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US Intelligence still ignores Chinese involvement in South Asian Security?


Paper No.205        02.03.2001


By  Rajesh Kumar Mishra


The statement of the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) on 7th February 2001 has painted the South Asian environment full of suspicion and apprehension. While drawing attention towards “ potentially destabilizing competition in South Asia”, it could not dwell on the underlying causes and behind the scene actors. Despite meticulous engagements, Chinese involvement is still being seen as an independent variable to the ongoing tensions in South Asia. And, the statement appears to be more critical of Indian defence and development initiatives. 

With the change in American Presidency, the Bush administration has been conducting vigorous reviews of many foreign policy contours. While "Powell Doctrine" emphasised that China is "not an inevitable and implacable foe", few other senior advisors propose to give Japan a higher priority than China. The cardinal principle of all the past and future policy-making would be to maintain the centrality of the American national interest. But, the changes in national security perceptions of the US do have profound international ramifications.

The strategic choice of George W. Bush for the new world order tested its first hard-nosed attitude against adamantine Saddam Hussein by launching air attack on Baghdad. This joint venture of the US and Britain was entirely unanticipated. And, as far as international power structure is concerned, this act indicates a high degree of unpredictability as ever before in future American foreign policy towards Iraq or elsewhere or for that matter for South Asia as well. Though it is in response to the evolving uncertainties worldwide, any step taken in haste would further make the existing world security dynamics more fragile.

George J. Tenet, the director of Central Intelligence (DCI), in the statement before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence admits that the United States is to deal with a "high quotient of uncertainty". While enumerating the challenge before the US, this testimony has given the highest priority to those things that threaten the lives of Americans or the physical security of United States.

The omnibus statement, titled "Worldwide Threat 2001: National Security in a Changing World", contains mainly transnational and regional issues. The accelerating pace of change has been identified in many arenas such as communication technologies, rapid global population growth, weakening internal bonds in a number of states and accelerating growth in missiles and nuclear capabilities in various parts of the globe.

While citing examples of terrorist outfits such as Al Qa’ida (Osma bin Laden), HAMAS and Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the statement draws attention towards the expanding Islamic militancy. It mentions that - "worldwide pool of potential recruits for terrorist networks is growing".

Despite having overwhelming evidence with the American Intelligence against Pakistan for state-sponsored terrorism, the US is still hesitating to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. During the cold war period while using Pakistan as a frontline state, the Americans had to turn a blind eye towards Pakistan's misdeeds. But the post cold war phase has created new possibilities. In the upcoming changes in international matrix and regional configurations US should give a fresh look at the Pakistan's support to unlawful acts in India by the organisations like Lashkar-e-Toiba  and Hizbul Muzahideen. As far as India-Pakistan relation is concerned, the Pakistan's unwillingness for reining in the militancy remains the main stumbling block in establishing future bilateral peace processes.

The testimony also acknowledges that China has been the main promoter of many of Pakistan's missile and technology programmes and acquisitions. It mentions that Chinese missiles related technical assistance to foreign countries has been significant over the years. "Chinese help has enabled Pakistan to move rapidly toward serial production of solid-propellant missiles". The failed pledges of China in past caused apprehensions. And the Americans are worried that Pakistan's continued development of the two-stage Shaheen II medium range ballistic missiles (MRBM) will require additional Chinese assistance.

Similarly, with regard to the Chinese nuclear export assistance to Pakistan the DCI states that "on the nuclear front, Chinese entities have provided extensive support in the past to Pakistan's safeguarded and unsafeguarded nuclear programmes".  

In fact, Chinese move to contain the Indian strength is the reflection of China's desire to remain the sole "power" state in the Asian region. For this, Beijing seeks to increase the capabilities of Pakistan in the hope that Pakistan might deliver a greater threat to India. Long back in 1983, the US intelligence had reported that China had transferred a complete nuclear weapon design of 25KT nuclear bomb to Pakistan and had been helping to Pakistani centrifuge programme. Again, in 1986, it was revealed that China sold Tritium to Pakistan and Chinese scientists assisted Pakistan with the production of weapons - grade fissile material (Uranium) at A.Q. Khan laboratory, Kahuta. In addition, apart from the controversial Chinese sale of 5000 ring magnates, China has long been recklessly providing Pakistan with nuclear technology and blueprints to keep the Pakistan's ambitions high against Indian defence preparedness.  (For the details on CHINA'S DANGEROUS EXPORTS to Pakistan, Please see the Appendix).                                

