Thursday June 30, 2022

The Senate hearing

September 26, 2016

The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing the week before last to review the Civil Nuclear Agreement with Norway. During the proceedings, Senator Gardner asked Thomas Countryman, the assistant secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the US Department of State whether or not he had “any indication” of a relationship between Pakistan and North Korea at the nuclear level? Countryman replied that he did not have any information indicating that such a relationship exists today.

This is the third time in the past two months that this issue has been brought up on Capitol Hill. In June, during a Congressional hearing to determine whether Pakistan is a friend or foe, one of the witnesses recommended that Pakistan’s designation as a non-Nato US ally be reconsidered and that the country should be treated the same as North Korea.

On September 8, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing to determine the challenges posed by Pakistan to US interests. In this hearing, Toby Dalton, the co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace had testified that there was no credible information that would indicate that there is a relationship between Pakistan and North Korea at the nuclear level. Dalton went on to compliment Pakistan for its professionalism in regards to its nuclear programme, saying, “Pakistani authorities have undertaken fairly significant efforts to make sure that their nuclear assets are well protected.”

The other witnesses at the hearing had similar observations and praised Pakistan for taking the necessary steps to protect its nuclear assets. Despite having already laid this issue to rest, it is incredible that it was raised again at a hearing that had absolutely nothing to do with Pakistan or North Korea.

Members of the US Senate and Congress should be asked where the hearing on India’s relationship with North Korea is.

In the article, ‘The Indian connection’ published in these pages on July 14, evidence was provided that a very strong relationship exists between India and North Korea on scientific and technical research, which has helped North Korea place a satellite in orbit and make progress in their nuclear weapons programme.

The article was based on an in-depth investigation by Al Jazeera, and the 2016 annual UN Security Council report, which found that the training India provided to the North Koreans scientists directly helped them in their development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Given the fact that North Korea continues to test nuclear weapons, proving that they are continuously working to improve their weapons technology, and the findings of the UN Security Council report indicating that India is directly responsible for helping North Korea gain the technical and scientific know-how to make such quick progress in this domain, the question arises, why have there been no hearings on Capitol Hill?

It is ironic that, instead of holding a hearing to discuss this very critical issue of India helping North Korea proliferate, the Obama administration is recommending India for a seat at the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which controls the export of materials, equipment and technology that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

Furthermore, it is extremely disconcerting that sane voices, like that of Senator Edward Markey, who have raised concerns regarding India’s proliferation record are being drowned out by senseless hearings held by members of the US Congress and Senate, who continue to malign Pakistan, while admiring India, a proven proliferator and North Korean accomplice.

India’s reckless behaviour and continued vertical proliferation pose a danger to the world. Even now as President Obama tries to push for a UNSC resolution in support of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, India has chosen not to support him. Pakistan, a country that continues to be poorly treated by American lawmakers, has announced that it supports the test ban objectives and had even offered a bilateral test moratorium to India.

Members of the US Congress and Senate should hold a hearing to determine the role India had in North Korea’s satellite, nuclear weapons, and ballistic missile programs. They should also review India’s commitment to nuclear non-proliferation before continuing to extend their support to India for NSG membership. It is worth noticing that the NSG granted an exceptional trade waiver to India in 2008, which has allowed the country to vertically proliferate and develop the largest unsafeguarded nuclear program in the world. Since New Delhi has not served the non-proliferation ideals of NSG, its waiver should be rescinded.

In addition to announcing its support for the test ban objectives, Pakistan has also proposed a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia in line with its commitment to avoiding a nuclear arms race.

American lawmakers should stop bullying Pakistan and start asking India some tough questions on their unwillingness to support the CTBT and the SRR as proposed by Pakistan. The least Congressional leaders can do is revoke the unique NSG trade waiver granted to India.

The writer is an assistant professor at NUST in Islamabad. Twitter: @umarwrites.