Pak’s N-proliferation in focus amid Turkey’s quest for nukes

10/23/2019

Washington: Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation is once again coming under scrutiny following Turkey’s reported quest for nuclear weapons. Buried for nearly 15 years after Pakistan’s nuclear smuggler AQ Khan confessed to nuclear smuggling and illicit exports, the issue has resurfaced in recent days after Turkey’s President ReccepTayyip Erdogan was reported conveying his desire for Turkey to go nuclear at a party convention.
“Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads… (But the West insists) we can’t have them. This, I cannot accept,” Erdogan was reported telling his party faithful in remarks that have caused a stir in Washington. “If the US could not prevent the Turkish leader from routing its Kurdish allies, how can it stop him from building a nuclear weapon or following Iran in gathering the technology to do so?” NYT asked in a report on Monday, pointing out that “already Turkey has the makings of a bomb programme: uranium deposits and research reactors — and mysterious ties to the nuclear world’s most famous black marketeer, Abdul Qadeer Khan of Pakistan”.
According to “Nuclear Black Markets”, a study of the Khan network by the London think-tank International Institute for Strategic Studies, firms in Turkey aided AQ Khan’s covert effort by importing materials from Europe, making centrifuge parts and shipping finished products to customers, the report said. A riddle to this day is whether the Khan network had a fourth customer besides Iran, Libya and North Korea, the report wondered, pointing to intelligence reports that believe Turkey could possess “a considerable number of centrifuges of unknown origin” by virtue of being Khan’s fourth customer. Khan’s nuclear network extended to Malaysia too.
Pakistan got away with its nuclear proliferation in 2004-2005 but Khan was made to confess on TV and asked to fall on the sword by claiming he did it on his own accord without government sanction, even though it was apparent that he had used government facilities with the knowledge and concurrence of the Pakistani establishment. Khan was subsequently confined to the doghouse. He surfaced recently and in a recent appearance at the University of Karachi, he spoke of Turkey and Malaysia as countries worthy of being emulated by Pakistan.
Bereft of allies in the global arena because of its support for terrorism as chronicled by global bodies such as the FATF, Pakistan has lately latched on to these two countries to build an Islamic coalition. They were the only two countries that have stood up for Islamabad in recent weeks as even China, Pakistan’s long time patron in its effort to constrain India, has become leery of Pakistan’s embrace of extremism. Whether Turkey has been a recipient of Khan’s nuclear largesse is something that has triggered interest among Washington’s non-proliferation brigade that had hitherto not expressed much interest in the matter since Ankara — unlike Libya, Iran, and North Korea — is a Nato ally.