As far as the Sino-US relations are concerned, in the testimony, Chinese drive for recognition as a great Power has been considered as one of the toughest challenges that the US is to face. It explains that the toughest issue between Beijing and Washington remains Taiwan. "While Beijing has stopped its saber-rattling -- reducing the immediate tensions --  the unprecedented developments on Taiwan have complicated cross-strait relations". Chinese military modernization and economic development programmes are viewed as "two-edged sword".

No doubt, by advocating global economic partnership with America, China meticulously desires to divert the trade dividends towards strengthening its military might. Basically, while advocating multi-polar world order, China wishes to become a potential alternative centre of power in any given international system. For this reason, despite glaring limitations in technological advancements in China, Beijing inadvertently finds the clash of interests with the US at almost all the present and prospective conflict areas of the world. And South Asian region is also certainly not an exception to this phenomenon.

As far as the South Asian region is concerned, long standing disputes between India and Pakistan are interpreted by policy- pundits and agencies through various parameters. But very few have focused on the Chinese politics towards the regional strategic triangle involving Pakistan, India and China. In fact, regional adversaries not separately but jointly act against India. Pakistan has been behaving and responding to the Chinese maneuvers in a manner that definitely exceeds its strategic defence requirements. This unique nexus between Pakistan and China pose a great challenge before the Indian policy-makers.

Not so surprising, DCI's indication of "potentially destabilising competition" in South Asia explains pertinent similarity to what had been described by the former American President Clinton as "world's most dangerous flash point". Instead of disclosing the facts behind the "volatile" relations, the Americans are dragging on the proliferation issues and the Indian nuclear capabilities.

Also, till date, Americans have failed to clearly define the status of China in world security environment. No matter, whether China is seen as strategic partner or strategic competitor, the fact remains unchanged with constant flexible Sino-US engagements. Paul Bracken in "Fire in the East" has rightly remarked that "after confrontations with China over human rights and trade in the early 1990s, the United States reversed course following Chinese missile tests near Taiwan in 1995 and 1996. Washington showered attention on Beijing, giving its leaders a twenty one-gun salute and overlooking continued violations in the human rights and the sale of missile parts Pakistan". Officials explain that engagement with China is preferable to the policy of containment.

Overall, the enumerations in the DCI's testimony present new wine in old cask. The attitude and justifications of the erstwhile super powers as well as China reflect the same cold war underpinnings of mutual distrust and misperceptions. Instead of taking measures to lowering the hostile tone of China and Pakistan against India, excessive criticism of Indian defence and development programmes may further complicate the South Asian security environment. Also, it would be rather better to evolve new areas of convergence of interests between USA and India than to pose concerns. This may lead to a backlash in the upcoming reorientation of relations.


CHINA’s DANGEROUS EXPORTS TO PAKISTAN                  (http//  

1980 Supplies nuclear bomb design and its fuel
1984   Helps build Hatf missiles
Helps with gas centrifuges to enrich uranium    
1985  Agrees to sell tritium gas to boost the yield of fission bombs 
1989 Ships equipment for M-11 nuclear-capable missiles 
Starts building a 300 MW nuclear reactor at Chashma in spite of de facto international supply embargo.      
1990 Provides research and training in remote sensing for uranium exploration
1998 Secretly delivers more M-11 missile components
Trains Pakistani nuclear technicians in China 
Continues to deliver components for M-1 1 missiles 
Supplies more than 30 M-11 missiles now in crates at Sargodha Air Force Base near Lahore  
Helps build a secret 50-70 MW plutonium production reactor at Khusab, and a nearby fuel fabrication or reprocessing plant
Supplies blueprints and equipment for a missile factory near Rawalpindi, now under construction 
Supplies ring magnets used in gas centrifuges to enrich uranium
Supplies heavy water to Kanupp nuclear reactor
Sells a high-tech furnace and diagnostic equipment with military applications
Ships rocket fuel seized en route in Hong Kong
Agrees to build Chashma-2, a second 300 MW nuclear reactor
Ships major components for the Chashma nuclear reactor
Promises to provide the first uranium core and three reloads for Chashma