In the past, the US and the West looked the other way as nuclear technology was proliferated by China to Pakistan and North Korea. The book ‘Nuclear Express: A Political History of the Bomb and its Proliferation’, co-authored by Thomas C Reed, former Secretary USAF, and Danny B Stillman, Director of Los Alamos Technical Intelligence Division, brought out that during the regime of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese were of the view that using nuclear weapons against the West by radical and rogue countries would be good for China provided the trail is not traced back to them.
Hence, China undertook deliberate nuclearisation of Pakistan and North Korea. Significantly, these findings were based on the authors interviewing Chinese scientists and the best part is China thereafter declined to give any comments on the book.
China supplied 500 ring magnets to Pakistan to kick start Islamabad’s nuclear program. More importantly, China conducted the first Pakistani nuclear device test on Chinese soil. China also supplied nuclear capable Silkworm missiles to Saudi Arabia. The nuclear proliferation by Pakistan to North Korea, Iran and Libya was also taken lightly. AQ Khan, known as “father of uranium enrichment project” for Pakistan’s clandestine atomic bomb project, initially admitted to being part of the nuclear proliferation network in January 2004, but in later years retracted his statement obviously under political advice at home.
Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf somehow pacified the US administration by saying that if there was any nuclear proliferation at all by Pakistan, AQ Khan was doing it on his own. That the US swallowed such a statement of Musharraf was amazing. Notably, the CIA did not even get to question AQ Khan.
In later years, however, the US was worried about Pakistani nukes falling into terrorist hands. If the financing of 9/11 was traced back to Pakistan, the origin of a terrorist nuclear strike on US soil could well be Pakistan.
But presently, while the US continues to seek Pakistan’s support in the intra-Afghan dialogue to facilitate US troops’ exit from Afghanistan, something more sinister is happening between China and Pakistan. China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology has inked a covert deal ‘Collaboration for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Studies on Biological Control of Vector Transmitting Diseases’ with Pakistani military’s Defense Science and Technology Organization (DESTO). The program is entirely funded by China and would enable China testing biological agents outside its borders. China’s logic is similar to nuclear proliferation during Deng Xiaoping’s regime; that in case of biological strike by terrorists or rogue protégés the finger does not point to China. Couple this with Chinese involvement in ongoing DNA research enabling a biological weapon to specifically target people of particular race(s) or be ineffective against them.
Wuhan Institute of Virology Pakistan has supplied Pakistan with the reagents for Bacillus Thuringiensis and the above joint China-Pakistan project has conducted successful soil sampling tests to isolate Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT), which has a striking similarity to Bacillus Anthracis or Anthrax. The Wuhan lab is providing extensive training on manipulation of pathogens and bio-informatics to Pakistani scientists to help Pakistan develop its own virus collection database. Anthrax attacks have happened in the past but the above China-Pakistan agreement also includes that collaboration is not necessarily limited to stated objectives and new thematic research to monitor potential new diseases can be added by either party. This provides the handle for developing newer deadly viruses and biological weapons.
There is little doubt that biological weaponisation of Pakistan by China is aimed primarily to target India but it is also aimed at the US and allies and all those countries China considers hindrance in its race to dominate the world. It is quite possible that China may have established similar secret biological research facility in North Korea as well. The ISIS already had access to vintage chemical weapons in Iraq and Pakistan’s ISI is well linked to the ISIS and numerous terrorist organisations. China has established the strategic reach and lethality of biological weapons even above nuclear weapons by releasing the coronavirus from Wuhan in 2019. Whether Beijing has achieved ‘directed’ biological bombs and miniaturised them for tactical use is not known, but biological proliferation to Pakistan unfolds a very dangerous precedent for the world. No one will understand this better than the US reeling under the pandemic.
China has thrown the gauntlet to the world at large. Its worldwide biological attack clearly indicates it has no respect for humanity. America’s continuous efforts to coax Pakistan to tame the Taliban and Haqqanis ignored Pakistan is sitting in China’s lap. But Pakistan’s biological weaponisation will sting the US and the civilised world much more. This should be a wakeup call for collective concrete action.
The author is veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal.