Did the “Godfather” of Pakistan’s Nuclear-Weapons Program Aid India’s, Too?

AQ KhanIndia and Pakistan have completed talks in Islamabad, Pakistan on “confidence-building” measures (CBMs) toward their respective nuclear-weapons programs. (To this author, the term confidence-building often just signifies an attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.) They agreed to renew agreements to reduce the risk of nuclear-weapons accidents and to notify each other in advance of ballistic missile tests. In other words, nothing to see here, move along.

Considering the enmity between the two states, it’s no wonder that India and Pakistan continue to make even less substantive progress on nuclear disarmament than the United States and Russia. Further complicating the issue, a faction in Pakistan may have actually aided India in developing its nuclear program. Yes, you read that right.

Joshua Pollack, who can usually be found at Arms Control Wonk, explains in an article for Playboy titled The Secret Treachery of A.Q. Khan.

India’s enrichment program progressed slowly, but at some point before 1992 the Indians began experimenting with supercritical centrifuges, devices that can withstand very high rotational speeds. The program apparently continued to expand, with the Indians purchasing large quantities of supercritical centrifuge components from 1997 to 1999 and again from 2003 to 2006. … Despite some changes, the design is recognizable to the trained eye: It almost mirrors … Pakistan’s P-2 centrifuge.

Centrifuge specs are not the only apparent link between India’s enrichment program and Khan’s operation. The cast of characters also overlaps, starting with Gerhard Wisser, a German living in South Africa [whose] engineering firm supplied. … India’s centrifuge program with specialized equipment, starting in the late 1980s. What else he … might have sold to the Indians remains unknown, but the timing is consistent with India’s earliest known work with supercritical centrifuges.

… Could Khan have been ignorant about Wisser’s dealings with India? … At first, Khan seems to have suggested [Lerch] was autonomous enough to supply both India and Pakistan without either side knowing. But Khan later [admitted,] “There is a strong probability that the Indian uranium enrichment program … could be a copy of the Pakistani centrifuge design.”

Khan’s motivation for possibly trading nuclear know-how and technology with other states (Iran, North Korea, and Libya, for certain)? According to Pollack, to fund public works projects in Pakistan that would glorify his name.

If, directly or indirectly, AQ Khan aided the development of India’s nuclear weapons, it parallels how Pakistan’s ISI and military fund elements of the Taliban. Both could result in the eventual self-immolation of Pakistan.