Those officials repeatedly denied that Pakistan had made any effort to produce the components of a nuclear device, but the United States has not believed them and cut off roughly $573 million in aid over the issue in 1990. The cutoff was mandated by congressional legislation--known as the Pressler amendment after a major sponsor, Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.)--aimed at curbing the Pakistani bomb program.

Khan said the current leadership in Islamabad, which came to power in October 1990, had `inherited the problem' of what to say or do about nuclear weapons and decided to set the record straight so that his government could come to a clear understanding with Washington about the barriers to a resumption of U.S. financial aid.

Khan said he had not been told how many nuclear devices could be assembled in his country from existing components. But he said his government last year permanently froze production of highly enriched uranium and weapons `cores.' Washington had demanded these measures as conditions for resuming aid, and Khan said the Bush administration, initially skeptical, has accepted Pakistani assurances on this score.

But Khan also stressed his government would only comply with a third U.S. condition for the resumption of aid--requiring destruction of the weapons cores in order to `reverse' the Pakistani capability--if a similar step is undertaken by neighboring India.

Pakistan has been reluctant to curtail its nuclear program because Pakistanis see it as a counterbalance to India's demonstrated nuclear ability. Khan said he had explained to U.S. officials that India also would have to limit its nuclear effort to avoid a `public perception problem' among Pakistanis that they had been unfairly singled out.

`I have a feeling that the U.S. government understands our [domestic] constraints' against unilateral action, Khan said and called for sustained U.S. pressure to force a change of heart by India.

Khan said this could be worked out as part of a regional arms control accord that the United States is urging at Islamabad's behest. Otherwise, the minister said, `I foresee no reversal' by Pakistan.

Khan said China, the region's other major nuclear power, had accepted a State Department proposal to begin negotiating a regional accord early this year. Russia has also agreed to help organize the talks, Khan said. But the minister added that `we've had a bit of a red light' because of India's `prevarication' on the issue.

In a description of events paralleling an account given by a knowledgeable U.S. official, Khan said India had initially opposed the idea of a regional nuclear nonproliferation accord but recently expressed its willingness to examine the possibility of such an arrangement.

India has not agreed to a starting date for negotiations, however, and Khan said U.S. officials had informed him that India still has substantial reservations about the idea, including what China's role in the talks would be and whether pursuit of a regional accord could detract from global anti-nuclear efforts.

`Both these reasons, from our point of view, are hollow,' Khan said. He cited a recent Brazilian-Argentinian understanding to halt work on nuclear weapons as a potential model for Southeast Asia.

Khan said the proposed regional accord could provide for mutual inspections of nuclear-related facilities and include other measures to reduce anxieties among Pakistan, India and China.

An alternative to a regional accord, Khan said, would be modification of the Pressler amendment to cover `everyone' and thereby effectively bar U.S. aid to nations with nuclear arms. But the minister was advised by U.S. officials that this was unlikely to happen soon.

CIA Director Robert M. Gates, in the most detailed public U.S. description of the Pakistani nuclear program, told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Jan. 15 that `we have no reason to believe that either India or Pakistan maintains assembled or deployed nuclear bombs. But such weapons could be assembled quickly, and both countries have combat aircraft that could be modified to deliver them in a crisis.'

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Mr. PRESSLER. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Montana is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. BURNS. Thank you, Mr. President.

(The remarks of Mr. Burns pertaining to the introduction of S. 2238 are located in today's Record under `Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.')